A clergyman who oversaw a children’s home where abuse took place in the 1970s and 80s “never once” reported staff to police, he said in a newly-discovered interview.
The Reverend Nicolas Stacey said children could be “manipulative” and make false claims, in the 2006 tape.
Mr Stacey was a director of social services in Kent at a time when girls were drugged and abused at Kendall House in Gravesend.
He died in May 2017 aged 89.
A review published last year found that girls at the home, which was run by the Church of England, were routinely drugged, locked up, and sexually abused.
The recording was discovered in British Library archives by a former Kendall House resident and abuse survivor, Teresa Cooper.
A library spokesman told BBC News that it was unclear whether the recording was intended to be published only after Mr Stacey’s death.
‘Sent to bed’
The interview with Mr Stacey, who had been a parish priest in South London before jobs at Oxfam and Kent County Council, was recorded in 2006 and published last month as part of a series for the British Library’s sound archive called “pioneers of charity and social welfare”.
In the wide-ranging discussion with a researcher, he said: “Nobody was to go to the police about accusations against staff without my approval”.
He said it was “incredible the way times have changed – I could never begin to do that now”.
But he added: “Children, especially children in care, are incredibly manipulative.”
Mr Stacey said the sanctions were “terribly few” if children misbehaved, describing how residents of Kent’s children’s homes were “sent to bed without any supper” if they came in late, suspecting them of having shoplifted or having sex in churchyards.
He said children called Childline to say they were being abused if they were sent to bed early.
“The child would creep down and telephone Childline saying ‘I’m being abused’,” he said.
Mr Stacey went on to say that he never reported staff to the police, “because I never felt that we had a serious case” – although he did ask some to resign.
“I would try and get them to go to counselling,” he said.
“[It’s] terribly sad if you’re sexually orientated towards children, you know.”
He said that if “rampant abuse” had emerged, “of course” he would have gone to the police.
The Kendall House inquiry found that drugs were administered in doses exceeding usual prescribed adult levels to control girls’ behaviour, placing them in a constant stupor.
The review found: “The effects of the drugs also increased their vulnerability to emotional, physical and in a smaller number of cases, sexual abuse”.
‘He failed you’
Ms Cooper, who lived at Kendall House in the early 80s, has called for a further investigation to be carried out into Mr Stacey.
“The ramifications of Stacey’s confessional interview are huge,” she said.
“This will have an impact on survivors who may have reported abuse to the Kent authorities and police at the time.”
Ms Cooper added: “There might potentially be hundreds of allegations and victims facing the serious consequences of injustice based on the unfounded judgement of those meant to protect children.”
In a tweet sent to Ms Cooper, the chair of the Kendall House review, Sue Proctor, described the recording as “appalling”, adding: “He failed you and countless others”.
Dr Proctor could not be reached by BBC News for further comment.
The Church of England and Kent County Council have also been approached for comment.