Bryn Estyn Hall is a large and rather forbidding mansion, which was built in 1904, in the style of an Elizabethan manor house, by a successful Wrexham brewer to replace a previous house. It lies in ample grounds, which earlier formed part of the large Erlas Hall estate on the outskirts of Wrexham, and which were landscaped when the new house was built but are now very neglected.
The property probably remained in private hands until the second world war when, after a short period as an ordnance depot, it became, in 1942, an approved school for boys from Merseyside and further afield. Since 1989 it has been used for other educational and local government purposes and it is now known as Erlas Centre.
As an approved school, Bryn Estyn remained the responsibility of the Home Office until 1 October 1973, when it became a local authority community home with education on the premises. Responsibility for it passed to the former Denbighshire County Council until 1 April 1974 when the new Clwyd County Council took over.
Arnold took over as Headmaster just five months before Bryn Estyn changed its status and after a further hiatus of seven months, during which Brynley Goldswain had acted as Headmaster. Arnold came to Bryn Estyn with excellent references.
He was then nearly 44 years old (born on 14 June 1929) and had already held senior teaching positions in approved schools for almost 13 years, firstly as Deputy Headmaster of Carlton School, Bedford, for 22 months, and then successively as Headmaster of Richmond Hill School in Yorkshire and Axwell Park School in County Durham, at which latter school his wife had been Matron.
He held a teacher's certificate from the University of Wales (1952), a certificate in religious knowledge from Westminster College, London (1953) and was to receive, in September 1973, from Newcastle University, the Senior Certificate in Residential Child Care and the Diploma in Advanced Educational Studies (Residential). In 1976 he was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Education but we do not know how this came about.
One Director of Social Services who supplied a reference in January 1973 for Arnold in connection with his Bryn Estyn application described him as "one of the finest Headmasters of approved schools I have come across" and another said this:
"Mr Arnold is a voluble and excitable Welshman, but he has a capacity for deep and serious thought into the problems of boys as groups and individuals. He has a flair for casework and much experience of it. He has an ability to animate people to create loyalty from them and to push through new ideas. At the same time he is a most unstuffy person, he is informal in his relationships and prefers to build a very relaxed sort of atmosphere where people get on well with other people and the whole school really does allow good person to person influences."
"Mr Arnold will explain to you his own feelings that he should now leave Tyneside and if possible return to an environment nearer his home. We have discussed this at great length and I fully understand his feelings that he should return. He has had family difficulties over the past few years and he is conscious that this has temporarily drained him of some of his tremendous energy and positive outlook. I am absolutely confident that when the health of his wife is improved and he is back nearer home he will again demonstrate that he has the ideas, the drive and the methods that make any Community School into a thoroughly outward looking and therapeutic environment."
Bryn Estyn was intended, according to the 1971 Regional Plan, to accommodate up to 49 boys in the intermediate and senior age ranges (13 to 17 years).
The establishment of Bryn Estyn at that time in 1975 comprised 44 members of staff led by the Principal, a Deputy Principal and an Assistant Principal. They included eight teachers, 18 houseparents (of whom seven were senior housemasters) and two nightcare officers. The Deputy Principal and Head of Education was Brynley Goldswain, who had been at the approved school since 1969, but he left on 30 April 1976 to take an appointment at Red Bank, another former approved school. He was succeeded as Deputy Principal but not as Head of Education in July 1976 by Peter Howarth, who had followed Arnold from Axwell Park School to Bryn Estyn in November 1973 to take up the post of Assistant Principal.
He remained Deputy Principal until he retired at the same time as Arnold on 31 July 1984. From the summer of 1976 Arnold left much of the day to day responsibility for running Bryn Estyn to Howarth, except during two periods when the latter was incapacitated, firstly, from about August 1978 to about May 1979 and, secondly, from December 1981 to July 1982. Arnold himself was ill and unable to work from the summer of 1979 until late March 1980. A second Deputy Principal (Education), Maurice Matthews, was appointed with effect from 1 June 1977 and he remained responsible for education at Bryn Estyn until 16 September 1984, a fortnight before it closed.
The Secure Unit at Bryn Estyn was an eight-bedded unit, which had been planned as part of a more extensive development programme for the home approved in 1975 but only implemented to a small extent. It was intended to be under the direction of Arnold and Howarth but with a staff of its own of 12, including a warden. After some delays it was eventually ready for opening in November 1979 and Howarth (in Arnold's absence whilst sick) reported that the Welsh Office had granted permission for this.
For a time four members of the care staff under Leonard Stritch shared their working periods between the unit and the main school and it appears to have been used intermittently to restrict or restrain recalcitrant residents, particularly glue sniffers, for short periods with, at best, dubious legal authority. Arnold's view was that, despite many seminars and courses, secure units, in general, had "grown without an initial philosophy". In May 1980 he said rather enigmatically "The Secure Unit is being used on a very limited level: but this has already taught us that what is easy in conceptual thought is entirely different in practice"
In the course of our inquiry we ascertained that about 140 former residents of Bryn Estyn between 1974 and 1984 were known to have made allegations that physical and/or sexual abuse upon them had occurred whilst they had been resident there. About one half of this number complained of sexual abuse and ultimately we received in evidence the testimony of 48 of them, 25 of whom gave oral evidence before us and were subjected to cross-examination. Of the 21 other potential witnesses, many were untraceable and several were unwilling to give evidence before the Tribunal for a variety of reasons. We are aware, however, of the identities of the persons against whom their complaints were directed and we are satisfied that the evidence that we received from 48 witnesses was fairly representative of the whole spectrum of alleged sexual abuse at Bryn Estyn during the relevant ten years.
The overwhelming majority of these complaints were against Peter Howarth, the Deputy Principal, and Stephen Norris, the Senior Housemaster in charge of Clwyd House from its opening in or about September 1978. Of the total of 48 sexual abuse complainants, who gave evidence to the Tribunal, 26 alleged actual sexual offences by Howarth; and 13 alleged actual sexual offences by Norris but five of them are included in both figures because they complained of actual sexual offences by both of them.
Huw Jones' history during this period between 1 February 1972 and his resignation on 29 July 1981 has already been summarised briefly.. He was first suspended on 19 December 1980 in connection with sexual allegations made by two former Bryn Estyn residents (one of whom is now dead); and he was suspended for a second time on 12 June 1981 in connection with a police investigation of sexual complaints by another former Bryn Estyn resident.
In respect of both investigations files were submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions and we have been told that charges were preferred in respect of the second investigation, but in neither case was a prosecution pursued (findings of not guilty were recorded in the Wrexham Magistrates' Court in respect of the latter).
A further complaint of sexual abuse by Jones was made in evidence to us by a fourth former Bryn Estyn resident. It is apparent also that Jones was interviewed very extensively by police officers in the course of the major police investigation in 1992 about at least one additional sexual complaint.