Memorandum submitted by the Home Office
JUSTICE COMMITTEE MEMORANDUM REQUESTFOLLOW
UP TO HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE INQUIRYTHE CONDUCT OF INVESTIGATIONS
INTO HISTORIC CHILD ABUSE
I am writing to you in response to questions
asked in the memorandum request for information on government
activity in relation to guidance for investigations into cases
of historic child abuse. This letter answers the questions asked
below in relation to recommendations 2 (paragraph 34), 5 (paragraph
50), 16 (paragraph 108) and 20 (paragraph 129). The answers build
on the government response that was given following the publication
of the 2002 report.
We take the view that any initial approach by
the police to former residents, should-so far as possible-go no
further than a general invitation to provide information to the
investigation team. We invite the Association of Chief Police
Officers to revise the internal police handbook for senior investigating
officers, in order to set out clearly the terms of an initial
approach to potential witnesses (paragraph 34).
Q What changes were made to the Association
of Chief Police Officer's Handbook for Senior Investigating Officers
in response to recommendation 2; and when were such changes (a)
made (b) last evaluated?
The use of dip-sampling as an investigative
method in historical cases of abuse is a legitimate method that
can be used by police officers to pursue all reasonable lines
on enqumes. Clear justification for a dip sample should of course
be recorded as a matter of routine in the Senior Investigating
Officers (SIO)'s policy file and this is made clear in the Association
of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Handbook for Senior Investigating
The Senior Investigating Officer's Handbook
has been under continued review. Discussions are ongoing within
ACPO about the most appropriate and effective form of publishing
its guidance on investigating complex child abuse, including historic
cases. Existing ACPO guidance on investigating historic child
abuse is available to all police forces. New guidance is intended
to update this, building on existing good practice and expertise
from a number of forces which is already in operation. Where appropriate,
drafts of the guidance have been shared with existing investigations
to ensure that these investigations benefit from good practice
which has been identified by ACPO. Therefore, investigations should
not be affected while guidance is updated.
The most recent draft has derived from reviews
by ACPO of the comments received on previous drafts that had been
circulated to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Police Forces,
SIO's, Home Office and National Policing Improvements Agency (NPIA).
This draft will be discussed at the ACPO Conference in March 2009
for review and published later this year. This will be in addition
to the wider ACPO Guidance on Investigating Child Abuse and Safeguarding
The 2009 SIO Guidance highlights that the identification
of potential witnesses can be made more difficult by the lack
of accessible information from records and files from the relevant
period. It recommends that at an early stage of the enquiry the
SIO should clearly establish the method of identification and
approach to potential witnesses. This should be an evidence, or
intelligence led approach that avoids any suggestion of "trawling"
for victims or witnesses in an illogical, illegal or unprofessional
manner. The rational and methods adopted in relation to witness
or victim identification should be clearly documented in the SIO's
Policy File with a "WitnessVictim approach protocol"
that is utilised and understood by all those working on the enquiry.
We recommend that resources are channelled into
researching and piloting the use of "statement validity analysis"
as a tool for evaluating the credibility of witness testimony
in complex historical child abuse cases (paragraph 50).
Q What guidance from ACPO's Investigative
Interviewing Group, or elsewhere, currently governs the use by
police of techniques, including SVA, that claim to detect instances
of potential deception?
The Government was not persuaded outright that
Statement Validity Analysis would be valid when interviewing adults
in every historic case of child abuse and is only one of several
The ACPO Investigating Interviewing Group, which
aims to develop and assist the implementation of a national investigative
interview strategy, are currently developing guidance on the use
of "detecting deceit" techniques in investigative interviews.
The aim of this guidance is to provide investigators with a broad
overview of the techniques associated with detecting deceit, including
Statement Validity Analysis, and the issues and potential pitfalls
associated with their use. It is anticipated this advice will
enable them to help judge their worth and place the correct emphasis
on their application within an investigative context.
ACPO is currently working with academics and
practitioners in order to identify, evaluate and recommend research
and learning with regards to investigative interviewing to the
police service of England and Wales.
The guidance currently under review for the
Senior Investigating Officer's Handbook does not directly mention
the use of Statement Validity Analysis. It highlights the need
to recognise the unique nature of an investigation when a length
of time has elapsed since the alleged offences occurred and the
motivation and potential vulnerable nature of the victim(s). Careful
consideration by Senior Investigating Officers is to be given
to ensuring the integrity of their evidence and a risk assessment
should be made of anyobservable issues.
We are concerned that neither the internal police
guidance, nor the Government guidance, on historical child abuse
investigations, give any specific direction on the proper relationship
between the police and personal injury solicitors. We recommend
that the Home Office issues guidelines, which prescribe the elements
of a "model relationship". We suggest that the Home
Office act in consultation with the Association of Chief Police
Officers to ensure consistency between the various guidance documents
Q Whether any specific problems have arisen
since the Government's reply demonstrating that specific problems
needed to be addressed?
The Government rejected this recommendation
on the grounds that sufficient guidance was given in the document
"Complex Child Abuse Investigations: Inter-Agency Issues".
This guidance had been developed by an inter-agency working group
chaired by ACPO. The Senior Investigating Officer's Handbook was
developed in parallel with this guidance. The Government said
it was prepared to amend this guidance if it was shown that specific
problems need to be addressed.
The Government does not think the existence
of a problematic relationship between police forces and firms
of solicitors has been substantiated. The assumption that civil
compensation claims have driven false accusations, or that impropriety
has existed in relationships between police forces and firms of
solicitors is not supported by any evidence.
Recommendation 16 was considered to be included
in the guidance but it was agreed that police relationships with
personal injury solicitors did not necessitate special mention
in the guidance. Whilst advice around Criminal Injuries Compensation
Authority (CICA) is included it was felt that relationships between
police and any external stakeholders would be covered by standard
police codes of conduct.
We would invite the Association of Chief Police
Officers to further revise the internal police handbook for senior
investigating officers, with a view to minimising the risks of
inducing false or exaggerated allegations. First and foremost,
we believe that any practice by the police of offering, or acceding
to requests for, mitigation in exchange for evidence against suspected
child abusers in historical cases should be prohibited (paragraph
Q What steps were taken in response, or related,
to the issues raised by this recommendation?
The Government responded that in general the
recommendations in this area were inappropriate. The Government
believes there is value in the consistent promotion of good practice
and therefore agreed to discuss with ACPO the possibility of revising
and developing the Guidance to further minimise the potential
for inducing false allegations.
There are sufficient safeguards within the criminal
justice system to protect those who have been falsely accused.
The main safeguards for the accused lie in the fact that the issue
of guilt is put to a jury after a full trial and that the Criminal
Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is there to investigate alleged
miscarriages of justice. In addition the police are under a duty
to investigate all lines of enquiry, whether these point to, or
away from, the person accused.
Allegations or convictions do not inevitably
result in compensation being awarded. Where the judicial process
has resulted in a conviction, it is unreasonable to expect the
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) to disregard the
outcome. As with any claim, the Authority will weigh up all available
evidence in the case concerned before determining whether there
should be any award of compensation.
The Senior Investigating Officer's Handbook
has been under constant review with consultation with various
relevant bodies. Guidance promoting continued good practice with
regards to false allegations is included in the draft update that
is being considered in March 2009. The guidelines produced from
this will be published later this year. In the SIO Guidance on
Investigating Complex Child Abuse, that is due to be published
this year, a section is included to cover the allegations of false
Senior Investigating Officers are advised that
when an investigation identifies a false allegation consideration
should be given to supporting a prosecution for attempting to
pervert the course of justice. It is essential in all cases that
everything proportional and practically possible is undertaken
to test the validity of statements to corroborate accounts and
establish as an accurate a picture as possible.
Alan Campbell MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State