Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 640-659)



Mr Singh

  640. Mr Grange, what genuinely puzzles me is that so many allegations have been made by so many people who have been silent for so long. It leads me to think—it is not a firm conclusion—that this has been generated by your method of investigation, which is trawling. How do you respond to that?
  (Mr Grange) I would suggest that it is equally possible that for 20-odd years people that were physically chastised, physically abused and sexually abused said nothing because they had nowhere to go. The evidence of the Waterhouse Inquiry was that there were no complaints procedures and that when children in the homes complained, they were moved to regimes far worse than the ones they were in. In essence, they were taught not to raise the issue, and for the following 20 years they had nowhere to go, and then these inquiries started. Then it became plain, and we have letters from some of the people concerned, that somebody actually suggested they might just believe what they were saying. So they came forward, and then they told us about other people who had been attacked, and more and more came forward. The best answer would actually be to ask the people themselves why they came forward. But I think there is a mix: the police investigations may have generated an interest, but for the majority of them, the interest was there in the first place. They believed they had been abused.
  (Mr Langdon) Can I also pick up on that theme? Where cases do go to court, victims are asked and they do give a response, and that response is heard by a jury.
  (Mr Duggan) Can I say very quickly first of all, I cannot possibly represent the views of seven local authorities here today, so I hope you accept that any opinions I give are my own professional opinions based on my experience in this area of work. It is not unusual with victims of child sexual abuse for the situation to lay dormant for many years. It does not only apply to alleged abuse in the care system; it can be within the family, within the community generally. It is a devastating crime which has devastating impacts. Childhood innocence is taken away virtually at a stroke and it is never replaced. There are various reasons why these crimes lie dormant for many years and then raise their heads. This would not be unusual and would not simply be generated by an investigation. I am making the point that the fact that things arise after many years would not necessarily be the result of a police investigation. It could happen for any number of reasons, and frequently does in terms of child sexual abuse.


  641. Could I go back to something Mr Langdon said? Did I understand you to say from Operation Care that there were 510 suspects which resulted eventually in 36 convictions?
  (Mr Langdon) Yes.

  642. It is possible to see where some of the complaints have been generated from, is it not? Obviously, the allegation that you have abused children in your care is one of the most serious that can be made against anybody, is it not?
  (Mr Langdon) Yes.

  643. Very large numbers of these cases are not proceeded with, for all sorts of reasons, but in many cases because the evidence against them completely disappears. It is a very damaging allegation to have had hanging over you perhaps for a year or two, is it not?
  (Mr Langdon) Yes.

  644. So how have we got to a situation where such a small number of cases eventually result in convictions?
  (Mr Langdon) I think the demands of the judicial system in terms of the depth of evidence that is required; the burden of proof beyond all reasonable doubt is an extremely onerous burden. The question was asked about a witch hunt, and I find myself answering on both sides: first, the statistics show that that cannot be a witch hunt, and on the other hand, I argue that those statistics actually show a thoroughness of investigation, they show a keen eye in terms of decision making all the way up the chain, and what we are trying to do is present evidence that satisfies the criteria of the Crown Prosecution Service. Where that standard falls short, people are not taken into the judicial system, but the benefit for people that are accused, if there is a benefit, is that there is a thorough investigation, and any allegations that are made against them are not lurking in the background; they have been investigated.

  645. Yes, but you can understand, can you not, from those kinds of figures why there are so many complainants around, people who say that they have had the finger unfairly pointed at them?
  (Mr Langdon) The figures are there. They speak for themselves. I can understand how someone would advance the point that you are making. What I would say in response to that is that from my perspective, it demonstrates a thoroughness of investigation, it represents an impartiality in the way that we are investigating, and it serves to mitigate the allegation that Mr Winnick was testing us on in terms of a witch hunt.

  646. Yes, but you can see that some of these people will have been suspended immediately the allegations became known, if they were still working, perhaps remained suspended for two or three years, and you can see that it may have a lasting and damaging effect on their lives even though they may be wholly innocent. I appreciate there is no perfect path here, and we are all trying to tread a fine line.
  (Mr Langdon) I accept the point that you are making. I just repeat my answer to you, and I would also say that potentially, just because somebody does not go into the judicial system, that does not mean to say they have not committed the offence.

  647. I do understand that, but it is a fair bet, is it not, that of this 510, quite a few must be wholly innocent?
  (Mr Langdon) I would say that is right.

  648. There are heads shaking behind you, so not everybody would agree.
  (Mr Langdon) I would say there would be some people within that where the investigations demonstrated that there is not any evidence that supports the allegation that has been made other than by the person that has been making it. All these people are dealt with following a written complaint by a person.
  (Mr Grange) I think the police service are intimately aware of the problems of being accused of something and being suspended for what is an inordinate amount of time. After all, it happens to us too. The attrition rate for these cases is as you have heard. There has been a recent thematic study on rape investigations where the attrition rate suggests that only two per cent of those cases actually get to conviction, and the police are currently being asked what they are going to do about it. So here we have a question about the attrition rate here and suggestions that there is something wrong, whilst I am currently trying to find a Chief Police Officer to take on the wrongness of the attrition rate for rape. It is quite confusing really.

  649. I do understand the contradictory pressures to which you are subject, but all I am asking you to do is to agree that it is easy to see where dissatisfied customers come from when you are dealing with (a) a crime of this nature and (b) a very, very high attrition rate.
  (Mr Grange) I can understand that totally. I have, in a sense, been there myself.
  (Mr Holland) Our figures for actual allegations made were very similar to Operation Care. We had 638 allegations made against 269 individuals. Of those, I would say at least 40 per cent were minor physical abuse. Although we took that evidence in statement form, in consultation with the CPS we made a firm policy decision that when you talked about 1960, 1970 and early 1980, chastisement and physical abuse was a different animal than it is now, and not only did we not take any action against those allegations, having explained it to the person who made it, also, in many instances, although we spoke to the person who had been complained against, we did not arrest them, we did not interview them, but we pointed out that an allegation had been made because they had the right to know. There was no question of prosecution or arrest or anything of that nature for those individuals.

  650. Of those 269, how many resulted in convictions?
  (Mr Holland) We actually arrested 30 of those, and they were all sexual abuse cases. Of those, three pleaded guilty, 15 were convicted, we cautioned one and we discontinued on eight.

  651. Can I put a point to Mr Tinnuche from South Wales? I have had a number of letters from an individual who was a resident in care homes in South Wales, and he says, "I was interviewed by the South Wales Police on three occasions, and during these interviews I was amazed that the police openly named suspects who were known to me and confirmed that these suspects had been named by other former residents." Does that surprise you?
  (Mr Tinnuche) Yes, because that would, in my view, never happen. Clear guidelines and instructions are given to all officers working on Operation Goldfinch as to how they should conduct themselves during any such witness interview. May I ask who that person is?

  652. I had better not say for the moment without his permission, but if he gives me his permission, I will.
  (Mr Tinnuche) Was that the letter that appeared in Faction from a male resident in Penarth?

  653. I do not know. All I know is he has written to me. I get a lot of letters.
  (Mr Tinnuche) If it is the letter I am thinking about, I would obviously know the identity of the individual, but going back to the basis of his letter, I would be appalled and aghast if any officer working on Goldfinch were to conduct himself in that way. It does not happen.

  654. I admire your confidence. I accept it should not happen. It would not surprise you if one or two officers had been over-zealous. It is not all that remarkable.
  (Mr Grange) I think you have to be realistic.
  (Mr Tinnuche) On the basis of the content of that letter, I would say that does not happen. From day one of any officer working on either Operation Duffy or Operation Goldfinch, they are met by either myself or the deputy senior investigating officer. We sit down with them and go through the investigation. Part of that process is witness interviewing, and clear guidelines are given to each and every officer coming, warning them of the dangers of leading or false allegations being made, and being most careful about the way they conduct themselves during interviews. If that individual is so concerned to have written to yourself, I would gladly invite him to write formally to the South Wales Police to complain about the officers who were involved.

  655. This letter goes on, "Even though I made the police aware of my medical condition—I am an epileptic—they continued to pressurise me into making a complaint, which I did not do." Again, you are saying that could not have happened, are you?
  (Mr Tinnuche) I know who the individual you are talking about is. We have also invited him. That individual, if it is the same one, made a statement to the South Wales Police. He had no complaints or allegations to make regarding his time in care. That was the basis of his statement. That statement is submitted to the room and is disclosed to every defence solicitor during any particular trial involving that home that he was in. He has become involved with one of the campaign groups, which probably prompted that particular letter. He has posed questions to our Chief Constable at Police Authority meetings. He then contacted the investigation to say that he now had complaints to make of sexual abuse on him by a former resident whilst he was in care. We made contact with him to interview him and he has declined to be interviewed. We have also given him the opportunity of being accompanied by a solicitor or an appropriate adult, because of him saying about his vulnerability. He has still declined to do so. We have looked at the individual that he has named as having abused him whilst in care. That individual was never in care at the same time as the author of that letter.

  656. Let me put to you one final point that he makes. "While being interviewed, it was pointed out to me that other former residents would be receiving tens of thousands of pounds in compensation and that if I made a complaint I could be entitled to the same." You are saying that never happened.
  (Mr Tinnuche) I have confidence in my officers that they would not go to an individual and mention to them, "Yes, make a complaint about Mr A and you can earn yourself 30,000," but, as you have rightly said, I am not sitting on shoulders every day, and again, I would refer back to that particular individual: if he is saying that has happened, would he please come forward and make an official complaint, because I will gladly have it investigated.

  657. But since it is likely to be his word against the interviewing officer's, with the best will in the world, a complaint is not likely to get very far, is it?
  (Mr Tinnuche) We investigate allegations made by individuals against individuals, and by the same principle, we would investigate his allegation made against the police. I have just said to you that the person he referred to as sexually abusing him in care was not in care at the same time as him and never had been.
  (Mr Grange) I was merely going to say that I had seen that letter, and I had contacted my colleagues in the South Wales Police and asked them to investigate what was being alleged, and that gentleman declined to provide any assistance to the South Wales Police whatsoever.

  658. I expect he would say—it is not for me to put words in his mouth—that he is not entirely confident that his complaint would be taken seriously.
  (Mr Grange) If he wishes it to be investigated by another force, another force will do it. I will do it if he likes.

Mr Malins

  659. Mr Duggan, perhaps I can ask you this, with your Social Services experience. It is relating to false allegations. I think a witness has said to us, "It has been my experience that when the allegations have been fabricated, it has always come to light during the investigation process." I imagine you would agree with that.
  (Mr Duggan) I do not know if it has always come to light. The big question here is are allegations genuine or false, and I do not know if anyone can ever finally get to the bottom of it and say in totality they are satisfied that every allegation is genuine, or indeed that allegations are false. I would not necessarily agree with that comment.


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