Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 660-679)



  660. If I were to ask you now anecdotally what percentage of allegations of child abuse made are false, I appreciate you cannot be firm but can you give me a flavour?
  (Mr Duggan) With regard to this kind of inquiry?

  661. Yes, but generally as well.
  (Mr Duggan) In my work as a social worker prior to this particular investigation, my tendency was to believe an allegation of abuse. Some were found to be false—I would say a very low percentage, probably 10 per cent, but that is very much a guess and I could not possibly justify that figure.

  662. I am astonished to hear you say, "My tendency was to believe every allegation."
  (Mr Duggan) That is how I would start out.

  663. Do you not think that that shows an astonishing bias? "My tendency was to believe every allegation." Why on earth should you?
  (Mr Duggan) If someone is alleging child sexual abuse, I would want to start on the basis "Is there something here which needs to be investigated from the Social Services perspective?"

  664. But why do you have a tendency to believe every allegation when it is made?
  (Mr Duggan) Because my experience has been that the allegations have been genuine.

  665. So when somebody is found not guilty at court, you do not regard that as a reflection of a not genuine allegation?
  (Mr Duggan) I was talking in terms of my work in the social work department. The allegations that we get with Operation Goldfinch are a completely different dimension. We are talking about literally hundreds of allegations that are flying around. Those cannot possibly all be genuine allegations, I would suggest. I am talking about allegations in the social work perspective that I have undertaken and dealt with in terms basically of allegations of family abuse or abuse outside the family by somebody who is known to the individual. Obviously, Goldfinch is a different kettle of fish altogether.

  666. I was not talking about that. I was just asking some specific questions. Do you admit of the possibility that those cases in the Crown Court that result in acquittals can and should be regarded as or may be regarded as false allegations?
  (Mr Duggan) They may be. If the due process of the law has found the individuals to be not guilty, then we must accept that. That is correct.

  667. Can you think of any other area of our criminal justice system where it is presumed or people have a tendency to believe every allegation, which is what you say you do?
  (Mr Duggan) I am talking about my work as a social worker with the local authority. If a given allegation is made of child sexual abuse, my tendency would be to look at that and disprove it if necessary.

  668. Are you happy now that you said, "My tendency is to believe every allegation"?
  (Mr Duggan) My initial tendency would be to look at that allegation as a genuine allegation, and it might, after a period of investigation, turn out to be a false allegation.

  669. Do you think there is a tendency amongst Social Services generally in the country, from your experience, to have a tendency to believe everything that is alleged?
  (Mr Duggan) No, I would not like to say that. I could not possibly comment on how other people behave or think or the procedures they have.

  670. I do not know whether Mr Tinnuche would like to answer this. Is there a danger that some false allegations are made but never identified as false? For example, a complainant recalls a genuine experience but may have got the wrong person?
  (Mr Tinnuche) That is going to come out during the course of the investigation, and yes, I do believe that in taking the initial complaints, we cannot start from anywhere other than the tendency to believe them. It is only through the investigation of that complaint that we are going to gather evidence that either supports what that individual is saying or disproves what he is saying. We have had situations where we have taken statements of complaint, investigated allegations—I can give you some examples—where we have shown through proper investigation, through tracing people that they have mentioned in their statements, and going to interview them, that they do not corroborate what the individual has said. When we interviewed that individual again, he has said, "Well, I made it up." So he was interviewed, under caution, arrested and case papers were sent to the Crown, and they advised no further action.

  671. Mr Tinnuche, you are for the police, and you are the second person who has said to me this morning that when an allegation is made you have a tendency to believe it in relation to child abuse.
  (Mr Tinnuche) If you ring me up and say that your house has been burgled, am I to believe you or not?

  672. There is a slight difference.
  (Mr Tinnuche) What is the difference?

  673. If the doors and windows are all broken in and the entire contents are missing, there at least is a prima facie case.
  (Mr Tinnuche) Let us say then that you say you were sexually abused—am I meant to believe you or disbelieve you?

  674. I would have thought you were meant to have no view, but simply to investigate an allegation. If we are getting people who are tending to believe an allegation before they start, is that not troubling?
  (Mr Tinnuche) I do not think it is troubling.

  675. Mr Holland, I understand that your force is one of those that has toured the country to spread best practice. Is that right?
  (Mr Holland) We have been in liaison with other forces in relation to these types of inquiries. We have not toured the country spreading best practice.

  676. What key good practice pointers have you passed on to other forces?
  (Mr Holland) We have tried to inform other forces of what we have found during the course of our investigations, that there are certain elements of the investigation that investigating officers must be made aware of; to make sure the term "compensation" is never discussed, that officers do not go out encouraging people to make allegations for money. That was learned very quickly from other areas; that we have to look at the homes that we are investigating. In our case, three of the homes were closed, and that makes it much more difficult. You have to go back over historical documents, and unfortunately, in many of those places they were very limited. So you are actually trying to get all your information from the people who were present, both staff and pupils in those homes. It is basic police investigation techniques. There is nothing different between this type of investigation and, say, a murder investigation. We are trying to seek the truth. We are trying to corroborate what has been alleged, either allegations made but also from other witnesses that nothing happened to them, they did not see anything.

  677. Mr Tinnuche, South Wales Police have revised their practices, I gather, for Operation Goldfinch in the light of advice from leading counsel. Can you tell us exactly what changes have been made and why.
  (Mr Tinnuche) If we look back at South Wales Police investigations from the beginning, the first one was in 1996, and we had no experience as an organisation of investigating institutional child abuse at that particular time. What happened there was that North Wales had had experience of investigating child abuse, and officers from South Wales were tasked to go to see the senior investigating officer in North Wales to determine what they had identified as best practice in their investigation. That was brought back to South Wales and some points from that best practice were taken up as best practice in South Wales. One of the points mentioned by my colleague was the reference to compensation, how it must be avoided at all costs. There was also best practice as to where these interviews should be conducted. There was a whole host of things. Basically, that best practice, or "aide memoire" as it was called has evolved during the course of the investigation, the latest one being in December 2000. That was the last time we revised it.

  678. In the light of your own experience, have you changed any of your own investigation procedures to guard against the risk of generating false allegations, and if that is right, have you done so and in what specific way?
  (Mr Tinnuche) I do not know what you mean by changing our procedures to minimise the risk of generating false allegations.

  679. There is always a risk of generating false allegations if you go round looking for them.
  (Mr Tinnuche) As I said, at that time, speaking to an individual, how do you know whether the allegation is a true one or a false one? You do not. You are only going to establish the legitimacy of that allegation when you actually investigate it.


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