Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 680-699)



  680. I do not know if you or Mr Duggan want to qualify in any way the remark you have both made, which is that when an allegation of sexual abuse is made, you have a tendency to believe it.
  (Mr Tinnuche) Think of it as a rape. A rape victim comes forward. What message am I going to be sending to that rape victim if my persona indicates to her that I do not believe her?

  681. No-one would suggest that, but equally if you appeared at a pub and somebody said, "He punched me" and somebody else said, "He punched me first" you would not have a tendency to believe either, would you? You would have a neutral position whereby you made an investigation. That seems to me to be a contrast to an attitude which I see coming through a lot in life of a tendency to believe a complainant in a child abuse case straight away.
  (Mr Duggan) I am not a police officer investigating a complaint that has been made to the police. As a social worker—I go back to my period as a social worker in the child care arena—it is regarded as very difficult for victims of sexual abuse to come forward. It is a very difficult thing for them to do. So I would start from the point of asking, "Why is this person doing this? Is there a reason for this to happen, if it is not going to be done lightly?" and go from that perspective.


  682. Can I put a proposition to you, gentlemen? Rather than assert that everything has always been done properly and all allegations such as the ones I quoted are false or unlikely to be true, would it not be better to say that we are all on a learning curve, this is a relatively new area of investigation, we have all learned things as we have gone along—that is why we have set up these guidelines and amended the rules—and it is perfectly possible that mistakes occurred in the early stages that we now avoid"? Would that not be a better proposition, Mr Grange?
  (Mr Grange) That is precisely what I would say, sir. I think everything is a learning curve. When these inquiries start, the first thing the first force does is find out how not to do it by doing it wrong, and then you learn from there, but we learn very quickly, and we learn by taking advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, from Queen's Counsel, by prosecutions that probably should have gone ahead not going ahead. We learn from the guidance given to us by other organisations.

  683. So you broadly accept my proposition?
  (Mr Grange) Indeed.
  (Mr Tinnuche) I go along with Mr Grange.
  (Mr Langdon) Yes.
  (Mr Holland) With the rider, sir, that when people are charged with offences, they go through the judicial system. It is not just a police method of investigation. That is actually tested in a court of law. People have been acquitted because of insufficient evidence. But the actual methods of investigation are longstanding. I believe they do not particularly differ for this type of investigation than any other major crime investigation. The basics are always the same.

(Mr Duggan) I would state that it is always possible for mistakes to be made. No-one can be certain that mistakes have not been made.

Mr Prosser

  684. On that very proper point, it does not matter what the process of your investigations are, it then goes before the court. Because we are dealing with an area where the alleged offences took place a long time ago and there is no material evidence, there is no forensic evidence, and we are relying almost wholly on accusations and people's reports, is there not a real danger that especially in the early days of your inquiries when you were not perhaps quite so refined and careful that there was a tendency to say "here is an accusation by A on B and maybe corroborated by a few other accusations, let us throw it to the court"? I use that word perhaps improperly.
  (Mr Holland) I understand, sir.

  685. Whereas that might be a partly acceptable or at least understandable way of proceeding in lots of cases of criminality and offence, in this particular case once you throw it to the court, even with all those hundreds of people who are acquitted or do not go through to the final process, because the damage caused to them is so inordinate we should have a special view of this type of allegation and this type of process.
  (Mr Holland) From the outset of our inquiries—we were not the first to conduct these types of inquiries and, as has been said previously, we did try to learn from the experiences of others—we were very conscious of the serious nature of the allegations made. As Mr Grange explained earlier, it is not just somebody making an allegation who was sexually abused or physically abused, it is the method, the volume, which I think is a very important factor. If you do get a dozen or 20 people who have not had any contact with each other at all over 20 years who are making allegations against an individual that totally describes how this person has groomed, has threatened or whatever method the abuse is, when it is happening 12, 20 times, that is evidence. That evidence is then put before the CPS. We were very conscious of not just rushing out and arresting people and actually making these accusations without that firm corroboration. Once we had that, once that evidence had been obtained, in consultation with the CPS people were arrested, the system was followed through and people were charged with offences and placed before the court. We were conscious of the seriousness of that procedure.
  (Mr Grange) Could I make a point, sir, on the misconception that the police can just throw things to a court. It is just absolutely impossible for police to do that. We do not decide who is prosecuted. You have an independent Crown Prosecution Service and they decide to throw people before the court, not us. Our function is to investigate the allegation and find out, if it is possible, the truth of the allegation one way or the other and that is all we do.

Mrs Dean

  686. Mr Grange, how does the ACPO guidance help and how will you ensure that it gets out to all the forces, that it is digested and actually followed?
  (Mr Grange) This is The Investigation of Historical Institutional Child Abuse guidelines?

  687. Yes.
  (Mr Grange) They have been circulated to every single force in the country. As they are amended they will be re-circulated. In the last year across the country I have formed regional groups dealing specifically with child protection and they will be meeting quarterly. The leaders of each of those teams are meeting with me half yearly. We will be going through our processes to confirm that we have all got the handbook and that we are all working to it or, if we are finding improvements on it, bringing improvements forward. I then trust the professionalism of the senior investigating officers in forces. To back up that trust their inquiries will be reviewed by independent officers and criticised where criticism is necessary.

  688. What benefits do you see coming from it?
  (Mr Grange) It makes sense to have a handbook so that if you are going to put one of these inquiries together you understand right from the beginning the difficulties of the inquiry, the necessity for a proper structure, the absolute necessity for proper record keeping and policy logs and an understanding of how you came by your decisions, clear directions to all the staff as to what they can and must not do, and proper record keeping by them. Then the openness of all those records to the Crown Prosecution Service so that they can provide disclosure to the defence.

  689. Do you see more convictions coming because of the ACPO guidance?
  (Mr Grange) I am not sure. I have a sneaking suspicion that these allegations might have run their course over the last few years anyway. If 34 forces have conducted inquiries there are not many left, are there?

  690. Could you tell us why you have established a research team at the National Crime Faculty?
  (Mr Grange) Actually I have not done so. As with many other things in my three hours with Mr Rose he has misinterpreted what I said. In 1998 the Waterhouse Inquiry recommended a standards based investigation system for child abuse investigations. That is one standard applied across the country and a training regime for police and others that would support that. That was reinforced by a Police Inspectorate thematic study of child protection in 1999. When I took over this area in 2001 I found that work had not been done and I have commissioned senior officers to prepare that work for me. Last Friday I received the first papers on a child protection core curriculum for investigating officers and in the next three weeks I am expecting from the officers preparing the standards based investigation package their first document. There is no research team, that is a flight of imagination.

  691. Why have you done what you have done?
  (Mr Grange) If the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Lord Waterhouse think the police should have something and I am responsible for that area, I will see it is put together, that is my duty, and it is the right thing to do as well.

  692. Is this because you think there could have been cases where people could have been jailed who are victims of miscarriages of justice?
  (Mr Grange) I have always accepted that possibility and I made that quite clear to David Rose. It is possible, it is a human process. If we can put together structures and oversight and independent analysis of what is going on that mitigate that possibility then we should.

  693. We have had quite a lot of discussion about the number of allegations and the comparable number of convictions. From your own experience do you believe that the vast majority of allegations are neither fabricated nor exaggerated?
  (Mr Grange) The vast majority are not fabricated and are not exaggerated in my view. The vast majority are people alleging that they were physically attacked, as I understand it. What we describe as physical abuse these days might have been described as reasonable abuse by a parent or in loco parentis in the 1970s and they are not prosecuted.

  694. Could I ask Mr Holland, is that your opinion?
  (Mr Holland) Certainly from the majority of allegations we have received I would say that they have proved to be truthful and correct because they have been through the judicial system. Offenders have been interviewed, charged, have pleaded guilty. There have been trials, long trials, the witnesses giving evidence in the witness box, being assessed, being cross-examined and the truthfulness of what they are saying when I have sat in court has been evident, certainly evident to the jury who fully believe the allegations they are making. There have been mistaken allegations. The term "false allegations" has been referred to. I have had one example where a young man made an allegation against a care worker in a particular home, he was adamant that sexual abuse had occurred, and when we investigated it, this was not a lone investigation, this man had already been charged with a number of offences and was awaiting trial, we established that he could not have been abused by this man because he was not in the home at the same time, even though the offender thought he was, they were both mistaken. We established that and went back to see him and he was still adamant that it had occurred although it could not have occurred. I was quite certain that young man was not making a false allegation for some other reason, he was genuinely mistaken and was having a heck of a time trying to cope with his mistake, he would not accept it himself. It was a mistake. He was not seeking money, he was not seeking revenge, it was a genuine mistake. He may well have been abused but we could not establish by who.

  695. Mr Langdon, do you want to comment?
  (Mr Langdon) I agree with the comments that have been made by Mr Grange. It is my experience that the people who are coming forward are genuinely doing so for the right reasons and are being truthful.
  (Mr Tinnuche) I go along with what the panellists have said. You are only going to establish whether people are making false allegations by thorough investigation. As I mentioned earlier on, I gave one example where through thorough investigation we were able to say that what he was saying to us could not have happened. That was by finding somebody he had made reference to who may have been a possible witness to that particular event. Again, perhaps coming back to the issue raised by Mr Cameron at the beginning of trawling, that is by thoroughly investigating. Had we not bothered to go and trace that second individual then we would never have known that that allegation was false. That individual was interviewed and the Crown decided, for whatever reason, that it would not pursue the matter. We have currently got another one which is being considered by the CPS where he made allegations against more than one individual at more than one establishment and, again, by thorough investigation, by examining his complaint in minute detail, researching the establishments that he said he had been at, seeking to obtain corroboration, we found that nothing matched.


  696. It is a sign of what a dangerous area this is. In the circumstances outlined by Mr Holland you had a witness who probably was abused and who passionately could demonstrate he was abused but was mistaken, although he will not accept it, about an individual concerned. He would be an impressive witness in the witness box, would he not?
  (Mr Holland) He would but the fact is the investigation is designed to uncover where there are mistakes being made, where there are false allegations being made.

  697. Since you are dealing with allegations that might be 20 or 30 years old for which records do not exist it might at the end of the day in court come down to his word against that of the individual.
  (Mr Holland) That is always a possibility but it is not just one person's word. If there was only one allegation 20 years old that would not finish up with an alleged offender being charged with the offence, the evidence would be insufficient. One would not stand on its own.

  698. I suspect I will get letters from people saying "I have been in that situation and that is what happened".
  (Mr Holland) Not in my experience.
  (Mr Tinnuche) I would have to disagree there because we have prosecuted one allegation of sexual abuse, it was an allegation of buggery. That matter was investigated and obviously the CPS considered that there was sufficient evidence there to proceed against that individual. The matter was tried and he was convicted. He was subsequently released after appeal but the appeal was successful not because of any wrongdoing by the police investigation but on the judge's summing up. So no criticism was levelled for bringing that prosecution or at how the matter was investigated but it was a one-on-one situation and the jury believed the victim. The man was convicted but later released on appeal.

  699. I appreciate this is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service, all you do is produce the evidence but inviting the jury to make an educated guess when faced with two reasonably convincing witnesses is a very dangerous road, is it not? I think that is what you are saying happened in this case.
  (Mr Tinnuche) That is right, yes. The jury believed that there was sufficient evidence presented to them to convict that particular individual. I do not think it was making an educated guess as to who was telling the truth.


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