Submitted by Tony Harrop, Director of Social Services, Leicestershire County Council (CA 124)
There is a current inquiry into historical allegations in this County. As the investigation is ongoing, it is not appropriate to make detailed comments on its conduct in this submission, but I have added a confidential Annex to this submission giving some information (not printed).
To address the issues identified:
1. Police Methods
There must be a judgement to be made here between the proper pursuit of enquiries into allegations of criminal activity, and the very real risk of allocating excessive amounts of resources at the expense of other work.
I am not able to comment directly on the reliability of the evidence produced. This must be influenced by the passage of time, other relevant information heard by the complainant since, and the way that questions are asked.
There are other considerations involved, including the life experience of those making the allegations, many of whom have been damaged by their experiences before they were looked after, as well as suffering disadvantage and trauma since.
I am not aware that the possibility of compensation is advertised as such, but its availability is well known and reported on. There is, clearly, a risk that hope of compensation could be a contributory, or even a sole motive for making an allegation, but I am not aware of any research in this area. There is evidence of increased claims in recent years, though our experience is that these are, for the most part, genuine.
3. Time Limits
This is difficult. On balance, I would not be happy to see allegations of abuse time-limited. A distinction could be made between physical and sexual abuse allegations. Increasing knowledge and research about sexual abusers indicates that single incidents of abuse are rare. The main consideration, therefore, in pursuing such allegations is to ensure that someone who has committed criminal acts of a sexual nature is not in a position to have continued access to children.
In cases where the abuse is alleged 30 or more years ago, and the alleged abuser elderly and frail, a public interest test could be used to limited the extent of the investigation. Conversely, we are aware that some young people find it extremely difficult to admit to the fact of abuseparticularly if it is sexual. Subsequent discussion and probing can be painful, and in one local case has severely adversely affected one victim of abuse. In another, a young man who denied that he was severely physically abused six or so years after the event, came forward with very credible allegations 10 years later (the alleged abuser in this case has now been referred to the PoCA list at the Department of Health).
I hope these comments are helpful to the Committee's inquiry. I must point out that these comments are written in my professional capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of Leicestershire County Council.