Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence



Examination of Witnesses (Questions 740-759)

MR TERENCE GRANGE, MR GARETH TINNUCHE, MR MICK HOLLAND, MR MIKE LANGDON AND MR NIGEL DUGGAN

TUESDAY 18 JUNE 2002

  740. Thank you.
  (Mr Duggan) Just to confirm that I agree with what others have said here that some people do enter the care system not because of criminal acts, sometimes they start on their criminal career in the care system unfortunately.

Chairman

  741. We do understand that.
  (Mr Duggan) Can I just say something very quickly on compensation. I think it is a complicating factor in the equation. I wonder whether, if it is to be compensation, it could be in the form of non-financial compensation such as specialist counselling or support, retraining, help to obtain employment if appropriate, something along those lines.

  742. We may come back to that in a moment. Mr Grange, you read out the current ACPO advice, how old is that?
  (Mr Grange) This is culled advice from the investigating officers, one of the authors is in the audience. This has been in existence and known to people for 18 months now. It was formally issued some four months ago after delays brought about by outside influences.

  743. It is four months old formally but informally 18 months old. Since most of the complaints date from well before 18 months ago it is perfectly possible, is it not, that the practice was not as good then as it is now?
  (Mr Grange) I take that point entirely, sir. The authors of this document are, in fact, the investigating officers of these allegations. You have a copy, I believe, and you will see them listed on the front. These are people who have put together best practice from their experience, so they know. They are merely passing on what they have learned to the next generation if needs be.

  744. The best would have been complying all along and the worst are just catching up.
  (Mr Grange) That is true, sir.

Bridget Prentice

  745. I shall try to be brief in my questions, both on the basis that I do not want to cover things that have gone before and also we are coming to the crucial questions about what will happen in the future. I want to ask you about the multi-agency approach. First of all to the police officers, have you all adopted a multi-agency approach in your investigation teams? Could each of you briefly tell me how those teams have been set up.
  (Mr Holland) In 1994 when we set up our three inquiries both at a strategic level and at an operational level multi-agency working was established. Directors from Social Services, from children's care groups, not the NSPCC but the Catholic Society, were all brought together with senior police officers and agreed the strategy for the investigation. At an operational level social work officers were attached to the inquiry team working full-time with the inquiry. They were tasked with examining all Social Services' files, information that could be related to pupils at the home, staff at the home, any records we could get at all from those historical homes. They would examine those and submit reports themselves for the file as to what had been found out. It was agreed strategically that the issue of possession of that individual's file would remain with Social Services. Obviously during trials if the defence counsel wished to see the file they would make an application through PII to a judge to obtain access. The police were not involved in that process.

  746. I do not want others to repeat that if it is almost exactly the same model but can I just ask about the files. Because the files were kept with Social Services, did that make it within a judicial process more difficult for the defence to have access to the files? Was that a deliberate decision?
  (Mr Holland) No different. If we had wanted to take the files from the Social Services initially we would have had to go to PII anyway, they are confidential documents. We had complete trust in the working practices with our colleagues from Social Services. There was a set format of the type of issues they should be searching for and if it came to light that there were indications of any previous allegations, anything of that nature, they would bring it forward and that piece of paper would become an exhibit and would be available and disclosed. If the defence solicitors then wanted to view the file themselves they would follow the same rules if we had the file.

  747. Mr Langdon, do you have anything to add?
  (Mr Langdon) It is broadly very similar. Our strategic group is chaired by an ACPO member and we include the people that Mr Holland was referring to and also Barnado's who provide our counselling service. Also at a tactical level we have social workers who are permanently attached to the Operation Care team who work in partnership with a police officer, the purpose being a police officer and a social worker will work together.
  (Mr Tinnuche) The only way we differ from the other two is not on the structure of the management issue but with regard to the accessibility to Social Services' files. It is my view that those should be examined by police officers. I am not questioning the integrity or the honesty of Social Services' employees who do it on behalf of other forces. In our seven unitary authorities, two authorities allow us personal access to Social Services' files to identify what may be evidence or what may be available to undermine or assist the prosecution case. The other five authorities do not allow us access so we apply the same rules as Mr Holland and Mr Langdon.

  748. So you feel that five of your Social Services authorities are not as co-operative as perhaps is going on in other parts of the country? Was it a policy decision on your part?
  (Mr Tinnuche) My view as an SIO is that in the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act in my opinion it is for me as the investigating officer to research and examine. My personal view is that should be done by a police officer. We have access in two authorities to do it but in the others we have not so then the Social Services' employees themselves will research it channelling the request through our liaison officer and they report back to us in a similar vein as they do for Mr Langdon and Mr Holland.

  749. Turning now to Mr Duggan, can you now expand a little bit on what your role was in Operation Goldfinch?
  (Mr Duggan) One of the central features of my role is to pass requests from the police to the social services department for information with regard to ex-staff or ex-residents of children's homes and, also, for general information which could relate to more general information about staff lists, residents lists, log books, etc. After an initial inquiry, though, they could often follow with a request for access to social services files, which Mr Tinnuche has been talking about. This is a big issue for social services departments in South Wales and, I would say, across the country. It has resulted in what Mr Tinnuche has touched on, a difference between the seven local authorities, in terms of their protocols for disclosure. Two authorities will allow, in relevant cases, disclosure of a complete file to police officers and will allow them to take copies of documentation that is regarded as relevant from that file. The other five authorities will allow some limited access to files but it is based on the police team identifying particular documentation or material which they believe is on the file and which they say is relevant. The social services department will look at the file, consider whether there is such material and whether it is relevant, and allow the police to see that particular documentation only, and they will be able to make notes from that but not to take copies. The reason for there being two different protocols is because there have been different sets of legal advice to the various authorities. I can tell you that the social services departments have agonised for years over this issue. There is a national group now, a multi-agency working group, looking at disclosure of documentation at a national level, and I gather that is about to reach a conclusion. That will be very welcome to the local authorities because for a long time now they have been asking for some kind of guidance on this issue. I think the authorities would generally say they would like to allow disclosure, both to the prosecution and defence, of all relevant documentation, but sometimes they feel they are precluded from doing so on legal advice because of the necessity for them to stick with PII—Public Interest Immunity—and claim that interest on every occasion.

  750. Your memorandum refers to the written protocols. Is this now what you hope is going to give a standard across all seven authorities?
  (Mr Duggan) There is what I call the main protocol, which deals with this issue of disclosure. It also deals with issues with regard to counselling, and there is a separate protocol which has been designed by the South Wales Police, which has been amended after discussion, which deals with the disclosure of documentation from the police to local authorities in terms of matters that would be of interest to themselves—for example, in disciplinary proceedings or things of that nature. That is a separate protocol. The local authorities are also looking at a third protocol which deals with the disclosure they will give to their insurers with regard to file documentation and relevant material. So there are a number of protocols.

  751. Do you think this is something that should be taken on nationally?
  (Mr Duggan) The two are. As I say, the national working group is looking at the disclosure of documentation both by social services to the police and vice versa, by police to social services. So the local authorities are very hopeful that they will soon have some direction in that regard.

  752. Are social services staff—social workers, education psychologists, or whoever—involved in the interviewing process in these investigations?
  (Mr Duggan) Not as far as Operation Goldfinch is concerned. I am not directly involved in interviewing witnesses—accusers or victims. That might be so in other investigations but it is not the case in South Wales.

  753. I want to ask you, Mr Duggan, one more question in relation to what you said earlier to Mr Malins about your tendency to believe an allegation. You then went on to say that you could not speak for other social service departments. Does that make you an unusual social worker?
  (Mr Duggan) Let me try to clarify that further, because I do not think I probably have. What I was talking about were child protection processes. With regard to institutional investigations we are talking, basically, about allegations that are made by adults, sometimes about incidents which have occurred a long time ago. What I was trying to talk about there was my work in child protection procedures, where a child might say to me they have been abused, and my ultimate responsibility is towards the protection of that child—or, indeed, other children who might be involved. So I must start from the basis, if this allegation is correct what is necessary to protect the child? This is very different to the operations that are actually going on here, in terms of historical abuse in children's homes. I hope I am making that point clear.

  754. Is it not the case, in fact, that all social services departments up and down the country take the same view as you, which is that the tendency is to believe the allegation?
  (Mr Duggan) That is my understanding. If a child comes forward and says—and we are talking about children who are children still—they have been abused, social services departments are advised to start from the standpoint "Can we believe this allegation?" We should believe this allegation as a starting point because of the responsibility to the protection of children.

  755. I just wanted to be clear that that is a policy that is not peculiar to you but is one that every social services department follows.
  (Mr Duggan) Yes. Could I reiterate that it does not apply necessarily to institutional investigations where you could have hundreds of allegations, about time spent many years ago and made by adults now. That is a different situation.

  756. Can I turn now to Mr Tinnuche, Mr Holland and Mr Langdon and ask each of you to say, briefly, how many staff have been involved in each of your investigations?
  (Mr Tinnuche) At its peak we had 62. There were 51 police officers, three civilian support staff, police-employed, and eight retired police officers used as inquiry officers. That was at the peak of the investigation. It is now currently down to about 34 officers.

  757. Roughly how much did that cost?
  (Mr Tinnuche) I think the budget for the year is somewhere in the region of 400,000.

  758. Four hundred thousand for a year?
  (Mr Tinnuche) Yes.
  (Mr Grange) That cannot include the costs of the officers. A constable would cost you 28,000 a year these days, including National Insurance. So if you have 20 constables that is a million pounds (sic).[4]

 

  759. That is the figure I am really looking for.
  (Mr Tinnuche) That figure I quoted you does not include the actual police manpower cost, it is only the cost of running the investigation for a year with regard to vehicles, fuel, expenses, travelling and everything else that goes along with running an investigation like this. It does not actually count the cost of the police resources.
  (Mr Langdon) We have a total of 23 police staff, one detective chief inspector, three detective sergeants, 12 inquiry officers, and we have five officers that are engaged in the major incident room standard procedures. We have one administrative assistant and one typist. We have six permanently appointed social workers. The figure we expend as a police organisation on Operation Care represents 0.35 per cent of the overall force. In an independent review we did an overall cost, including social services, which I can dig out and provide for you.

 


4   Note by witness: Twenty officers times 28,000 is 560,000, so 40 officers would cost just over 1,000,000 in salaries. Back

 
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