Submitted by W G Ramsay (CA 29)
I wish to make the following submission to the Committee under point one ie Do police methods of "trawling" for evidence involve a disproportionate use of resources and produce unreliable evidence for prosecution?
I was interviewed by the police prior to the North Wales Tribunal some five or six years after retiring from my post as Principal Officer (Child Care) during which time there had been considerable press coverage of the various cases of child abuse in Child Care establishments in North Wales. This information I had obtained like any other member of the public from press and media and not what I had experienced or learnt whilst employed by the Flintshire County Council. The management of the residential establishments was not part of my remit and I visited the homes only for Case Conferences, reviews etc as Child Care Advisor.
During my discussions with the police on their first visit, many topics were introduced including some of the people convicted of abuse etc and it was obvious that they already had considerable knowledge (which I did not have) of the people concerned and the offences alleged to have been committed. It was the police who put forward suggestions to which I responded. The police then left after I had agreed that they could return in order for me to make a statement.
On the second visit an officer proceeded to write as we were talking and subsequently asked me to sign the statement which I refused to do on the basis that it was not an accurate record of what I had said. The officer was displeased at my refusal to sign but during the ensuing discussion agreed with me but said that he had tried to pre«cis the conversation. I told the officers that I had enough knowledge over many years in the profession to know that if I was to be cross-examined on what was written I could not say that it was something that I had seen, done etc, especially as some of the topics had been introduced by the police anyway, and I had only agreed from what I had seen or read in the press. The irony was that on the second day of my appearance at the tribunal (without any prior knowledge by myself or my Barrister) the police presented a report which had not been submitted along with other documents and there was no opportunity for me to digest this nor to discuss the contents with my Barrister as I was already in the witness box when it was introduced. It was a statement of the officer's thoughts and interpretations at the time and put into their own words!! Yet I was criticised for not being prepared to give a statement. I felt very angry about this not only because it was unfair but as this was not a court of law it could not be challenged in the normal manner. However my great concern was that if this could happen to me with well over 35 years' experience in dealing with the police and the courts how would an inexperienced member of the public have given "evidence"? (And I was only a witness!).
It does cause grave concern that so much time was taken (in my case two lengthy sessions) to produce such unreliable evidence and I think how some of the vulnerable children that I know would have responded.