Submitted by Karen Reilly, Head of Children's Services, Flintshire County Council (CA 58)
1. Do Police methods of "trawling" for evidence involve a disproportionate use of resources and produce unreliable evidence for prosecution
We are not in a position to say, one way or the other, whether these methods involve a disproportionate use of resources. However, if the evidence produced is unreliable, it seems likely. We do suspect this to be the case on the grounds that:
When speaking with a potential witness/victim, Police must state at the beginning the purpose of the meeting and may find it necessary or appropriate to disclose the contents of other witnesses' evidence before taking a statement.
2. Is the Crown Prosecution Service drawing a sensible line about which cases should be prosecuted
The methods used to decide which cases should be prosecuted to not appear to be consistent with other kinds of offences.
3. Is there a risk that the advertisement of prospective awards of compensation in child abuse cases encourages people to come forward with fabricated evidence
Yes. Common sense dictates this is bound to be the case. The extent to which it has happened is difficult to measure and t is probable only a proportion of people would be affected by such inducements. However, there is local anecdotal knowledge of such occurrences.
4. Is there a weakness in the current law on "similar fact" evidence
Yes. The reliability of "similar fact" evidence is based on the premise that such evidence comes from several witnesses independent of each other without any prior knowledge, agreement or discussion etc. There are grounds to suspect this may not always be the case, especially in the light of the police "trawling" methods.
5. Should there be a limit in terms of number of years since the alleged offence took placeon prosecution of cases of child abuse
No. If properly adduced evidence is available at any time that offences have occurred and is sufficient to mount a prosecution then it is proper to do so. However, evidence may lose weight and not be as readily available after 15, 25 or 35 years.
Flintshire and its predecessor authority Clwyd had major investigations into children's residential establishments which culminated in the publication of the Waterhouse Enquiry 2000.