Submitted by Chief Superintendent Ian Johnston, Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales (CA 74)
Firstly I will deal with the issue of "police trawling" for evidence. This phrase conjures up expectations of a method of investigation whereby investigators seek out complainants in large numbers in an attempt to identify those individuals that have a story to tell based on their life experience. The motivation of these individuals is allegedly based on vindictiveness, financial reward, in the form of compensation, or those with a genuine complaint. The implication is that this practice is a widespread and indiscriminate search for alleged victims without concern for the rules of evidence or the reliability of that witness. To put the record straight the term trawling is a phrase used by those individuals who would wish to impugn the integrity of this type of investigation.
The Codes of Practice issued under Part II of the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act 1996 sets out general responsibilities for officers conducting investigations into allegations that a crime has been committed. Under the code a police officer conducting an investigation should pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry, whether supporting or negating the complaint. What is reasonable in each case will, of course, depend on particular circumstances.
Recent research has been conducted nationally in relation to this type of investigation, the findings of which have been produced in a manual for advice and guidance to Senior Investigating Officers who have been charged with the conduct of this type of investigation. "The Investigation Of Historic/Institutional Child Abuse: The SIO Handbook" is a comprehensive study of the working practices contained within a number of such investigations nationally. The working group sought advice and best practice from ongoing and completed investigations. The manual details in eight chapters issues contained under the headings:
The Investigative Structure
Staff Selection Welfare and Training
The Investigative Process
The investigative process is discussed at length and the various options open to the SIO in relation to witness contact are mentioned. Some of the processes have been identified as effective whilst others not so effective. The common theme however running through all the processes is the need for a policy outlining the "Do's and Don'ts" in respect of victim/witness contact. I append for the committee's assistance a copy of the policy outlined within this document. (Appendix 1)
After initial contact each apparent victim will have been required to make a statement of complaint. This statement will comply with the requirements of Section 9, Police and Magistrates Courts Act. Each individual will read and sign the declaration at the commencement of the statement. If the individual cannot read that declaration will be read to the individual prior to signing. It is then the responsibility of the investigation team to look for corroboration of the allegations made. This corroboration could be in the form of forensic corroboration; however, owing to the historic nature of these investigations this is unlikely but not unheard of. It could be in the form of entries in records or file retained by Health Authorities, Social Services or other agencies ie, Barnados etc or the corroboration could come from evidence of similar fact. It is in the later aspect that the concern of our critics lies.
In accordance with the requirement for officers to conduct a full investigation pursuing all reasonable lines of enquiry it is essential that officers identify and interview other residents who were in the care homes at the same time. This will lead to other residents who may have been abused by the same individual or will often negate or cast doubt on the initial allegation. In any event under the requirements of The Criminal Investigations and Procedures Act all the contacts made, negative or otherwise will be made available to the defence. The strategy for many of the methods of contact and alternative approaches made has been constructed after lengthy deliberation with the independent Crown Prosecution Service who have had significant say in the development of the protocols on witness contact.
Some enquiries nationally have adopted a dip sample approach whereby a limited number of residents will be seen. Usually this figure represents 10 per cent or 50 residents. If however, abuse is identified within that band it is essential that the investigating officer time line this process and identify as many as possible of the residents who were at the care home during that period. Other investigations choose to contact as many residents as possible who can be identified from registers etc. This is an operational decision taken by the Chief Constable, usually in consultation with our partnership agencies through local Strategy GroupsThe latter obviously being much more resource intensive.
DISPROPORTIONATE USE OF RESOURCES
As a matter of law it is for respective chief constables to decide upon the deployment of their resources and upon the investigations that will or will not be conducted.
In comparison with this type of investigation the committee should consider the requirements for an efficient and expeditious enquiry into the murder, rape or serious sexual assault on a minor of whichever sex. Dependent on what category of investigation is under way guidelines can be found in MIRSAP which will give a lead on the type of responsibilities that each investigation should resource ie Statement reader, exhibits officer, disclosure officer etc. To give as an example a Category "A" murder being of major public interest would have at least 36 Detective Constables employed on enquiries. It is with this as a guide most, if not all, historic abuse investigations are resourced. These historic abuse investigations often involve the most serious sexual and physical abuse on minors at the time they were in the care of the state. Who, some would say, represent the most vulnerable members of our society? It is essential in the interest of the victims and to re-establish public confidence in the care system that these investigations are given the highest priority within the operational arena.
It is against this backdrop that the resourcing of these investigations is considered after an initial scoping study is conducted by the SIO.
The suggestion that these enquiries are disproportionately resourced in comparison to other needs is based on a false proposition. The historic nature of these allegations is often spoken about in derogatory terms. I would invite the committee to consider the Saville enquiry in the same terms. There is clear evidence that some of these offenders are still in the child care arena. There are significant examples where these individuals have been convicted and whilst they may appeal against the sentence many do not appeal the conviction itself. There are also a number of examples where these individuals pleaded guilty to the charges brought.
It is essential that the Crown Prosecution Service adopt a robust and challenging assessment of the evidence available prior to bringing these matters to court. A large proportion of the cases presented to the CPS are discontinued in the early stages. Approximately 90 per cent of the matters investigated do not result in a trial. The focus is on sexual abuse and serious physical abuse. Minor assaults that cannot be corroborated are discontinued at a very early stage, usually prior to charging. A robust No Further Action Policy is an integral part of any such investigation and the NFA policy outlined in the Historic Abuse guidance for SIO is appended for the benefit of the committee (Appendix 2). The CPS had a significant role to play in the development of this policy.
The whole process of investigation is transparent and subject to the full rigours of CPIA and PACE. The evidence is tested by the police in the first instance then by CPS, Barrister for the Prosecution and eventually through the due process of law before judge and jury. The antecedent history of the alleged victim and all the prosecution witnesses is made available to the defence under disclosure rules and their lifestyle, motivation and credibility open to forceful challenges by defence counsel. Despite views to the contrary many of these victims are not career criminals or motivated by compensation. In fact very few pursue the opportunities open to them via Criminal Injuries Compensation or Civil Litigation as court records would testify.
Operation * * * *
Policy When Dealing with Victims/Witnesses
The following points must always be considered when dealing with alleged victims and witnesses who become involved in this Operation. These points are by no means exhaustive and may be added to as and when necessary:
Establish positive identification of the victim/witness.
Identify yourself and the purpose on the interview.
Maintain an open mind. Our purpose is to establish the truth into any allegation made.
Be patient, sympathetic, and reassuring.
Use simple language, no "police speak".
Conduct interviews at complainant's pace.
Seek victims' wishes when considering location and timescale of interview.
Confidentialityestablish if partners/relative/friends are aware of persons' placement at any establishment or any allegations made.
Confirm willingness to attend Court. Ensure they realise a likely timescale to their part of the enquiry.
Ensure they understand Court procedure and the need to provide a statement.
Assure them that they will not be forgotten.
Record all contacts with victims/witnesses. Include reason/content/who initiated by.
Obtain any relevant consents or records.
Be aware of the medical/mental state of the victim. Consider the use of audio/video tape.
Confirm the establishment(s) where they were placed.
Confirm time spent at Establishment.
Be conscious of any physical/medical evidence, which may be available.
Keep in touch; leave and obtain contact numbers/addresses.
Offer support of other agencies, eg Social Services, for counselling etc.
Obtain a photograph (if available) of victim at the age of attendance at Establishment.
Obtain details of any other person they remember from establishment.
Establish if witness has been interviewed/given statement to other enquiries.
Establish if witness has kept in contact with anyone from the establishment.
Recover any relevant memorabilia from time at establishment.
Do not use local police to contact victims.
Do not discuss compensation.
Do not solicit or put pressure on individual to complain or make statement.
Do not discuss other complainants.
Do not leave notes/messages where others may find them.
Generally, officers should not deal with persons they have dealt with as an offender.
Officers who have dealt with a person as a victim should not deal with that person, should that person become an offender.
If possible, do not meet at locations that could compromise victim/witness/officer.
No Further Action
To determine what allegations of abuse may be considered by the SIO as suitable for referral to the Crown Prosecution Service for No Further Action to be contemplated and to implement the policy at the earliest opportunity.
In determining what allegations of abuse may be considered for No Further Action, the following will apply:
1. All allegations of sexual abuse will be investigated as appropriate, and a full prosecution/advice file submitted.
2. All allegations of assault amounting to GBH (or where GBH was a likely consequence) will be investigated as appropriate and a full prosecution/advice file submitted.
3. All allegations of assault amounting to ABH (taking cognisance of the charging standard at the time the offence was committed), or where ABH was a likely consequence will be investigated as appropriate and prosecution/advice file submitted.
4. All other allegations will be investigated as appropriate and where it is considered by the SIO that No Further Action is an appropriate option, then he/she will submit an advice file to the CPS for advice, prior to finalising. Consideration will be given by the SIO for the need to conduct an interview with the alleged offender prior to submission of an advice file. This consideration however, is subject to the CPS recommending obtaining further evidence by way of interview.
5. In consideration of taking No Further Action, the SIO will pay due regard to the following:
(a) The nature of the complaint.
(b) The effect upon the victim.
(c) The age of the complaint.
(d) The identity of the suspect.
(e) Other complaints made against the suspect.
(f) The personal circumstances of the suspect.
(g) Corroboration of the complaint.
(h) The attitude/wishes of the victim.
(i) The implications for any other investigation.
(j) The advice of the Crown Prosecution Service.
(k) Any other relevant circumstances.
ACTION ON RATIFICATION OF NO FURTHER ACTION
6. The victim to be informed accordingly
7. If the suspect is currently involved in the child care arena, then a strategy meeting must be convened and interested parties informed of the nature of the complaint and subject to investigation, the initial police view is that this is a matter suitable for No Further Action.
8. The suspect to be notified in person of the nature of the complaint at the conclusion of the investigation. This will be confirmed via letter (Appendix A). The SIO will risk-assess if the identity of the complainant should be divulged.
9. All parties subject to earlier risk assessment will also be notified of the result and a further strategy meeting convened if required.
10. A category to be created on the HOLMES database to readily identify all such allegations on which No Further Action has been taken.