Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)
MR PHIL CRAIG, MR PHIL FIDDLER, MR RORY O'BRIEN AND DR CHRISTOPHER REEVES
TUESDAY 21 MAY 2002
140. Were you given any reason why it was discontinued?
(Mr Craig) No.
141. Have you heard subsequently why?
(Mr Craig) Yes, I have, because what I did subsequently was to make an official complaint against the officer responsible for me being charged. The officers had looked into it and on August 2001 an officer came up from the South of England, in fact to my office in the North of England, and tried to explain to me why I was charged with buggery of these children. What really disturbed me was what had happened in that process of trawling. He said that they discontinued the case because they kept speaking to ex-pupils who spoke very positively about me and said that in their opinion there was no possibility that I could be guilty of such offences. In order to prove this, the officer read out statements from these ex-pupils who spoke very positively about me, and the statement read: "It has been put to me that Mr Phil Craig, ex-teacher at"the establishment"has been arrested and charged with a number of serious sex offences." Then the individual said: "However, I have to say that this is not my impression of Mr Craig. He was a very good teacher. He was very supportive, etc., etc."
142. So this hung over you for much less time, actually, than it has done for other people. Is that right?
(Mr Craig) Yes, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
143. It lasted about a monthis that right?
(Mr Craig) No. It lasted from 11 October to 9 February, but about two weeks ago I received a visit from two officers from the police force involved in order to draw a line under it and say there will be no further action. In other words the trawling has gone on, and my family and I have lived with this for 18 months.
144. What has been the effect on you?
(Mr Craig) Devastating. I was just saying to Phil earlier that I have not really slept since 11 October. I have not had a full night's sleep. I still have nightmares about standing in a police charging office, or whatever you call it, and being charged with buggery of two children. I am still getting counselling. My employer has been very, very supportive and I am still getting counselling about this. I have to say that I think for all of us, this is a life sentence.
145. But you are still in your job?
(Mr Craig) I am still in my job.
146. Which is unusual.
(Mr Craig) And I have to say that my employer has been incredibly supportive.
147. Thank you for that. Dr Reeves, we are just asking each of the witnessesand you are lastto state briefly their own experience. The only point I would make to you, as I have done with the other witnesses, please speak as far as possible in general terms without naming names because it leads to complications, we have discovered.
(Dr Reeves) May I start by apologising for being late. It is not any disrespect for the Committee. Railways are no respecters of persons. I am a consultant child psychotherapist. I have been qualified for 30 years. For ten of those years, between 1981 and 1991, I was Principal of a residential special school for primary school-aged children. It is known as a beacon of excellence in the field. I was first consultant, then the principal. I resigned my post in 1991 after ten years in order to take a sabbatical with a view to continuing to pursue my previous role as a child psychotherapist. At Easter 1992, nine months later, I was going out to the post-box to collect the post when a car drove into the drive. It was quite early. I said, "Are you looking for somewhere?" Out stepped two uniformed police officers and another car swept into the drive. "Fortunately," I thought to myself, "I am the only person in the house. What my wife and two daughters would have done if they had seen this dawn swoop . . .". Within half an hour I was in a cell in a police station. Nothing was explained there, except that my house was being searched. That was in 1992. It transpired that a former pupil, who was still at that stage aged 11, had left the school and had made allegations against me as the Principal. I will not go into all the background. I do not think it is relevant to the purposes of the Committee. This was gone into by Oxfordshire Police. Although I did not like the way I was summarily arrested, I felt that they acted quite fairly and, in the light of what I know subsequently, it was an ordinary police detective, not somebody from the Child Protection Unit, who was conducting the investigation. After four months, he was satisfied that there was no case to answer, and I was released from bail and told I could resume. I was not in employment, as I say, at that time; it shook me, but I started work. Two years later another investigation started, prompted by another child who had also been at the school at the same time as the previous one and who had been caught up in the previous investigation when they were looking, asking other pupils whether there were allegationsas they had to do. This pupil had also left the school. This time I was not swooped on. I was not actually interviewed until the investigation, which had been going on for six months, had been completed, but I was interviewed then. By that time I know the police had decided, in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, that there was not sufficient evidence. However, it was the Metropolitan Police who conducted that, because that is where the child came from. They let it be known to the school that they were deeply suspicious of me and anybody who appeared to be siding with me on the staff. They said if it had been done the Met's waythe Metropolitan Police waythe first time, I would be behind bars now. There was definitely a sense of inter-force comparisons, rightly or wrongly.
148. What happened in 1994? You were charged?
(Dr Reeves) I was charged.
(Dr Reeves) No, I was arrested and interviewed but not charged. So I left Oxfordshire because I felt that I could not pursue a career there, and I did not know when the next swoop was going to be. I said to my solicitor when he said, "Go and have a nice life now," "This is just the beginning." I moved to Cornwall, took a post as a consultant child psychotherapist and was working there quite happily for two years. I had done a lot of work in child protection. I was an expert witness for courts, giving opinions about reception into care and that sort of thing. There were no complaints about me in Cornwall, but one day my line manager rang me up and said, "I must come round. There have been some allegations which we do not know about, but we will have to suspend you." It turned out that the same boy who had made allegations in 1994 had repeated them and elaborated them five years on. He had suddenly remembered that I had also buggered him, which he had not been able to say before. This started another investigation. I was suspended, as I say, and I have not been able to resume work as a child psychotherapist since. After three months, Cornwall did not know what was happening but they felt that they had to make the post available to somebody else, and I tended to agree. That investigation was taken over by Oxfordshire, who decided enough was enough; they were going to get to the bottom of this. So they interviewed all the staff and all the pupils at the school that they could locatethe former pupils who were now in their late teens. I was not interviewed throughout this year-long investigation. I was not interviewed before I was charged. I was never heard by the investigating policeman.
150. You were charged in 1997? Is that right?
(Dr Reeves) I was charged in 1999at the end of 1998, 18 months later.
151. What were you charged with?
(Dr Reeves) 38 counts of sexual abuse.
152. Based on evidence from how many complaints?
(Dr Reeves) Based on about 13 that they had trawled from the school. These were reduced as time went on. I stood trial in 2000 on a total of 28 charges, and I was found not guilty on the direction of the judge that there was no evidence, that the prosecution had not established a case.
153. Very well. Okay. Was that the end of the matter then?
(Dr Reeves) It was the end of the procedural matter, yes.
154. Were other people who had been at the school with youthere is no need to name the schoolcharged as well? Or were you the only one?
(Dr Reeves) No, I was the only one.
155. What was the effect on your life?
(Dr Reeves) At various levels. Personally it was devastating, as Mr Craig has said. Family-wise, it was devastating. Professionally I was not able to resume my career. I re-applied for a post with Cornwall. I had at the time of the trial asked for anonymity, at least until the trial was over. That was refused. Cornwall have since rejected my request for re-employment on the grounds of potential adverse publicity.
156. Did you have to spend a lot of money on your own defence?
(Dr Reeves) £200,000.
157. Were you not reimbursed?
(Dr Reeves) I was reimbursed for most of that at the end of the trial, yes, but that does not count the amount of loss of earnings that I have sustained in the interim, and the costs that have been incurred in trying to secure my rights subsequently.
158. And are you employed now?
(Dr Reeves) No.
159. Very briefly, Mr O'Brien, you have answered the Chairman about FACT and how it was set upthe membership. Could you give us a profile of those 500 members? Surely they are not all people who have been falsely accused?
(Mr O'Brien) No. They are families of, friends of, people who have been falsely accused. It is really a support organisation, as well as an organisation that is actually trying to look for change. We do a lot of counselling and help that way to families who are trying to cope with allegations of this nature.