Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda



MEMORANDUM 6

Submitted by Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas MP, Chairman of the All Party Group for Abuse Investigations (APGAI) (CA 151)

  On behalf of the Members of the All Party Group, I have attempted to respond to the questions raised by the Committee. Where it has been possible (not very often) I have supported my views with objective evidence and references.

  I would respectfully draw the honourable Members' attention to Appendices 4, 5 and 6. (Appendix 3 and 7 will be sent separately). (Only Appendix 4 is printed with the memorandum in this volume).

QUESTION 1 (PART A)

Do the police methods of "trawling"[16] for evidence involve a disproportionate use of resources?

  In June 2001, Baroness Shirley Williams and I met with Chief Constable Terence Grange, who is the lead officer on abuse investigations for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to discuss the extent and compatibility of the investigations into past cases of abuse in children's homes. There were no statistics or analysis available at that time. However in September 2001 I received a report from Chief Constable Grange, and this was submitted to Members of the Committee in December 2001.

  There are no statistics (Appendix 3 (not printed)) available, which detail either the absolute cost of the abuse cases ongoing in the UK or details of the human resources deployed.

 

  There is no data available (Appendix 3 (not printed)) which indicated how many cases are successfully prosecuted in comparison with other cases.

QUESTION 1 (PART B)

Do the police methods of "trawling" produce unreliable evidence for prosecution?

  In an attempt to provide an objective answer to this question, I have reviewed all the reports of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Police (HMIC) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that have been submitted to Parliament from 1995-2001 (Appendix 4).

CONCLUSIONS ARISING FROM THE REVIEW OF HMIC AND CPS ASSESSMENT REPORTS

  Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Reports appear to be reports on process, which monitor the efficiency with which goals are achieved but not the efficacy or value of the methodologies employed by the police or the CPS during the course of their investigations or the value of the goals themselves.

Questions arising from the review of HMIC and CPS assessment reports

    —  If there is manifest public anxiety about the quality of some aspect of policing—for instance, the choice of police goals and/or the methods of achieving them—how can the current tripartite system[17] of police accountability engage constructively with this anxiety? Which part of the tripartite structure should take the lead, and how can the public interest best be represented?

    —  If the strict constitutional position is that HMIC provides assessment of Police Authority efficiency, but not effectiveness, to the Home Secretary, what organisation should undertake this task? Should the activity be internalised?

    —  Do expeditious alternatives to Royal Commissions and departmental committee inquiries exist?

    —  What viable models and associated set of techniques for performance management and quality assurance operations exist within each police authority and CPS area?

  Given that I have been unable to obtain an objective analysis of the methodologies ascribed to the trawling processes employed by the police I can only make honourable Members aware of conversations and reports of my own interviews with people who have made allegations of sex abuse and those individuals who have been accused of sex abuse and who have either been acquitted or convicted, or released following appeal.

  While I have been unable to confirm this fact (Appendix 3 (not printed)) I understand that approximately 75 per cent of the children that were in residential care during the last 30 years went on to engage in criminal activity.

  I understand that the police make contact with potential sex abuse victims in a numbers of ways including[18]:

    —  Referrals from solicitors. eg Abney, Garsden and McDonald (Manchester—www.abneys.co.uk) who are currently managing compensation claims from 800 people (Appendix 7 (not printed)).

    —  Self-referral—individuals who make complaints directly to the police without prompting.

    —  Cold calling—if the police have identified a care home "child abuser" following a complaint then there is an attempt to contact all the children (now adults) who may have had contact with the suspect. Potential victims can expect a cold call letter or a visit.

  I have significant concerns about referrals from solicitors and the cold calling techniques employed by the police:

REFERRALS FROM SOLICITORS

  I have not been able to determine how many of the referrals made by solicitors to the police for investigation are as a direct result of "compensation" advertisements placed by solicitors. I would like to know: What is the nature of the relationship that exists between prosecuting solicitors and the police and is this relationship scrutinised to ensure that there is no abuse? How many of the statements presented by the solicitors to police are unique to the individual rather than a "model" statement? Under what circumstances have the statements been taken, who was present and where did interviews with the victims take place?

 

 

POLICE COLD CALLING

  I have been unable to ascertain how many of the victims of sexual abuse are convicted criminals. However I understand that many of the complainants and the potential complainants are interviewed by the police in prison. Frequently while prisoners are made aware that they are going to receive a police visit (sometimes on the morning of the visit taking place) they are not informed about the reason for the visit.

  I do not know if the police discuss the reason for their visit with the prison authorities to ensure that prisoners who disclose that they have been sexually abused as a result of the police visit receive the appropriate help and support—the interviews that I have conducted indicate that prisoners who are required to go into detail (repeatedly) about the abuse that they have suffered receive no support either from the prison authorities or the victim support service.

  I understand that the police will visit the prisoner on numerous occasions (maybe a dozen times) to obtain a statement, and that the prisoner is provided with details of the suspect without prompting. The police will provide other information to prompt and assist the prisoner in their recollections. The police will assist the prisoner in drafting a statement.

  I am not aware of any research or assessments which have been conducted by the police on the impact that questions (which have not been assessed for their ability to lead or inform the victim) and the environment within which these questions are placed has on the responses offered by individuals.

  I understand that the police do discuss the availability of compensation with prisoners and other potential benefits that may arise as a consequence of prisoners giving statements. ie positive reports to parole boards, improved privileges etc.

  I know that the prisoners who have provided me with this information have given evidence in court, and that the evidence that they gave led to the conviction of individual/s.

  I understand that the cases presented in court are based essentially on the statements and only the statements provided by victims—there is (in the vast majority of cases) no other form of evidence to substantiate the allegations made by vulnerable victims.

  The police or the CPS cannot deny that any of my assertions are inaccurate because there are no independent witnesses to the conversations that take place between the police and highly vulnerable prisoners or ex offenders. Is this situation acceptable any longer?

  Evidence given in court by the police does not provide the chronological history of engagement between the prisoner or ex offender and the police or the context within which the evidence was gathered. I am not sure if reports detailing the context of the investigations undertaken by the police are presented to the CPS.

  The degree with which these investigations are pursued varies greatly within the UK, and I am led by available statistics to assume that a significant number of serious, dangerous sex offenders have not yet been apprehended and that thousands of victims of sexual abuse in care homes have been left unidentified.

QUESTION 2

Is the Crown Prosecution Service drawing a sensible line about which cases should be prosecuted?

  The group has received the considered view of Professor Solomen E. Salako School of Law and Applied Social Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University[19] on this question. We support the arguments advanced by Professor Salako, and we would respectfully ask Members to consider the report in their deliberations (Appendix 6 (not printed)).

QUESTION 4

Is there a risk that the advertisement of prospective awards of compensation in child abuse encourages people to come forward with fabricated allegations?

  I have been unable to determine how many cases of sex abuse come to court as a consequence of the advertising practices of solicitors. I do know that Garsden, Abney and McDonald are currently managing 800 claims for compensation with respect to sex abuse cases.

  There are no statistics available which indicate how many of the victims who denied in court that they were seeking compensation subsequently went onto file compensation claims, either in a personal capacity or through the offices of the "No win—no fee" solicitors.

  Convicted sex abusers have told me that the victims who gave evidence against them denied that they were seeking compensation in court, however I have subsequently learnt that many of these victims are now in the process of seeking compensation. I am not sure that if the jury was made aware of the fact that the victim did intend to claim compensation following a successful conviction if this would have a material influence on their verdict.

  Criminal injuries compensation is not normally available to convicted criminals (who have served prison sentences). However, there is the opportunity to claim compensation via civil litigation. Civil litigation cases are largely (98 per cent) settled out of court[20] with the agreement of local authority insurers, who confirm that they[21] do not collect statistics on the number of claims or the size of claims settled. The sums of compensation which are made available to successful claimants vary from 5,000 to 150,000, the vast majority of claimants utilise legal aid provision, and the average legal aid bill varies from 10,000 to 25,000 per claim[22].

QUESTION 5

Is there a weakness in the current law on "similar fact" evidence?

  The group has received the considered view of Professor Solomen E. Salako[23], School of Law and Applied Social Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University on this question. We support the arguments advanced by Professor Salako, and we would respectfully ask Members to consider the report in their deliberations (Appendix 6 (not printed)).

February 2002

 

APPENDIX 4

 

A review of the assessments[24] that seek to evaluate and improve the operational performance/conformance of the Police Authorities and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

"Operationally geared to efficiency not effectiveness"

  In an attempt to objectively respond to the terms of reference of the Select Committee inquiry into historical cases of sexual abuse in children's homes, parliamentary questions have been raised, criminal justice authority reports have been analysed, and academic assessments have been consulted. Essentially, a search has been undertaken to uncover facts and reliable, objective evidence that would indicate that prosecuting authorities have carried out evaluations into their operational effectiveness, with particular reference to these cases.

  It was naturally assumed, that with respect to the first term of reference, "Do police methods for `trawling' for evidence involve a disproportionate use of resources," that statistics would be available from the Police Authorities that would detail the financial and human resources deployed to investigate allegations of abuse. It would appear that this information is not available, even when the scale of the investigation involves hundreds of complainants and suspects, and has resulted in the establishment of specific teams of individuals who remain in post for a number of years.

  With reference to this second part of the first term of reference, "do police methods of `trawling' . . . produce unreliable evidence for prosecution," a thorough analysis of the reports produced by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the CPS from 1995-2001 would indicate that there has been no systematic evaluation of the processes (ie "trawling") used by the police when they collect evidence, and that there has been no review undertaken by the CPS into the effectiveness of the processes utilised by its own staff who scrutinise and evaluate evidence for credibility.

  What follows is an objective assessment of the investigations undertaken by HMIC and the CPS to illustrate the nature and scope of the work of HMIC and the CPS from 1995-2001.

 

 

1.  HER MAJESTY'S INSPECTORATE OF CONSTABULARY (HMIC)

  Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary is charged with helping to establish and enforce standards of efficiency for each Police Authority. To this end, HMIC undertakes a series of reviews designed to assess the operations of each constabulary and, where they find flaws, provide remedial recommendations. These inspections can take on one of three forms:

    (a)  Performance Review Inspections, which occur annually and "examine the process of strategic policy development which culminates in setting of overall strategy and the methods by which the outcomes are measured."

    (b)  Primary Inspections, which take place every three years, both incorporate the Performance Review Inspections and "provide an in-depth examination of the whole Force in relation to its organisation, operations and management approach."

    (c)  Thematic Inspections, which are preformed as needed, and "examine a single topic across a range of forces and are followed up during Primary and Performance Review Inspections."[25]

  Performance reports are also produced for the police training facilities throughout the country.

  Although an effective tool for defining the management framework and the efficiency of general operational procedures (ie targets met, objective fulfilled), the reviews, in any of their incarnations, do little to assess the substantive, rather than procedural, value of the work being carried out by each constabulary. As a result, the reports provide information on how well procedures are being preformed and targets met, but do nothing to examine the efficacy of the procedures themselves (ie how procedures and administration affect the quality and the credibility of the evidence collected). In this way, HMIC provides conformance audits, rather than effective performance analysis.

 

 

2.  PERFORMANCE REVIEW INSPECTIONS

  Although there hasn't been a prescriptive model for Performance Review Inspections, the topics covered in the reports are more or less universal. (Appendix A1 (not printed)). The areas assessed include long-term planning, budgetary and personnel policies, and questions raised by specific types of crime. Generally, the reports will present a synopsis of the strategic ambitions of the force, which far from providing a coherent vision about the purpose and substantive procedures involved in policing, read as little more than chronologies of meetings and publications, and explanations of management styles. With respect to broader policy questions, the discussion is generally confined to how performance targets are set, and the methods used to assess if they are being met—there appears to be a lack of concern for the choice of objectives and the selection of the methods employed to achieve them, despite the fact that as resources become scarcer relative to demands, these decisions become more crucial.

  The more specific sections of the reports, designed to investigate performance in individual types of policing duties, are similarly flawed. Methods of monitoring performance are again reduced to explanations of quality audits and "information packet" distribution. Similarly, examinations of crime management constitute a list of target statistics and an evaluation of classification and recording procedures. Consequently, the recommendations these investigations generate involve suggestions for more frequent publication of data, a shift in governing structure, the commissioning of independent studies into absenteeism, and further reviews of whether practices are in accord with strategy. (Appendix A2 (not printed)). Thus, while the statistics provided in the Performance Review Inspections are certainly indicative of whether constabularies are effectively run and consistently meet performance targets, they fail to assess whether the adoption of these structures and targets by the forces produces a high calibre of police work, and help to advance the larger goals of not only efficient, but also constructive and just outcomes.

3.  PRIMARY INSPECTIONS

  The Primary Inspections are similar in content and structure to the Performance Reviews, but are somewhat more detailed and provide further assessments of previous reviews and their effects. (Appendix B1 (not printed)). Although they delve into more specific facets of each area of analysis, the analysis itself is no more comprehensive than that observed in the Performance Reviews. Discussion of strategy and planning still amount to explanations of hierarchies and guidelines for establishing targets, while reviews of training are more focused on the logistics of the process than the efficacy of the methods and skill sets they are designed to impart. Similarly, the analysis of criminal justice performance concentrates on the efficiency of the methodologies, rather than the quality of the product these approaches are likely to produce. (Appendix B2 (not printed)).

4.  PERFORMANCE AND PRIMARY INSPECTIONS OF TRAINING FACILITIES

  The reviews of training facilities take the same form and occur on the same timetable as inspections of individual constabularies. Like their counterparts, the training reports cover a wide range of topics, but are uniquely and disproportionately concerned with the status of the facilities and equipment. (Appendix C1 (not printed)). Although the inspections contain statements of what the training program is designed to foster in the students, they do little to examine whether or not these goals are being achieved, or whether the methods employed are appropriate to the goals set forth. (Appendix C2 (not printed)).

5.  THEMATIC INSPECTIONS

  Because of their more narrow scope, the Thematic reviews are the most likely to produce not only information on procedure, but also analysis of the value of the procedures themselves. However, there has been no Thematic review from 1995 to date that relate specifically to the method of investigation into cases of sexual abuse of children[26], even though new guidelines were simultaneously being prepared to assist in the investigation of cases of sexual abuse. In addition, it has proven impossible to obtain evidence from any individual Police Authority to show that it has undertaken independent research into this subject matter.

 

 

6.  CPS ANNUAL REPORTS

  The CPS defines its aim as "to contribute to the reduction both of crime and the fear of crime and to increase public confidence in the criminal justice system by fair and independent review of cases and by firm, fair and effective presentation at court."[27] The report contains further statements of aims and priorities, as well as descriptions of programs undertaken in specific areas of criminal justice. Like the HMIC, reports produced by the CPS are plagued by an attention to the efficiency rather than the value of each process or program. As a result, the aims enumerated for criminal justice and service for victims and witnesses are almost entirely devoted to reducing delays and meeting statistical targets. (Appendix D (not printed)).

  Similarly, although the Code for Crown Prosecutors contains a detailed section on potential concerns when determining the reliability of evidence, the Report itself contains no discussion of the types of steps taken to address these concerns, or if these steps have proven to be effective measures for guarding against pursuing cases based on unreliable evidence. Thus, like the HMIC, the CPS Reports serve only to provide information on the efficiency of broadly defined goals and specific targets, not information or analysis of the value of the goals themselves or the procedures through which they are pursued.

7.  CONCLUSIONS

  Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service Reports appear to be reports on process, which monitor the efficiency with which goals are achieved but not the efficacy or value of the methodologies employed by the police or the CPS during the course of their investigations or the value of the goals themselves.

8.  QUESTIONS ARISING FROM THE REVIEW OF HMIC AND CPS ASSESSMENT REPORTS

  If there is manifest public anxiety about the quality of some aspect of policing—for instance, the choice of police goals and/or the methods of achieving them—how can the current tripartite system[28] of police accountability engage constructively with this anxiety? Which part of the tripartite structure should take the lead, and how can the public interest best be represented?

  If the strict constitutional position is that HMIC provides assessment of Police Authority efficiency, but not effectiveness, to the Home Secretary, what organisation should undertake this task? Should the activity be internalised?

  Do expeditious alternatives to Royal Commissions and departmental committee inquiries exist?

REFERENCES

  Crown Prosecution Service Annual Reports:

  1995-96 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01.

  Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Performance Reviews:

  1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000.

  Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Primary Reviews:

  1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000.

  Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Thematic Reviews:

  1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001.

  http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmic/pubs.htm

 


16   "Trawling" in this context as defined by Richard Webster (Appendix 5) (not printed). Back

17   The Home Office, HMIC, and the Police Authorities. Back

18   Presentation given by Chief Constable Terence Grange to the APAGI January 2002. Back

19   Public Interest and the CPS's decision to prosecute. A report presented to the APGAI February 2002. Back

20   Conversations with representatives of Abney, Gardsen and McDonald October 2001. Back

21   Conversations with the Association of British Insurers January 2002. Back

22   Conversations with representatives of Abney, Gardsen and McDonald October 2001. Back

23   "What is similar fact evidence?", a report presented to the APGAI by Professor Solomen Salako February 2002. Back

24   Undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service. Back

25   Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Performance Review, Hertfordshire Constabulary, 1998. Back

26   http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmic/pubs.htm Back

27   The Crown Prosecution Service Annual Report, 1999-2000. Back

28   The Home Office, HMIC, and the Police Authorities. Back

 
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