Submitted by David Rose (CA 132)
I am an investigative journalist with 21 years' experience of examining miscarriages of justice. I am the author of articles about police investigations into alleged abuse in children's homes for The Observer and a BBC1 Panorama programme broadcast in November 2000. The Committee already has a copy of my letter to Chris Mullin MP last summer, which I attach. I have investigated about a dozen cases over the past two years in which men convicted of serious sexual abuse in care homes dating back to the 1970s and earlier continue to protest their innocence. I am concerned about aspects of all these cases. However, here I will confine myself to a few additional points which may not have received full consideration already.
Police officers from several forces, including Merseyside, Cheshire, Devon and Cornwall and South Wales, have made it their practice when visiting former pupils/residents to put names of alleged abusers to their interviewees, and to show them photographs of the alleged abuser(s). It would appear this practice is contained in their standing operational instructions.
In 2000, while investigating the case of Roy Shuttleworth, convicted and jailed for 10 years for abuse he is supposed to have committed at Greystone Heath in Cheshire, I found vivid evidence of the dangers this process can engender. In Wigan, I interviewed a former pupil, a man who had no recent criminal record, and had become a small businessman. He had made a vivid statement to police describing how Shuttleworth had forced him to masturbate him in the shower, and had sexually assaulted him in the swimming pool changing rooms. It was evident from the documentation in the case that this allegation was being pursued seriously. The police visited the man at least twice, and on their advice, he went to Abney Garsden McDonald, the Cheadle solicitors handling more than 700 civil damages claims from alleged care home abuse victims.
However, Shuttleworth was not charged in respect of this man's allegations, because it emerged that he did not join the Greystone Heath staff for seven years after the former pupil's departure.
I consider this incident noteworthy for three reasons. First, the man began to make his allegations only when the police showed him photographs of Shuttleworth and described him as, in his words, "one of them, a paedophile". The suggestion represented by the photographs and name were all it took to generate an entirely false narrative. Second, this narrative would have been part of the eventual indictment had it not been for the fact that the police discovered the problem with dates. His statement was quite as vivid as any used in these prosecutions, and as with so many of these allegations, the only corroboration would have been the fact that other former pupils had accused Shuttleworth as well. Third, even when I confronted him with the discrepancy, he stuck fast by his untrue story, insisting again and again that he had been abused by Shuttleworth. He had adopted it as his "truth". One can imagine he would have been very hard to shake in the witness box.
I hope the committee will give thought to making a specific recommendation that police who visit former pupils should not mention names or show photographs of former staff members who may have been accused of offences, or make suggestions as to the identification of "paedophiles" in any other way. I suspect that other memoranda will cover the subject of the taping of police-pupil encounters, but I observe that in the event of an instruction prohibiting such suggestion, only taping could ensure it was being followed.
In several cases, including Shuttleworth's, the police appear not to have made serious attempts to discover whether alleged victims' stories corresponded with other, verifiable facts, nor to have confronted alleged victims when discrepancies with such facts came to light. For example, one of his accusers claimed he had run, naked and bleeding from his anus after being buggered, from his accommodation block to the headmaster's study, a distance of 400 yards in full view of a busy road used by both cars and pedestrians. In fact, the accommodation block was always locked. When I found him and confronted him, he said he had jumped from a first floor window. The windows at the home were more than 20 feet above the ground, and had this claim been true, one imagines he would have mentioned it an earlier stage. When I further pointed out the windows were restrained by brackets which meant they would open only five inches, he said he was "skinny in them days". He has been paid compensation and continues to insist his allegations are true.
In the past few months I have come across further very worrying evidence of the extent to which the criminal and civil processes have become blurred. In Devon and Cornwall, Operation Lentisk, an inquiry into alleged abuse at Forde Park school near Newton Abbott and other former homes, only began more than two years after a pressure group, the Forde Park Survivors Group, was formed to campaign both for compensation and a criminal inquiry. Long before any trials took place, counsel and the solicitors acting for about 70 group members, Woolacombe Beer Watts, held several meetings in Exeter hotels at which it was explained that there was an effective tariff: complainants could expect up to £50,000 had they been buggered, but much less for mere physical assaults. At these and other meetings, group members were able to share stories and compare notes. Only when this process was well underway did the police begin their inquiry.
Finally, although the Committee will rightly consider much evidence that some untrue allegations are motivated by the lure of compensation, my investigations have made clear that this is not the only way in which untrue narratives are made. Recently I have held two meetings with a man who gave evidence of very serious abuse, for which a former careworker has been sentenced to many years in prison. This individual, who is serving a long prison sentence for unrelated offences, has completely retracted his allegations. Palpably filled with remorse, he has given a convincing story alleging that after numerous visits from police officers, who put the name and photograph of the alleged abuser to him, he complied with their wish to make an accusatory statement because he feared the consequences for his own parole if he did not co-operate. The victim of the crime he committed was a homosexual, and he feared he might be classed as dangerous in future because of his failure to "disclose" his own (fictitious) experience of abuse. He says the police encouraged this belief.
He and other alleged victims are clearly in a very vulnerable position when approached by the police, and here too taping of interviews would protect both witness and alleged abuserwhile making true allegations more credible. The incident also demonstrates the general difficulty in "trawling" for victims and searching for crimes. All too often, those approached may say what they think the police want to hear.