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Memorandum submitted by the Home Office

JUSTICE COMMITTEE MEMORANDUM REQUEST—FOLLOW UP TO HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE INQUIRY—THE 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.

RECOMMENDATION 2

  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 Officers.

  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 Children.

  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.

RECOMMENDATION 5

  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 techniques.

  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.

RECOMMENDATION 16

  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 (paragraph 108).

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.

RECOMMENDATION 20

  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 129).

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 complaints.

  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

March 2009





 
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