Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 860-879)



  860. I do not think they did actually.
  (Mr Frampton) They said that a large number of witnesses were drug addicts, thieves, credit card fraudsters and so forth, and were attention seeking. I hope this inquiry goes further into the whole nature of the care system as it was and as it is today because I do not think you can really consider certainly the legal issues on the basis of the backgrounds of those particular individuals when there is no proper consideration of the care system as it existed and a proper investigation as to what took place. In my experience, I have not known anyone who is prepared to fabricate a statement. They do not make claims to attention seek. Far from it, they do not want the attention. How would you like what has happened to your body and to your mind thrown before a court, before lawyers, in an adversarial situation? To suggest—as I think David Rose did—that 40 per cent of those people who have been put in to prison who were abused in care homes are innocent—

  861. You said 90 per cent a moment ago?
  (Mr Frampton) No, we said 90 per cent fabricated evidence. He said of the 120 cases of people who are in jail at the moment, he estimated that 50 were innocent. Quite frankly, that comes from a body which was saying that the Holocaust never took place.

  862. I think I have to challenge that. I have not heard any witness suggest that never took place.
  (Mr Frampton) They said it was grossly exaggerated and it was one or two cases or some. I think when you questioned them, then they backed down slightly on that.

  863. As I think you are now on my questioning you.
  (Mr Frampton) Slightly.

  864. Chief Constable Terence Grange of ACPO, who came before us recently, said that he did not think that there would be any more major investigations into past cases of institutional abuse. Bearing in mind that 34 of 43 police forces have conducted such inquiries and a very large number of cases have been unearthed, would you agree that these investigations have almost run their course?
  (Kathryn Stone) Absolutely not. I think that we could well be—please God we are not—sitting here again in 10 years time and asking the same questions. It is far harder for children and young adults with learning disabilities to disclose abuse because of their limited ability to communicate and the isolated circumstances in which they are living in special residential schools and so on. Children and young adults with learning difficulties are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, and that is something I would want to impress on you. I think we are only just starting to see the level of abuse that they have suffered and survived, if you like, over the years. It is likely that we will see other investigations into the abuse of people with learning disabilities in the future.
  (Teresa Reynolds) I would like to add to that. We cannot be absolutely certain but we can be pretty certain that we have not absolutely seen all of them. From the numbers of people calling our organisations, and I can draw on some of the figures I mentioned earlier, it would be a mistake at this stage to assume that there are not going to be more.
  (Mr Byrne) The only reason I can see for the confidence of the police officer's assumption that there were not going to be any is because there was an intimation within the Social Services to have less children in care now, which means there is less likelihood of them being abused in care. I think we need to look at where the vulnerable children are going and at those who are paid to look after them. There is not so much opportunity to inspect some placements and very small residential units. The private child care system has grown considerably in the last 15 to 20 years. We cannot sit back and say child that abuse is going on. We could do something about it, but we need to look at it from the point of view of what it is to be a child who is looked after in this country today. It is not a happy situation to want there to be more victims because there should not be more. I am convinced that we should have learnt from all this. There are many hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, of people out there who have not yet had the courage to stand up and say, "While in care, I experienced child abuse". It is crucial that when someone has the courage to say those very clear words, they can know that the people they tell will believe their experience and take them seriously.

  865. There have been investigations in 34 forces and that has led to a considerable number of prosecutions. If not now, when?
  (Mr Byrne) That is an impossible question for me to answer in this situation. I can speculate, if you would like me to that.

  866. Speculate then. We have heard a lot of speculation before in this Committee. A bit more will not make much difference.
  (Mr Byrne) The level of investigation is massive at the moment, as you have acknowledged. It needs to continue at this level. We have worked closely with Operation Care in Merseyside, which is now on its way out; it is a natural progression. It has finished a lot of its inquiries. They had to set up a document called Care Plus to pick up all the lose ends and all the people for whom they could not investigate in new homes, so there must be new investigations in our area of Merseyside. The new investigation in Lancashire, Operation Nevada, is yet to uncover a considerable amount of abuse allegations. That is ongoing at the moment. I missed the figures: how many police authorities have not investigated?

  867. It is 34 out of 43.
  (Mr Byrne) Are those that have not saying there is no institutional child abuse in their area or have they just not investigated it?

  868. You need someone to complain in the first place before you can take it up. I think they are saying they have not had significant complaints. To some extent presumably it depends on whether you have a large number of care institutions in your area.
  (Mr Byrne) Yes.

Mr Singh

  869. I was interested in what Ms Stone said, that we might be here in 10 years' time. Given there has been abuse in the past, are you suggesting to this Committee that in 2002 there are not adequate safeguards for young people in institutions?
  (Kathryn Stone) Yes. One of the things that is very reassuring is that there are now changes in the legislation which promote better safeguards for young people in institutions. The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act and the Care Standards Act, for example, are there to provide better safeguards. May I lead into the point about police prosecutions by saying that we published a document called Behind Closed Doors. A copy of that has been provided for you. That looks at the incidence of abuse against young adults with a learning disability. Professor Hilary Brown from Christchurch College did some research which showed that in one year 248 cases were reported to the police, which resulted in 63 investigations. Of those investigations, two came to court and only one of those court appearances resulted in a prosecution, which means that you can abuse a vulnerable adult in this country and have less than 1 per cent chance of being convicted for it.


  870. It would only mean that if you assume from the outset that all one hundred per cent were guilty.
  (Kathryn Stone) Quite. We need to think very carefully about saying that people who are alleged to abuse children are innocent of those matters. To pick up on Matthew's point, we need to strengthen the safeguards that there are for children and vulnerable people in care settings, be it in child care or in residential care for older children and young adults. As I said before, these people are uniquely vulnerable to such abuse.

Mr Singh

  871. I agree with the extra safeguards but are you saying that if an allegation of abuse is made, you should make a presumption of guilt against the accused?
  (Kathryn Stone) That is a very difficult area, is it not? It is one that has been explored fairly extensively in this Committee. One of the things that I would like to say from our organisation's point of view is that if a child or a young person with a learning disability makes an allegation of abuse, it is very difficult for them to convey that. Professor Hilary Brown and Professor Sheila Hollins have contributed to our written submission to you by saying that it is extremely unlikely that a person with such a learning disability would have the cognitive ability to make that allegation up, to fabricate that story, and have the cognitive skill to keep that persistent line over time. It is very unlikely they would make that up. They have to be believed. We have to believe that what they are saying is true.

David Winnick

  872. The general impression that I have received, no doubt like my colleagues, from those witnesses who feel that people have been put in prison who are innocent or have been charged and acquitted but the stain remains is that, yes, abuses did take place in the past many years ago; no one took any notice when people complained about sexual or physical abuse? So many years later there was a reaction which has gone in the opposite direction. Do you have any comment on that, Mr Byrne? I say this particularly to you and to your male colleague. I do not want to be sexist but it is extremely difficult, I have checked with my colleague, to hear your two colleagues from where we are sitting.
  (Mr Byrne) You need to ask the question: why did victims of child abuse remain quiet for so long; what were the factors that kept them quiet? You need to address that as a major issue, and then: why suddenly were there a lot of allegations being made? Why was there a lot of abuse being uncovered all of a sudden? I can talk about Merseyside because I have worked with 300 plus men and their families who have been through it, who have given evidence, who have given statements. Not all of them have got successful convictions. I have asked them the question: why did you not tell at the time? Some of them did but the question remains: why did you decide to tell when Operation Care came along? It became a beacon of hope. There was nothing else, there was no other way of communicating what they went through. There has been this time span and all the effects have taken hold. I believe that an innocent child who had experienced this kind of abuse in a care establishment in the Merseyside region had nowhere to go with these experiences. He could not even trust an adult and resented the power and the authority that abused him. That is quite significant. If you are abused by power and authority, you are hardly going to walk into a police station or go to somebody else and say, "Let me tell you about my child abuse". You are going to show it in other ways. When Operation Care came along, they used the joint investigations procedure and social workers and people with an understanding of what it is like to experience child abuse and to get through it. This is speculation from my point of view, but it is based on talking to many hundreds of men about why they suddenly decided to talk.
  (Mr Frampton) I know young men and young women who have not been touched by any police operations and yet they are trying to raise the issues because they want their day in court and justice and to see that people who abused them are dealt with by society. They are doing it now because there is a climate in which they can feel there is some hope, as Matthew has said. There is a more open attitude about having been abused in society which has contributed over the last few years and now people are prepared to accept that it was a crime perpetrated on them. Many of the people in my home who were sexually abused sometimes by women will not come forward because they cannot conceive that it was a crime. You bury these things for so long and you have the guilt of it being part of you, that somehow there was complicity in this crime and the more you bury it, the more that appears to be so. There are still those pressures. There are many more cases out there than the police will ever be able to touch of people who will not be prepared to go through that. Now a few people will come forward because they feel that at least someone is prepared to take notice of them and that solicitors and the police will deal with them better now. It would be much better if organisations like Barnardos, the National Children's Homes, the Children's Society and the local authorities actually assisted care leavers in dealing with things instead of fighting against them and joining the band waggon by saying that the abuse did not take place, simply because the insurance company is at their back. The voluntary organisations like Barnardos and NCH and so forth are also frightened of bad publicity undermining their fund raising activity. I have had experience of this myself in raising issues in The Guardian. They went loopy about that because they feared that would attack their fund raising. The only friends care leavers seem to have at the moment if they are victims are the police, other care leavers and a handful of people out there in society who are supporting children who were abused. While you say it has all come forward, I would argue with you that there is a lot more which would come forward if the Government took a positive attitude. If this Committee took a positive attitude, like the Irish Government did, you would then see the real situation. You may feel that this might endanger certain things. If you push care leavers back in relation to issues like compensation and appear not to take the interests of victims to heart, you will have the situation where, as Garston said here, you will be leaving thousands of abusers out there on the street free to go and abuse other children. I can tell you of an alleged abuser who is running a child nursery in the United States. No one will touch her because no one will come forward because they do not feel they have sufficient support from society to deal with such ills as this. These people can create great problems for young children and eventually for adults as well. If the Committee takes a positive attitude, if you invest in things now, there will be a better future; the prisons will not be so full; you will have productive leaders. There is a negative attitude being advocated by certain people in previous testimony to this Committee. If people do not feel justice is being done, they will find another way to get retribution. That is not a good situation. We have seen it happen already.


  873. Could I bounce one possibility off you, that both sets of witnesses are right, that you are dealing in your professional life with lots of people who have been genuinely abused, as you say, but that in addition there is another set of people you do not meet because you would not be the obvious organisation for them to come to, those who are victims of mistaken identity—and we are talking about events that took place 20 or 30 years ago—and in some cases, but perhaps a minority, of malign witnesses. Is that possible?
  (Mr Frampton) That might be possible with war crimes also, that people are victims of mistaken identity.
  (Mr Byrne) May I ask how many survivors of child abuse have you met?

  Chairman: We have not invited people with particular cases. We have had a large number of letters, running into hundreds, from people with all kinds of interests. We have invited the organisations, which is why you are here this afternoon. I honestly think you are in a better position than some of these quite damaged people; they may not be the best witnesses. Forgive me if we do not have a debate about which witnesses to call. You are the witnesses today and we are inviting you to submit evidence to us. If you want to pursue that point, by all means write to me. We are open to suggestions. We have taken evidence from across the whole range. That is one of the reasons you are here today.

Bridget Prentice

  874. I want to ask Mr Frampton this first because in his memorandum he says that it is widely known that paedophiles operate in groups and attempt to enter into jobs which give them access to vulnerable children. Do you have any evidence of paedophile rings?
  (Mr Frampton) I do actually, not in this country but of foreigners operating in south India in the Kerala state. I was involved in reporting on the activity of various people from Europe who were involved with a small children's home in Kerala.


  875. May I stop you. We are dealing with the issue of child abuse in institutional care in this country today.
  (Mr Frampton) I am sorry, I would not know more than is in the written testimony. Having said that, in the Waterhouse Report, the investigation into abuse in North Wales, there is an indication about groups of people. Mr Waterhouse was not able to say for some reason there was a paedophile ring. What is a paedophile ring?

Bridget Prentice

  876. How would you define a paedophile ring?
  (Mr Frampton) I would define it as a network of paedophiles who exchange information. Just as you have the paedophile exchange of information on the web, so some people think that you can have paedophile information networks on the web but you cannot have paedophile networks on the ground. That is the same thing and that is the exchange of information taking place.

  877. A number of the police witnesses before us said that they have not ever come across paedophile rings. In fact, one of them described it as media hype. You would argue that there are such things in existence, if not in this country, elsewhere?
  (Mr Frampton) Yes, I would and so would my colleague.
  (Mr Byrne) The debate is about the definition of a paedophile ring. It would be unwise for the police to say paedophile rings are rampant in this country because that would not do us any good at all. Specifically within care homes in Merseyside, it was clear that there was a culture of abuse. There was a culture of abuse. There are adults who are paid to look after children and who seek to abuse children, but to define that as a paedophile ring is probably very dangerous. It was more of a culture of abuse.

  878. Would that be the reason why the police do not use the phrase "paedophile ring", because they feel that they would not get the convictions that they might otherwise get if they treated these people individually?
  (Mr Byrne) I do not know the answer. I would not speculate on behalf of the police. I am sure that they are very careful about the language they use because they hold a very important place in society. If they start saying that there are paedophile rings everywhere, then we are all going to get a bit panicky. We need to deal with this, including the emotion in the argument. I do not like the fact that in the past testimony people have tried to exclude emotions. We are dealing with innocent children who experienced child abuse and the best way that we can support them in order that they can lead positive lives. If that means that they get the chance to take their abusers to court and punish the system that abused them, then that is a good thing. We will support them. In the case of Fire and Ice, we try to support men so that they can become positive male role models, fathers and good husbands, and go back into the community and lead more positive lives. That is why it is crucial that the Committee understands what it is like to look into the eyes of somebody who as a child was abused. That is absolutely fundamental because then you can understand the process that goes on and the damage caused. You can read many books and accounts from counsellors and psychiatrists discussing the damage that has been caused by child abuse but can you look into the eyes of someone who says, "I was abused as a child". These people are looking to you for leadership and support. Not all survivors of child abuse are too damaged or angry or completely screwed up to be able to talk. That is another misconception. Child abuse spans across the class system and across the education system. Child abuse survivors are everywhere within our society. That is the reason I was asking the question as to whether this Committee had been able to engage positively with survivors of child abuse and to take it further and say, "How can we make this system better? How can we make our investigations better?"

  879. Can I move on to talk about trawling, which has been an aspect of the investigation so far. Do you think the trawling is necessary? Do you think that is the best way for the police to investigate these cases?
  (Mr Frampton) As the police have testified here, I would say: yes, I think they have done a very good job, although I would say that having a policeman just knocking on your door when you have been through the care system is not necessarily the best way of being approached. I know that some people have refused to talk to the police simply on that basis. There needs to be a better bridge built between the police and care leavers. I am not saying that is because all care levers have been in trouble with the law. People do not necessarily want a sudden infringement into their lives. Most care leavers have not been in trouble with the law, contrary to the impression you have been given here. It is simply that there are things which are private which you try and bury from the past and you do not want to re-live with someone coming to your door who says, "Will you please re-live this for me?"


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