Submitted by Christine Walsh (CA 92)
The following is drawn from my experience of supporting a former senior residential social worker, falsely accused in 1997 and wrongly convicted in 2001, with the early realisation that his case was far from being an unfortunate, isolated injustice. There is every indication of the disturbing level of miscarriages of justice continuing to rise if investigative teams maintain their current unsubstantiated views that past abuse was rife, and systematically use methods which bring forth fictitious allegations of abuse.
Accusing, prosecuting, and convicting innocent men and women clearly cannot protect anyone from abuse. The truth is paramount for justice to prevail.
1. Does "trawling" involve a disproportionate use of resources and produce unreliable evidence?
Yes. Large scale investigations involving teams of police officers and social workers, with input from a children's charity manning dedicated abuse helplines, all offering support to those who allege abuse (usually automatically called "victims" or "survivors"), are launched on vague rumours, or one or two allegations, which may or may not be true. Investigations are commonly publicised expressing an expectation of uncovering mass abuse by many abusers. In a comparatively few cases abuse is alleged and guilt admitted, but otherwise, allegations are not forthcoming on anything near the scale predicted. A team needs to justify its existence and the decision to launch such an investigation. Their speculative belief of there being hundreds of brutal predatory paedophiles to root out, with thousands of "victims" suffering in silence, alongside pressure or a desire to secure convictions, leads a team to adopt well documented "trawling" methods. They have learned from operations in other areas that these tactics bring forth many allegations. The contention in not that these methods produce unreliable evidence, but in the majority of cases produce totally fabricated allegations, complete lies.
Teams make clear their interest in hearing allegations of abuse, often indicating who they regard as a suspected abuser(s). Teams seem uninterested in gathering or disclosing verbal or documented evidence that supports the protestations of innocence by an accused person.
I urge the enquiry to scrutinise the training, thinking and beliefs expounded by "experts" that informs the practice of those involved in child protection, and abuse investigation teams. What is the foundation for a police force or local authority to think it needs to launch a massive investigation? Why, when former residents say no abuse occurred, do teams ignore what they say as not useful evidence, or harass them to say it did?
2. Is the Crown Prosecution Service drawing a sensible line about which cases should be prosecuted?
No. However, the CPS is faced with an extraordinary number of cases arising from disputed investigations. The contention is there is no basis for constructing most cases, let alone putting them before the CPS. One concern is that the CPS acts with a degree of bias, inclined towards accepting the received wisdom about the level of past abuse in residential homes, making it keen to forward cases hoping to secure convictions. What pressure is put upon the CPS, by other agencies, to proceed with cases however dubious they seem, needs to be established. Cases usually consist of a collection of verbal testimonies from several accusers, brought together and forwarded as "evidence" for the prosecution. When crimes are pure invention, there cannot be incontrovertible "evidence" of guilt, yet convictions have occurred.
An objective body committed to finding and presenting the truth is needed to ensure all "evidence" is taken into account, for justice to prevail. Recent history has shown that miscarriages of justice can occur when vital information is not recorded, or not disclosed, thus distorting the truth.
3. Should there be a time limit on prosecution of child abuse cases?
The contention is that current child abuse propaganda and investigative methods encourage many fabricated allegations to be made and accepted as true, so merely setting a time limit in terms of years would not provide an adequate safeguard. "Expert knowledge" that has led the establishment, practitioners, and the general public to accept certain claims about levels of abuse, and characteristics and behaviour of abusers and "victims" of abuse, needs to be challenged.
4. Is there a risk that advertising compensation encourages people to come forward with fabricated allegations?
Yes, fabricated allegations occur when vulnerable or malicious people who are in certain situations, are given to understand they will benefit from assisting an investigation in a particular way. Whether people actually "come forward" is questionable. Initially most are contacted by letter, or often visited unannounced in their homes, prisons, or custodial placements by the investigating team clearly wanting to hear about abuse, and offering a range of benefits and help to those who assist.
The circumstances in which contested allegations are made need to be studied, including the motivation of people who express a grudge against a particular person or society in general, or are in prison or police custody for criminal activities, or have an addiction or psychiatric illness.
5. Is there a weakness in the current law on "similar fact" evidence?
Yes, as the only "similar fact" is the accusers obviously all allege abuse of some description. Juries often convict on fictitious allegations despite the absence of indisputable proof of guilt. Currently jurors are not required to account for their decisions, so questioning their understanding of issues such as "contamination of evidence" and "corroboration by volume" is difficult.
The influence of the investigating team, being the common link between accusers, needs to be researched. How did contacts, meetings and interviews of potential accusers come about, and how were they conducted? What information was provided by the investigating team, and what questions were asked? How and when were statements formed, and with what help? What other help/support was offered by the investigating team?