Submitted by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) (CA 46)
We would wish to make the following points:
We regard the expression "trawling for evidence" as pejorative and an inaccurate description of the legitimate process undertaken to identify corroborative evidence when an allegation of a serious sexual offence has been received. These are, inevitably, sensitive and difficult enquiries to undertake and the interests of vulnerable young people need to be considered. We understand that the protocol with regard to the collection of corroborative evidence was developed in conjunction with representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service.
With regard to resources, it is, of course, an operational decision for the Chief Constable to determine the resources that should be made available to any particular case. The ones in question concern serious sexual offences on vulnerable young people and one would expect a level of resourcing commensurate to the gravity of the offence.
The quality of any evidence gathered is subject to ongoing review both during investigation and prosecution. The police Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) has the overall responsibility for assessing the quality of evidence obtained and for seeking corroboration wherever possible. The Crown Prosecution Service has the responsibility for testing robustly, and independently of police, the quality of that evidence. Finally, it is for the jury to be satisfied that the evidence is sound when tested in a court of law.
We are not aware of any occasion when police have "advertised" the prospect of compensation. Again, it would fall to the police and the CPS to satisfy themselves that any witness was truthful and reliable.
It is assumed that the issues considered in the review of July 2000 "Setting the Boundaries" will be taken into account. The report made a clear and unambiguous recommendation that "a statutory time limit would not be justified for the offence of adult sexual abuse of a child". We are not aware of any events since then that would substantially challenge that recommendation.
By way of conclusion, we would add that in 1999 HMIC undertook a thematic inspection into Child Protection and that we are currently engaged in joint work under the leadership of the Social Services Inspectorate looking into children's safeguards. During our routine Inspections of forces, we examine arrangements for the investigation of child abuse and major crime. To date, none of these have raised specific concerns over the quality of investigation into historic child abuse allegations.
Additionally, the Association of Chief Police officers (ACPO) has recently published clear and specific guidance for the police service on the investigation of such cases.