It must never happen again

PERVERTS Malcolm Phillips and Andrew Shalders are behind bars, finally brought to book for a catalogue of vile sex attacks at a Halifax children s home.

Convicted after a three year police investigation, the two Skircoat Lodge "care" workers had denied 64 charges of sexual offences. They were found guilty at Bradford Crown Court of 38 charges.

Malcolm Osric Phillips (68), and Andrew James Shald-ers (54), preyed on fearful, vulnerable children. Over many years, in the 70s and 80s, they abused their power and exploited their charges.

Malcolm Phillips

Andrew ShaldersShalders, sentenced to 15 years, used threats and cruelly false promises to abuse young boys. Phillips, a forceful, explosive personality, exploited troubled young girls at Skircoat Lodge.

Both, in their different ways, used the children in their care as unwitting sex slaves. Some children were groomed for abuse, others were so traumatised they believed the abuse was "normal".

Yet both men might have escaped detection. They, and seven other suspects from Halifax care homes, were only exposed when a previous resident walked into a police station in the south of England.

Those complaints, by a male in his 40s, were in 1997. They confirmed growing concerns in Calderdale Social Services. Mr Christopher Brabbs, the new director, had independently called for an investigation.

This followed complaints of rape, by a former resident of Skircoat Lodge, against Phillips. He was dismissed in 1996 from his job with Calderdale Council. No criminal prosecution was made at that time.

The "Evening Courier s" own investigation into the victims of Phillips and Shalders reveals the tragic effects of the legacy of abuse. Some lives were damaged beyond repair.

Others grew into adulthood tainted with sorrowfull memories and suffered long-term psychological problems or turned to drink or drugs to block out the suffering.

Nobody truly knows how many children were abused during the two men s reign of sexual fear at Skircoat Lodge. There are suspicions that others who were abused were too afraid and ashamed to come forward.

The four-year investigation - tagged Operation Screen - was thorough and exhaustive. More than 2,500 people were interviewed and 880 statements were taken. Seventy eight people made allegations.

A major inquiry into Calderdale children s services is to get under way following the convictions.

The inquiry by the Area Child Protection Committee will try to find out what lessons can be learned.

Head of children s services Kitty Ferris said: "The social services department had already begun this process and has reviewed the safeguards in place to protect children."

Det Chief Supt Max McLean, the officer in charge of the inquiry, said: "I am very pleased with the result. In terms of the court case, 24 young people have seen justice in respect of their abusers."

Children s campaigners today criticised the seven-year sentence given to Phillips.

The NSPCC s Joe Cocker said: "It does not reflect the pain, the suffering and the anguish that the victims have had to endure over the last 20 years."