Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1000-1019)




  1000. I know they are not supposed to, but the fact is it does creep into the conversation. It may be introduced by the witness.
  (Mr Parker) It depends again on what the circumstances are. If I am speaking to a witness who is making an allegation or is telling me about something that might or might not have happened, if that person brings up the subject of compensation, then clearly I have to deal with it. Normal guidance to investigating officers is to say quite clearly that "any investigation is about seeking evidence of an offence, if you are making an allegation here today then I will deal with that, but the matter of compensation is a separate issue."

  1001. Yes, but you can see the situation; the policeman has been on this case for a while, he thinks he has nearly nailed this guy. He has firmly got it in his mind, as policemen sometimes do (and not only policemen), that so and so is guilty, it is just a question of finding the appropriate evidence and therefore there is sometimes a tendency to go a little bit further than what the rules and what your training suggests you should do. That is right, is it not? We can all think of cases, can we not?
  (Mr Parker) I am sure there have been cases and I am sure that maybe on occasions more information has been given than is justified or is appropriate. But as a general rule, I do not think that police officers go around encouraging false allegations.
  (Dr Thompson) It would be like if someone says they need counselling, you can say "Well, we can see about getting you a referral". If a police officer was asked about compensation, they could say "You need to consult a solicitor about that". That would be perfectly acceptable. Saying other things or linking—

  1002. Never mind compensation, supposing the notion is put to them "Now look, if you co-operate with us, we will put in a word with the authorities as regards parole" or whatever?
  (Mr Parker) It does not serve the purpose.

  1003. Or mitigation?
  (Mr Parker) It certainly does not serve the purpose for a policeman or anybody who is making the enquiry to use that line. For one, it would seriously taint any evidence that that witness could potentially give at any stage. It would open the prosecution case, if it ever did go to court, to quite justified challenge by defence counsel and there is nothing to be gained by that.

  1004. Somewhere is this file, I was just looking for it, there is a letter, I think to the—
  (Dr Thompson) It definitely happens, Mr Chairman. I actually have a letter here. I will not mention any names, but it is quite clear one DI is writing to a Superintendent and they are asking the police to have a word with the judge because they would like this informant's information and their co-operation in a major care home investigation to be taken into consideration when that person is going to be sentenced. They also write a second letter proclaiming that the effect of abuse has probably led to that offence and that could be a justifiable reason for reducing the sentence. It definitely happens.

  1005. Is that a sensible practice?
  (Dr Thompson) No.
  (Mr Parker) It depends at which stage of the investigation or prosecution that letter is produced or whether the suggestion is "Before you give me evidence, I will give you a letter or a script for the judge". Then that clearly is an inducement to give evidence and would not be appropriate.
  (Dr Thompson) What is dangerous, Andrew, in the situation that I am referencing is the person had just committed an offence, they have given one interview to the police already. After they were charged with the offence and they were facing court, they went to see the investigating officers and made a second statement that has a tremendous amount of more detail and more allegations in it. And in those circumstances, one could even look at some bizarre form of quid pro quo and I am disappointed that the police officers did not do something about it. It is quite clear that that evidence had an important role to play in that particular case against that particular accused gentleman.

  1006. Everybody agree with that? Here is another one. This is from a solicitor on Merseyside, I think. It is about Operation Care, Merseyside. "We act on behalf of the above-named who is at present an inmate at HM Prison Walton and is due to appear before Liverpool Crown Court on" such and such a date "for offences of burglary. Our client has requested that we contact yourselves with a view to obtaining information that our client is assisting you in relation to Operation Care as a result of abuse he received as a teenager at" such and such a place "Our client has indicated that you have informed him that you are prepared to assist our client in the preparation of his mitigation" and so on. Is that a good idea, Mr Parker?
  (Mr Parker) That is not a practice I would encourage.
  (Professor Gudjonsson) No, I would not approve of that, no.
  (Dr Boakes) No, I would not approve of it at all.
  (Dr Thompson) My opinion is completely clear. I do not think this should ever happen.

  1007. It clearly does, does it not?
  (Dr Thompson) Yes.
  (Dr Boakes) Can I make one perhaps slightly peripheral point. There was a reference to the offence perhaps being due to the fact that the offender had been abused in the past. There is actually no reliable evidence that the abused are more or less likely to become sexual abusers than anybody else. There is no post-sex abuse syndrome, despite many attempts to find one and it is dangerous to make that assumption.

Mr Prosser

  1008. I want to give you one more example of possible incorrect procedures and that is the practice of a police officer investigating returning continually to the same witness who has made no allegations, almost as if to wear that witness down. What is your reaction to that practice?
  (Mr Parker) I think that once an inquiry has been resolved by the person saying "Yes, I know something and I can give you some information" or "No, I do not know anything", that is the end of it. Clearly if they have information, then that starts the investigative process.

  1009. I have given a lot of examples. Do any of you have any examples of specific forms of investigation which you have heard about, have knowledge about, which we should avoid in the future.
  (Dr Thompson) I think it has to be put into context as well. I would not like a police officer, who has spoken to one witness who has named others that are supposed to be involved in the scenario in a multiple case, going and talking to those other people. Lord Clyde, for example, advised against it after the Orkney Inquiry, having the same interviewer for different people for similar scenarios. There again, on the other hand, if costs were to escalate wildly, I am sure the police would be criticised. So you have a problem there, in that the same officer is often going and seeing the same people who were supposed to be involved in similar scenarios to see if there is corroboration and that is dangerous, because they will have heard the first account and they will be sensitised to certain kind of evidential information and may, with the best will in the world, concentrate on that information and forget possible caveats or contradictions. You should definitely not do that with children. It is advised not doing that with children in multiple cases. But then you have another difficulty, because I have seen a case, it is Ozone again, I have seen a computer printout and one police officer has clearly been asked by another to go and get information on six things and it comes out on one of those big printout sheets. What is the officer to do? He has been asked to find out about six things he knows nothing about. There is a one line sentence. How is he supposed to go into that home and begin an impartial, non-leading interview with that party, regarding those six things that one has to get information on? There is a suggestion which I made 12 years ago. Various people have made it as well, after Rochdale, after Orkney, after Cleveland. Multiple cases are something different, particularly when you are dealing with sexual assault, and that is whether it is contemporary or whether it is historic. Not only are those cases different, remember that when we are dealing with these historic kind of cases, we are dealing with a legal issue too. It is called similar fact. I know you have received some evidence on this. You have heard from police officers people saying things like "I would never accept 12 people saying something occurred unless they can demonstrate to me" and then give you a list of criteria, while in the cases I have seen those criteria are not accepted. There is also the volume claim. I have even seen it put to one accused person "Look, there are seven people saying you did this and there is only one of you" and I quote verbatim. So when you are dealing with so-called method, when you are dealing with a volume like that, you have a serious problem. In similar fact cases, you really need to be very careful how many officers you have got involved, who is going to interview whom, who is then going off to corroborate certain allegations that have been made. And that is before we get to reviewing all that material. You are going to have to deal with this and come up with a particular strategy. Twelve years ago I invented a simulation exercise for social workers to prevent them making these kinds of mistakes in interviews with children. It might be a good idea if police officers are trained how to avoid these kind of problems, once it has been agreed, so that in multiple cases like Orkney, like Ozone, like Granite, all these multiple cases, we do not have these kind of allegations and mistakes being made.
  (Dr Boakes) I would just like to endorse the risks of the same officer being involved in interviewing a number of potential witnesses. My experience in this comes not from the care home but elsewhere, but clearly the risks are the same. We also know from the American experience with children that even if there is no contact with the claimants, if there is a network of support that in itself becomes a means whereby a number of people come up with the same kinds of allegations. It is being passed around the network, entirely often in good faith, but people are sensitised to what they have heard elsewhere.
  (Dr Thompson) There might even be ways of dealing with this problem, if you are very careful. But it is quite clear, from the statements that are made, and I do not have to discern what questions are asked because oftentimes the person who is supposed to be making the statement, although it is always written down, or usually written down by a police officer, makes it quite clear that not only was he asked if he could remember another boy, he was asked if he could remember a member of staff and then it was promptly told to this apparent informant, this possible informant, that it was well known that he had lots of children round his house and they were engaged in sexual activity. And this comes at the beginning of the interview. So you have cued the person in. And it is quite surprising because this is a second interview, no claims were made during the first interview, but after that information was given to him by a police officer, and it is there in the statement, all of a sudden, in the second interview, this person suddenly remembers that he went to the house too. Now fair dues to the police, they go back and check with the original informants and now claim not only does this person claim this happened to him, but he also claims he went with you to the house. Both previous informants said it is not true, we were never there when he was there. So police officers do check sometimes, but in many cases they would not have had the opportunity to do that and in some cases may not have even had the will. You were told, in no uncertain terms, that police officers go and look for corroboration. Can the second, third or fourth witnesses add something to the original complaint? The same person later said he would like to be fair to everybody, but I have not seen anybody be fair—let us be quite clear here—when staff, alleged paedophiles or hebophiles, come up with possible reasons why it was logistically impossible or come up with a personal reason or a grudge why the complainant may have something against them, who do the police check it with? Bizarrely, not with other members of staff, but with the complainants. And that is definitely a practice that should be stopped because you are effectively asking someone who has made an allegation against somebody else to become judge and jury against the possible rebuttal. Worse, in those circumstances, it also alerts that person to the situation they may well find in court. And there was a debate amongst the police officers about whether they were responsible, of course they are not, or the CPS is responsible. And I think the expression was "Well, they do not know, they throw the case to the jury". If you have tipped off potential complainants what the potential rebuttals would be, you have effectively given them a month, two months, three months, four months or whatever to come up with a good story to counteract that viable rebuttal. And in that case, you are effectively undermining future cross examination in a court of law.
  (Mr Parker) I would go along with that general assumption, but I think that the way that the evidence is recorded is important here. That is a police recorded statement.
  (Dr Thompson) Yes.
  (Mr Parker) That is a summary of the interaction between the police officer and the witness and I think it is very dangerous. The system is changing. We are recording through video and taped interviews even of witnesses now and I think that is definitely a positive step because what is missing here, to my mind, is that assumptions are being made that this process was somehow produced through police mishandling this witness and I cannot see the evidence of that. It would be better if the process was more open and transparent, so that we could have a full and frank consideration of the processes, the psychological processes, in the interview itself. We do not have that from that statement.
  (Dr Thompson) We could make it quite clear though, could we not, that I would think in a lot of cases a police officer, while they may be making a mistake and not thinking of the possibility and the potentials of what they are doing, is not responsible if someone is then, on the basis of being given a clue or a crumb, is going to make up a pretty elaborate story about how they were sexually assaulted when they may not have been sexually assaulted. That is never the police officer's fault. There may well be one or two people who wish to push a process along. There is a bottle neck or whatever. I have seen a case, for example, where they do not get corroboration until the very last interview, which is quite a coincidence in those circumstances. So I can surmise that they might have pushed it. But generally it is not the police officers that are making up false allegations here.


  1010. We understand that. Mrs Watkinson has a question about compensation.
  (Professor Gudjonsson) Can I just add something because what we are talking about is that coin. There are two sides to this coin. We have been talking about bad practice. Then let us talk about the other side, which is good practice, in terms of it is easy to pinpoint what is bad, but we also have to pinpoint what is good. Just as an example, I was involved in about 1996 in an inquiry. It is actually published, called the Longcare Inquiry and it was two care homes in Buckinghamshire. What happened is the police contacted me and my two colleagues, and these are people with learning disabilities, and what they wanted to do was to potentially interview witnesses. They identified 49 witnesses who they thought they might want to interview. They asked us to go in, assess them psychologically before they interviewed them to identify what kind of problems and psychological vulnerabilities they might have and to give advice about, if they were interviewed, how should they be interviewed. And then when these people were interviewed, those who were identified as being capable of being interviewed, it was done on video. Everything was recorded properly on video. So you can see, as an example, a good practice. The police are taking precautions. They want to get advice and everything is properly recorded. So I think I just want to make that point.

  1011. Yes, I think that is important. Thank you. Has anybody else got an example of good practice?
  (Dr Thompson) I do actually, because in the Ozone case it was quite clear that on several occasions police officers were trying to cross-check the information they were being given by witnesses. Now I may say I think they lost an opportunity to check even further, but they at least did attempt to cross-check whether or not the appropriate people were there at various times and would go backward and forwards between the witnesses, trying to get to the truth of the matter. That is no doubt. But I think it is a very good point too, you see I think the major problem here, I know it has been dubbed "trawling", there was "trawling" in Orkney. It was just between the children. Get another list, get another child name, off you go to their house, etc etc. In these kind of cases, you clearly need a different procedure, but you have a difficulty. In normal child sexual assault cases—there is an experiment going on at the moment in Derbyshire, it is an excellent experiment into how to avoid asking children any leading questions whatsoever. Hopefully it will put me out of business. I have endorsed it, but as usual, it is short of money. And the question is; what is the Government going to do, I know you could blame the last lot, but in this circumstance we were promised extra interviewing training for social workers after Cleveland. We were promised it after Rochdale. We were promised it after Orkney. And it never, ever happened. And that is why children's memorandum interviews are as bad as they ever were, despite the Memorandum of Good Practice's existence. The situation here is this; if you are going to come up to a decision, and far be it from me to teach the Chairman how to suck eggs, really I think there should be a different kind of training for multiple cases, particularly in sexual assault, in any case where people are making allegations where there is no evidence that a crime has occurred. That is the difference between these cases and others; it depends upon the power of the word. Half the time you have got 12 people saying someone did it and one person desperately trying to say "No, I did not". When you have got allegation cases, there needs to be different interview techniques and I think there may need to be different operational techniques. And if you are going to look at that, can we, for once, make sure that it actually occurs and that real good practices are repeated up and down the country. Thank you.

  Chairman: Thank you. Mrs Watkinson, compensation.

Angela Watkinson

  1012. I think probably Mr Parker is the best person to ask this question. Are you aware of any cases where a complainant has fabricated or exaggerated an allegation of past abuse in the hope of gaining compensation?
  (Mr Parker) Of course it is very difficult to investigate what the motivation is for someone to make an allegation. Intuitively one would jump to the conclusion that yes, it probably happens. However, I do not have any evidence of that actually happening. What I would say is that I would hope that it would be part of an investigation that the officer seeks to find out what the motivation is for the making of the allegation. And that would be certainly part of my method in establishing part of the witness's credibility.

  1013. Do you think there are other reasons which might lead an individual to make a false allegation, other than the hope of compensation?
  (Mr Parker) The difficulty here is, does every false allegation come from an awareness that what they are saying is false? Quite often you get people coming forward to make allegations that they truly believe or have come to believe through whatever process, whether that be externally generated through therapy or watching a TV programme or whatever or an internal process. The other aspect is those that deliberately deceive for some financial motive, for example, or maybe revenge or to get back at somebody or whatever. There is a clear distinction, those that believe and those that do not believe in what they are saying.
  (Dr Boakes) I would just like to endorse that because that is where false and recovered memories come in. I have no idea what percentage, it might be quite a small one, but I think it is something that needs to be taken into account. People are stating what they firmly believe to have happened based on psychiatric illness or suggestion or auto-suggestion.
  (Dr Thompson) In the six cases I looked at, there are three individuals, two of which have a series of prior convictions for various forms of fraud. These are very important witnesses in those two different cases. In the third case, there is a person who has a long history of making claims against all sorts of bodies and it would appear that the sex assault allegations may be the latest in a long line. But there are very definite reasons apart from compensation, particularly if you are talking about the psychology of these people. It could be mixed up with compensation but it would also provide alternative and these have leapt out the pages of the interview statements, used and unused, at me. The first one is what I will call the "abuse excuse". Several of these people making complaints were themselves, contemporaneously or just previously to their allegations, convicted or about to face charges for sex assaults on children. The "abuse excuse" would be very useful in court. "I did this because I was abused as a child". Let us make it quite clear, and I am sure that Janet Boakes could make it clear on this, that people who are abused and sexually assaulted do not necessarily go on to commit the same offences. So there is the "abuse excuse". There is definitely "turning the tables". Please remember, because it has not been pointed out to this Committee, we are not dealing really with care homes, waifs and strays or poor young five or six or seven year olds. Most of the institutions in which people are alleging they have been falsely accused, and in some cases convicted, were former approved schools. The people who went to these institutions would be called juvenile delinquents and in the 1950s—


  1014. Actually that point has come up before and it has been disputed.
  (Dr Thompson) Well, not in the cases that I have looked at. It is quite clear, they were all former approved schools and the kind of people going there were the kind of people who would have previously gone to approved schools. Many of the charges of cruelty that I have seen are really the grafting on of approved school punishments onto the new regime punishments. And what is bizarre about all the cases, without exception, is that all the complaints start or go back, are regressed back, to the period of change over when we are moving from a heavy regime to a light one. So turning the tables, for example, is when these people, who may well have been in the approved school in the moment that it changed over to the more liberal regime, attack staff. It is very easy now to claim that the member of staff attacked you. The third reason is to excuse crimes later. I had one person who wrote in their statement "If this had never happened, I would never have turned to a life of crime". This person was a bank robber. He robbed a bank for the first time at the age of 12 and it was an armed robbery and that is the reason why he was in the home in the first place. He did not rob banks afterwards, he robbed them before. Hiding one's own sexual behaviour. Let us make it quite clear—

  1015. You have made it quite clear, Dr Thompson. Thank you.
  (Dr Thompson) Thank you. There is historical indignation. You may have made a complaint before, 20 years ago. It may have been a real one and was not listened to. Here is your chance to get listened to for the first time. The problem with that kind of situation is irrespective of what the original complaint was, you have now got to slip it into the frame in which it is going to be listened to. So you have a reason maybe for exaggeration or swapping over what it was. There is clearly revenge. There is, of course, a final issue. If you are a bank robber, it is not going to be very good for you if you were known to nosh people 20 years before. Bank robbers are hard men. You wish to bury what you used to do before. Blaming members of staff and saying that you were forced to do it, which is why many allegations of violence appear in such occasions, so you ensure that people understand you did not do this voluntarily, gives you a reason to pretend you are somebody else.

Bridget Prentice

  1016. I want to move us on now to another aspect of assessing credibility of the complainant's evidence. We have not perhaps had a great deal of evidence about the profile of paedophiles and I particularly want to ask about them because there may be some significance in the way they operate to this inquiry. Dr Thompson, could you perhaps, just very briefly, give me an outline of the modus operandi of paedophiles, if there is one, and—
  (Dr Thompson) Not only that, and in particular in care homes too, yes.

  1017. Yes. And how do they operate and do they stick to the same modus operandi, would you say?
  (Dr Thompson) There is absolutely no doubt, and you should understand this, I think you already do, that a certain amount of sexual assaults, but also sexual complicity and accommodation, took place in care homes. And the reason why it did is because a man called Carpenter advised everybody a hundred years ago that the best way to deal with juvenile delinquents was for adult males to develop a very special relationship with children. Consequently, I suspect you have got a lot of hebophiles and paedophiles working in care homes. But it is very simple. Paedophiles do not go around beating people with blocks of wood, banging their heads against walls, ramming their faces into pillows and so on. You do not do this. You entrap children. You entrap teenagers. You do not want to threaten them because you have got more chance of being exposed. What you want to do is to be nice to people. You will thereby, in care homes, give them contraband, make them special, give them favours, make little deals, give them things that they could not obtain elsewhere; favours and treats and so on. You would try to generate an element of secrecy. You would also get one very special, or two very special people who are now completely accommodated to you, are possibly homosexuals themselves, and you would get them to recruit for you. You would also develop a clear cover. This is the complete opposite of what you see in many of these cases. I am absolutely surprised, I will put it mildly, that no one else seems to have noticed this; paedophiles do not go around beating people up and then having sex with them. They do not do that. And yet, in many cases, these are what these people are supposed to have done. That is an attempt to explain why you did something when you are the victim "I was beaten up. I was forced into it" rather than give you an accurate account of how someone in a care home would entrap children. There is another problem that is clearly absurd and sticks out and is a very, very clear marker. One thing I think everybody agrees, whether you are working for the Home Office, whether you are independent like Dennis Howatt, whether you are someone who specialises in sexology like myself, is paedophiles develop an MO. They develop their own specific MO. It is almost like, to put an analogy, like a thumbprint or like your DNA. And the reason for that is very simple, they know what they like, but they have to be comfortable with it. Particularly in this climate, over the last 30 years, it is extremely dangerous to do what they do. They have to be even more careful. And so consequently, one thing that surely could not happen, and is a possible indicator to a potential false allegation or a mistake, if we put it that way, is the bizarre series of claims where claimants are suggesting that if the first paedophile assaulted them or approached them in the shower, the second one did, the third one did and the fourth one did, but, on the other hand, the first one fondled them under the bed sheets at night and crept into the room, the second one did, the third one did and the fourth one did. In other words, what you are getting is child-centred MOs. It does not happen. It would not happen. It could not happen, because a paedophile could not adopt or adapt like that. They would be outside their comfort zone. Consequently, what you should be looking for is a clear, similar, although fuzzy at the edges, MO. You do not get it in many of the cases where they are alleging false allegation. You are getting a child-centred MO and it does not work like that. You have even got circumstances where—and there is a famous case, I believe the man concerned was probably sitting in this very seat—a man was accused of committing an assault in exactly the same way as a previous perpetrator. By his case, of course, they had worked out what was happening and he was let out of court a free man, although the judge did not say without a stain on his character and he cannot work any more, which is a pity because he is a good care worker, from what I understand. But in that circumstance, you have got people claiming that different people in these care homes are using the same MO. Now imagine you have got one person who is supposed to have gone through ten, 12 children, as has happened in some cases, and they are adopting a different MO for the children. It would not happen.

  1018. Can I just ask the other three. Professor, do you agree with that analysis?
  (Professor Gudjonsson) I do not particularly want to comment on it because this is kind of profiling and I do not feel terribly comfortable with that kind of classification. I prefer to look at the scientific basis of it. I think it may well be true, what is being said, but I have not got the scientific basis to back it up from the published literature.

  1019. I will come back to you on another point. Mr Parker?
  (Mr Parker) I think it is certainly true and there is an awful lot of research to show this, that child sex offenders are repeat offenders. There is something like 70 per cent of sex offenders have offended between one and nine victims. 23 per cent have assaulted, ten to forty victims. Possibly before they are actually caught. So repeat offending is certainly a key issue. However, the MO, as Dr Thompson says, is not stable. It is about grooming. It is about accommodation for their abuse and, on the whole, it is not physically abusive.
  (Dr Thompson) You see, they establish a relationship—


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