INVESTIGATION OF CHILD ABUSE ALLEGATIONS BY SOUTH WALES POLICE
I am a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Physician at the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff. I am married to a Consultant Gastroenterologist; we have two young children and are expecting our third. Neither of us have any criminal record whatsoever.
In January 2001, I was questioned, without caution and without legal representation (being told it was not necessary) over an allegation made against me by a child. I strenuously maintained my innocence and I was informed that the matter would go no further. In April 2001, I was arrested and held in a police cell on suspicion of the same allegation, although no further evidence or allegations had arisen. During the following three months, my house was searched on three occasions, frightening my children, all my computer equipment was seized and I was suspended from work. Despite my details being leaked to the press, all my patients, family, colleagues, friends and acquaintances remained fully supportive. In July 2002, the Crown Prosecution Service ordered South Wales Police to drop the case and no charges were ever brought. Needless to say, not a single pornographic image, however "soft" was found in my house or computers. Despite this, South Wales Police reported the matter to the General Medical Council. They also came to the conclusion that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
I appreciate that it is not your intention to look into individual cases and I have therefore specifically kept these details to the minimum. However, my experience has highlighted many of the tactics of South Wales Police that have raised cause for concern in other cases. These include:
1. Interviewing without caution or legal representation.
2. A "witch-hunt" mentality in which investigations are re-opened despite no credible evidence.
3. Arrest and prolonged detention in locked cells in an attempt to "wear the suspect down".
4. "Trawling for allegations" by leaking information to the press. In my particular case, this also involved seeking to precipitate complaints from patients.
In August 2001, I made an official complaint to South Wales Police regarding various aspects of the conduct of this investigation including, but not restricted, to the matters outlined above. On 29 October 2001, I was sent a letter stating that my complaint had been "informally resolved". I replied in writing on 1 November that in my view the complaint had been far from resolved since none of my concerns had been addressed. I was visited at home by Police Officers in the last week of November. They refused my request to refer the matter to the Police Complaints Authority in order that they might oversee a full investigation but promised to investigate my complaint themselves.
Since that time I have made several enquiries seeking information regarding the investigation of my complaint. I have received a single letter (dated 29 January 2002) stating that the matter is in hand but I have been given no details with regard to the undue delay nor has there been any attempt at keeping me informed of the progress. My last letter, dated 11 March 2002, in common with others, simply remains unanswered.
The effect of the unfounded allegations, uncritical police investigation and subsequent apathy regarding my complaint cannot be overemphasised. Although there is no doubt that citizens with high-profile professions and international research reputations are not immune from criminal activity, this case has engendered grave concerns regarding how the police deal with allegations of child abuse. I was fortunate enough to have the full support of my friends, be of a robust character and intelligent enough to mount a fluent defence. I had the advantage (once the Police allowed it) of having access to expert legal advice, including personal friends at the Bar.
It is my considered opinion that others in a less fortunate position could readily have become the victims of a miscarriage of justice. There is no anonymity for those against which allegations have been made, the investigative process is "suspect driven" rather than "face driven", there is a presumption of guilt rather than innocence and the police seem to have scant regard for PACE. Even if we are to accept the present police complaints procedure (where the Force investigates itself) and were it to work promptly and be complainant centred, it has a major limitation since complaints are made against individual officers rather than the "system" as a whole. This does not allow institutionalised problems to be tackled. In a manner analogous to the institutionalised racism uncovered in the police force, SouthWales Police are guilty of institutionalised victimisation of citizens against whom allegations of child abuse have been made.