Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600-619)



  Chairman: Good morning, gentlemen. As I am sure you appreciate, that some of these cases are still sub judice, so please avoid mentioning cases by name if possible.

Mr Cameron

  600. Could you start by giving us your rank or position and your experience of investigating past abuse in children's homes.
  (Mr Holland) Currently I am the Head of Administration of Justice for the Cheshire Police. In 1994 I was a Detective Chief Inspector in charge of the Warrington CID. I became the senior investigating officer on what was then the Greystone Heath Inquiry, Operation Granite; the inquiry into the children's home at Widnes and one at Congleton. I was the SIO for three years before then becoming the mentor, as we termed it then, Detective Superintendent, advising the senior officer in charge.
  (Mr Langdon) My name is Mike Langdon. I am the Chief Superintendent of Liverpool North Police in Merseyside. Prior to that I was the former Head of the Force Crime Operations Unit, part of which was the line management responsibilities for Operation Care, which is a Merseyside-run operation in relation to institutional child abuse. I have a long history of detective experience, being the SIO in institutional abuse allegations in autistic children. I have also been the reviewing officer with an ex-Head of the Social Services on Operation Care, which involved independent university students and also tutors from Swansea in relation to Operation Care. I was also the investigating officer in a wrongful convictions inquiry in the 1970s.
  (Mr Grange) I am the Chief Constable of the Dyfed-Powys Police. I have no experience whatsoever in investigating institutional abuse. I am the ACPO lead on Personal Crime matters, which runs from homicide through to volume violent crime, and I personally take the lead for ACPO on child protection and the management of sex offenders.
  (Mr Tinnuche) I am a Detective Chief Inspector with the South Wales Police. In 1996 I became the SIO in the first institutional child abuse investigation conducted by South Wales Police. I was to investigate one home over a period of six years. That terminated in 1998 and I moved from there to become the senior investigating officer on Operation Goldfinch, where I remain today.
  (Mr Duggan) I am the Social Services Liaison Officer for Operation Goldfinch, which Mr Tinnuche has just mentioned. I have been in that position since February 2000. I was engaged by the seven South Wales local authorities to act as the liaison officer. Prior to that I was involved as a social worker and social work manager in children's homes in South Glamorgan and more latterly in Cardiff City Council for the last 20 years prior to the year 2000.

  601. This is a question for Mr Grange. Could you give us an idea of the number and scale of police investigations into past cases of child abuse in institutions around the country. What percentage of the 43 forces are engaged in these sorts of investigations?
  (Mr Grange) I did a snapshot survey for Claire Curtis-Thomas, MP at her request in May or June of last year. Having taken up this responsibility in March, she was one of my first callers, and she raised this issue. At that time—and I believe you have the papers—some 34 forces had conducted inquiries of some scale, some very small, some very large. There are 43 police forces in England and Wales, and 34 forces have conducted some form of inquiry. I believe you have the statistics that we gathered at that time.

  602. To give us the history, when was the first investigation of this kind, and on the sort of scale we have been looking at?
  (Mr Grange) I believe that would have been the Leicestershire inquiry into the conduct of Mr Frank Beck, and that would have been early Nineties.

  603. Can you confirm whether or not you have unearthed any evidence of a paedophile ring during these investigations? It was put to us by the Observer journalist who did the Panorama programme that no-one had found a paedophile ring in their investigations.
  (Mr Grange) I think that is true. The paedophile ring is probably a media hype, if I may say so. The forces were actually investigating allegations of physical or sexual abuse made by individuals, and it spread. No-one has raised the issue with me that they have found a paedophile ring, and I am defining a paedophile ring as a group of people who work in one place or, the suggestion was last year, move from place to place conducting their sexual abuses. I do not think anyone has found that and I doubt that it existed.

  604. Last week we had the solicitors who were involved in one set of compensation cases, and they referred to the Paedophile Information Exchange, and they said they thought there was evidence of a paedophile ring. Do the police experts we have here all share that view that no ring has been uncovered?
  (Mr Holland) Certainly during our inquiries, which have been going on for over eight years now, we have never actually found evidence to show networking between offenders.

  605. Thirty-four forces have been investigating, a huge amount of police time has been spent, many convictions have been obtained, and some concern about wrongful convictions—Mr Grange, do you welcome the fact that we are looking at this area, and do you think there could be a problem?
  (Mr Grange) I think it is the duty of the Home Affairs Select Committee to look at problems if they are brought to them by Members of Parliament or other citizens. That is a matter for you. So far as the police are concerned, we are here willingly and quite happy to discuss how these inquiries have been conducted, because we are confident that they have been conducted properly.

  606. There are no niggling doubts and worries about procedures?
  (Mr Grange) There are always procedures that could be improved, and the history of policing and everything else over the years is that you do something, you examine it or it is examined externally, there are flaws that seem to exist, therefore you improve. The criminal law hopefully has been evidence of that over the last 200 or 300 years.

  607. Let us just turn briefly to one area where people have suggested there may be flaws, and this is this word "trawling". I know that personally you are not very happy with the word "trawling". First of all, would you accept that trawling is really the reverse of normal police methods? Normally, an offence is committed and you then try to find out the background to that offence. On some occasions with these vast investigations of child abuse, there have been dip samples taken of residents of a children's home, and in some ways you are actually looking for offences. Do you accept that, or do you think it is necessary in these circumstances?
  (Mr Grange) My colleagues can answer that better, and I have looked at it from my limited experience as the Head of CID in Avon & Somerset and as a distant observer of what has gone on. All these cases have started with an allegation or allegations being made being made. They have started with those allegations, and the question is: how do you investigate? What you have had is one or more people making an allegation that they were abused physically or sexually at a given time in a given care home. The witnesses for or against that proposition are the people who were in the home at that time, and you have to, because you are required to do so—it is our duty as police officers—explore with those witnesses what they know, and the fact is that as those explorations have taken place, some have made further allegations against the individual concerned and some have made allegations against others. I am not sure there is another way that you could successfully, properly, with due regard for everybody involved, investigate what is being alleged. But my colleagues know that better than I.

  608. I hear what you say, but are there any other areas of police work where this sort of trawling—if you can think of a better word, please tell me—takes place, where an offence is committed, and you then go out looking, almost, for further offences?
  (Mr Grange) No, we have not gone looking for further offences; we have gone looking for witnesses. What we have gone to do is seek evidence, first and foremost, about the allegation that has been made. If that leads to people making other allegations, they do so.[1]


  609. When you say you are looking for witnesses, these events are rarely going to be witnessed. You are looking, I put it to you, for someone else who has been abused, or claims they have been abused as well.
  (Mr Grange) No, that is not the case. We are looking for people that can tell you anything at all. "Were you in the home? Do you know anything about what happened in the home, if anything happened at all?" A good proportion have said, "No, I know nothing." A good proportion have refused to talk about it. Some have made allegations against the individual concerned, and some have made allegations against others.

  610. But if person A says to you that they were abused 20 years ago in such and such a home, you then do a dip sample of other residents, surely very few of those other residents actually witnessed the original offence, and yet you were talking about witnesses. They are not really witnesses.
  (Mr Tinnuche) If I can interject there, having got the statement of complaint, we do not automatically do a dip sample. Our first function is to record that complaint by that individual. Once we have recorded that complaint, we examine that statement in minute detail and try and seek corroboration for what he or she is saying. As part of that process, that individual may mention that whilst he or she was in care, they were there with people A to F. Our first function is to trace and identify people A to F. So we do not dip sample. They are mentioned in a statement of that complainant. Then we would seek to go and see them, because they may have something to contribute to that complaint. If it be that when speaking to person A, B, C, D, E or F they say, "Can I tell you, it has happened. Abuse happened to me," are we then to ignore that abuse? I do not think we can.

  611. Of course, let it be said that everyone on this Committee sees child abuse as the most heinous of crimes. What we are looking at is the procedures followed and whether those procedures could lead to miscarriages of justice. That is the purpose of the inquiry.
  (Mr Tinnuche) But your perception that once we have the statement of complaint, the first thing we do is go dip sampling is not accurate.

  612. That is very helpful clarification. So you have a statement of complaint, and you then go to the people who are also mentioned by the complainant, people A to F, and then subsequently, if you believe that you are uncovering a pattern of abuse, then you are going to ask other residents. That was really my next question, why it is necessary to identify and contact former residents and staff other than those named by the original complainant. Why do you then take it one step further?
  (Mr Holland) Can I give you an example of when we started an inquiry, and Greystone Heath is an example. We started off with allegations received. As we investigated those allegations, further allegations came to light, to the extent where, taking into consideration public inquiries that had taken place at Castle Hill in Leicester, it was our duty then to try and trace whoever was in that home during these relevant periods, and see if there was any evidence that they could add to the allegations that had been made or to negate them. The inquiries that had taken place previously at Castle Hill were quite specific in saying it is not a matter for the police to decide who they will and who they will not see. They should attempt to give everybody the same opportunity of telling their story or negating what has been said.

  613. What I am trying to understand is what triggers the move from taking the statement of the complainant, talking to the people that they have spoken about, and then the next step, which is doing a wider sweep.
  (Mr Holland) It is the volume of allegations that started to come in in relation to Greystone Heath.
  (Mr Grange) What you have is a situation of an ever-growing number of allegations, and now you have to decide how big your inquiry is going to be, because if you are going to continue with it, you cannot have two or three officers doing it for a decade. So you need to know what kind of inquiry you are conducting. You can see everybody, or you could take a representative sample and see if it is a small, closed happening, if indeed anything happened, or a larger happening, and you would do that by going to see people or writing to them, or I believe one force telephoned.
  (Mr Langdon) You used the word "trawling" but we prefer the word "dip sampling". There is actually a structure to the dip sampling. It is not a random shooting in a bowl. It revolves around the policy decision that is made by the senior investigating officer in terms of what the parameters of a dip sample will be. It generally centres around the service of anyone accused or mentioned in the statement of an offence and around 10 per cent or 50, whichever is the greater, are contacted. That contact does not specifically name individuals. We have examples of the letter. It is as vague as possible and seeks information. So there is a structure to the dip sampling process.

  614. Was the structure and the fact that the letters sent are vague because you are aware of dangers? There are dangers, are there not, to these sorts of procedures? They are necessary, as you are explaining, because you are trying to track down dreadful things that happened 20 years ago, but were you thinking of dangers when you designed these?
  (Mr Langdon) We are aware that all our actions are scrutinised, not only by senior investigating officers, but by Crown Prosecution Service lawyers, by junior counsel and by Queen's Counsel on many occasions from the prosecution. We are aware that everything has to be disclosed, and we are aware of all potential allegations that are made by people that are accused of these types of crime. Because of that awareness, it is obvious that we take every precaution we possibly can to negate any allegations that may be forthcoming against the police. It is clear that keeping information vague is better in terms of presenting a prosecution.

  615. Was that understood right from the start?
  (Mr Langdon) Yes.

  616. What about the concern someone put to us about the use of photographs when you are doing the dip sampling, taking a photograph of the alleged abuser? Do you think there was a danger in some cases that you were prompting false memory?

  (Mr Holland) We did not show photographs of alleged offenders. In Operation Granite, where we were interviewing witnesses who were making allegations, if they had photographs of their time at the home or we came across group photographs, whatever, we would take them as evidence. There were occasions when we would show them and ask people who had made allegations, "Are you on this photograph? Do you recognise anybody else on this photograph?" and that was the basis of showing photographs; nothing else. It was not individual photographs; it was group photographs from the homes.

  617. What was the purpose of using those photographs?
  (Mr Holland) To try and identify the names of people who were there that we did not know. We were trying to trace people that had been in the home during whatever period, and obviously we were speaking to those that we had traced, showing the photographs and asking, "Do you recognise anybody else there?"

  618. Because the records were incomplete in the home?
  (Mr Holland) They were.
  (Mr Langdon) The policy decisions in relation to Operation Care were not to show photographs.

  619. Why did you take that decision?
  (Mr Langdon) We take the view that there are a number of other avenues for recognition and identification that were being recovered through a thorough investigation and we choose to rely on those methods.


1   Note by witness: We seek evidence as to the first allegation. If the witnesses make further allegations we record and consider investigating them. Back

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