Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence



Examination of Witnesses (Questions 760-779)

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

TUESDAY 18 JUNE 2002

  760. How much did that come to?
  (Mr Langdon) 0.35 of the overall Merseyside Police budget. As I said, there have been costings in an independent review, which I have not got with me but they do go into some detail and I can provide you with that.[5]

 


  (Mr Holland) We started in 1994. We categorised it as a Category B inquiry, and at the time there were categories A, B and C. Category A tended to be terrorist-type investigations; B would be major murder-type or this type of investigation. We had 24 outside inquiry officers, detectives, 12 incident room staff, five social service officers attached to us, plus a DCI and two DIs. That, over the last eight years, has dwindled as investigations have been completed. There are currently one DI, two DSs and eight DCs, with I think it is four incident room staff. So it has decreased considerably but the inquiry is still continuing. Cost-wise, I have not got the exact figures but yearly the on-costs would be about 400,000 plus the salaries. I am not quite sure at the time what that totalled, but certainly 1 million, I would have thought.

  761. So you would say the same cost roughly as a murder inquiry, that it is fitting into your cost budget for Category B?
  (Mr Holland) Yes, contingency budget pay. Those have considerably reduced over the last few years.

  762. What was it at its peak?
  (Mr Holland) In total 36, 43, 44 plus Social Services.

Chairman

  763. I think Mr Grange said earlier that these kinds of investigations have run their course now.
  (Mr Grange) I should not think there will be any more major ones. The Metropolitan Police may well have some, I did not get any information from them. They are constructed somewhat differently from the rest of us. I think the large ones have probably run their course, yes.

  Chairman: We are going to turn now in the final minutes of the inquiry to recommendations for the future and what further safeguards we might introduce, if any.

Mr Singh

  764. I want to do that after one question on this. You have talked about the costs, the differential costs, of these investigations but what is the impact on other areas of crime and fighting crime in other areas of these large investigations? Has any assessment been made of that?
  (Mr Grange) It would be the same as with any other major inquiry. If you abstract your staff to conduct a major inquiry or you abstract an awful lot of staff from the suburbs of a very large conurbation to protect the centre, which is happening as we speak, then there is the potential for crime to go up in those areas. The question is should you conduct the inquiry. Once you decide to conduct the inquiry you have two choices, long and drawn out, and that would be even more damaging, or staff it up accordingly and get the thing done.

  765. They have still been long and drawn out, have they not?
  (Mr Grange) That is a fact but they could be even longer. That is the problem.

  766. We all appreciate that allegations of sexual abuse are very serious and need to be investigated, but at the same time one of the motivations for this inquiry is the fact that people have been falsely accused and these accusations are amongst the most serious that individuals can face. Allegations of sexual abuse which are not proven ruin your career, ruin your family life, ruin your whole status in the community. Whatever is happening we need to look at safeguards for people who are either falsely accused or completely innocent. We are looking in a sense to try to see if there are any safeguards that could be put in place on top of where we are and what those safeguards might be. Let me ask my first question which is would you be in favour of a time-limit on the prosecution of child sexual or physical abuse cases?
  (Mr Grange) No, sir. Let me go back to your point about safeguards for the falsely accused. There is no such thing. You have safeguards for the investigations of crimes. You cannot put together separate safeguards for the falsely accused because you do not know who they are. We would challenge on occasion this issue of falsely accused. The fact that you were not prosecuted does not mean of itself that the allegation is false. Some undoubtedly were, and there have been prosecutions for that. What you are looking for is safeguards to ensure that any form of police investigation or other prosecuting agencies' investigations are conducted with due regard for the alleged victim and the alleged suspect and that is seen to be the case. As to time-limits on alleged child abuse in our institutions, I take a moral stance on it. If we paid for these people, if we put children into care and we as public servants, and I have been one since I was 15, have looked after those children and it is alleged we have abused them then I do not see any moral justification for saying to these people "you have got one, two, three, four, five, six years to make your allegation or we do not care". I think that is completely wrong.

  767. In relation to unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 years the time-limit of 12 months is there, is it not?
  (Mr Grange) I believe that to be the case but that is a different issue entirely.

  768. Is that not sexual abuse?
  (Mr Grange) Unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl of 16 tends to suggest willingness otherwise it would be rape. Let us not confuse the sexual allegations that are made here with USI, they are very different things. These people are alleging that as children they were sexually abused against their will. We are not discussing any remote level of consent as I understand it. I do not think they should be confused.

  769. Does everybody agree that there should be no time-limit?
  (Mr Tinnuche) Yes.
  (Mr Holland) Absolutely.

  770. Let us that take on a little. Would you be happy with a time-limit or would you accept a recommendation that required the prosecution to apply for permission to prosecute these cases after a certain number of years, for example to go before a judge or the Director of Public Prosecutions?
  (Mr Holland) We do that anyway. It is not the police who decide that a prosecution will take place, it is the CPS and it then goes through the judicial process. That already exists.

  771. Let me suggest outside the process that we have got that you have to go before another judge to say there is a case to be answered.
  (Mr Grange) That actually happens in the pleas and directions hearings. If it is decided to take it to court at a pleas and directions hearing the judge will be arguing the case of whether or not this should proceed based on all sorts of time constraints, one of which is the length of time since the physical or mental condition of the accused began, and possibly the victim, and the time issues about the prosecution from the time the police passed their file on to the Crown Prosecution Service. That is all actually done at a pleas and directions hearing.

  772. So there is no need whatsoever for it?
  (Mr Grange) Many of these cases have been put out on time.
  (Mr Duggan) I think earlier we touched on the fact that allegations of particularly sexual abuse can lay dormant for many years. That is not because of any particular planning on the part of the victim, it is because this is an horrendous act that is perpetrated on them and they have feelings of shame, embarrassment and fear about bringing it forward. Maybe something will happen and it will generate this information coming to the surface. I think if the ability is not there to investigate that complaint, maybe after many years, that would be unjust to those individuals because I think that these people feel the effects of abuse in some way or another for life. I think to have a time limitation would be unjust.
  (Mr Grange) I would also point out, sir, that Setting the Boundaries, which was a study conducted by the Home Office, has gone through this issue and come to the same conclusion.

  773. But we may come to a different one.
  (Mr Grange) `twas ever thus.

  774. It has been suggested to us that the rules of similar fact evidence have been broadened out to such an extent that in these cases especially it is very difficult for the accused to defend themselves. Would any of you support tightening those rules up again to reintroduce, for example, the requirement that the similar fact evidence bears a striking similarly to the offence committed?
  (Mr Holland) Without keep repeating myself, this is a judicial process. Certainly in pleas and directions hearings and abuse of process hearings that take place in many of these cases the judge decides on what is allowable evidence and whether similar fact is allowable and will rule upon it. It is a judicial decision.

  775. I think that points me to ask questions more directly relevant to you and your investigations. It has been suggested to us that taped interviews between the police and witnesses would be an additional safeguard, what is your opinion?
  (Mr Holland) On 25 July this year the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act comes into being. That is a piece of legislation, sections 16 to 33, which emanates from the Speaking up for Justice Inquiry. The tape recording of vulnerable witnesses, which these type of individuals certainly are even though they are now adults rather than juveniles, will allow for the tape recording of evidence in chief.

  776. Would you be happy as people leading these investigations for that to happen?
  (Mr Grange) It is the law, sir. We will comply with it.

  777. That is a different answer. Would you be happy to?
  (Mr Grange) Yes, indeed. Our only concern, and I was at a conference when this was opened by a member of the Government, is that the necessary funding to make it tick has not been forthcoming so we are having to find an awful lot of money from within our current budgets to create more videotape suites to do it, but we will do it willingly.

  778. One of the issues I raised earlier was the protection of the accused in these areas. Is there any way of preserving the anonymity of the accused until after the outcome of the trial?
  (Mr Grange) Again, that would be a matter of primary legislation. I do not think the police would be concerned about that at all. That is just something that you, in your wisdom, as Parliament, would choose to do. You do it for others in the judicial system.
  (Mr Langdon) We certainly do not release anybody's name to anybody.

  779. So if an allegation was made against me and you came to interview me, how is it that my name would get into the press or the media?
  (Mr Holland) If you are charged with an offence or appear in court, and there are no restrictions placed by the court on reporting, the press would publish your name and what you were charged with.
  (Mr Grange) There have been two cases recently through the courts where the names of all the defendants have been kept quiet until the final hearing, both in the last week. Those trials have gone on for over two years.

 


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