Submitted by Paul Flodman (CA 162)
The purpose of my submission is, hopefully, to present a detached, and unbiased, view point into the situation for which the FACT organisation, of which I am an advisor, was caused to come into existences and from this to explain the major concerns for which we hope that the Home Affairs Select Committee may be able to put forward proposals to the Government and thereby alleviate, or more hopefully, resolve them.
It should be noted that I am a retired police officer having served a total service of slightly over 31 years and since my retirement in 1998, and following completion of an LL.B(Hons) Degree and a Masters Degree in Law, have become a Freelance University Law Lecturer. In addition, I wish to state that I have had no involvement with any investigation into any children's homes and nor am I related to any individual who has been charged or convicted of any criminal offences resulting from any police operations.
My involvement is two fold in nature. Firstly, and my overriding concern, is that innocent people are being convicted and the reason for this has to be the result of the manner in which the police are investigating these type of allegations; and, Secondly, that unless some form of safeguard is put in place then the danger that I foresee is that appropriate and future police investigations of a high profile nature may be inhibited, or stopped, for fear of a backlash from the public when if appropriate safeguards are put in place then the police can continue with their operations.
FACTFALSELY ACCUSED CARERS AND TEACHERS
The FACT organisation became established as a result of a series of criminal charges being made against a number of former care workers and teachers which resulted from a series of Police investigations into two children's homes in the Formby area of Merseyside where they had worked. A number of these charges were made against individuals who were well known in Child Care Field and known not to be abusers of any type. Therefore the charges made against them not only surprised many of those that knew, and had worked with, them but the concern was that the evidence justifying the charges could only emanate from questionable evidence and the major concern was how could these allegations have been treated so seriously.
THE TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR THE HOME AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
The Home Affairs Select Committee has determined that the terms of reference for their investigations should take into account the so called police "trawling" method of obtaining evidence; a proposal of a statutory time limit; if compensation play a part in these allegations and finally the role of the Crown Prosecution Service and I will comment on these separately.
1. POLICE TRAWLING METHODS
In principle, I am not against these so-called police trawling methods but am concerned that it has allowed, and is allowing, questionable evidence to be adduced as genuine. My belief is that when a complainant makes allegations against any individual then these are not being investigated to the extent that is appropriate and that this problem originates from the fact that, invariably, the police enquiries start out from a high profile publicity campaign which, to the average man in the street, implies that there is a major problem which needs a resolution. Sadly, this is, to an extent, understandable as any enquiry is immediately circumscribed by the fact that complainants have to be found rather than are forthcoming as is the usual pre-cursor to the investigation of a crime by the police ie a crime is committed therefore an investigation takes place but this is the reversehas there been any crimes and should there be an investigation!
The case of DPP v P which caused a change to the use of similar fact evidence, whilst meritable, has exacerbated this issue even further but what is more detrimental is that some defence teams are also being prevented from being granted access to records to enable them to give an adequate defence of those against whom complaints have been made. Therefore similar fact evidence alone is not the problem.
Some have, and are, suggesting that the police are fabricating evidence and whilst this cannot be ignored it is too easy to make this allegation but I do not believe that this is a major problem. Where I do consider the problem lies is with a manipulation of the presentation of evidence so that a court is bombarded with plethora of charges, each being distasteful in nature, and that juries have found, and will find, it difficult to discharge their duties with anything other than of a finding of guilt based upon the questionable premise that "there is no smoke without fire".
2. STATUTE TIME BARRED PROPOSAL
The idea of a Statutory Limitation to these issues, in my opinion, flies in the face of the impartiality of English Justice. However, what cannot be ignored is that the offences that are "alleged" have occurred at a point in time which are, invariably, decades prior to the date of the complaints and therefore the standard level of corroboration for physical or sexual offences has been lost or destroyed by virtue of time if it ever existed in the first place. By these I mean an early complaint of a sexual offence and any sign of the physical injuries and examination records of the same.
Also, documentary evidence to support or rebut the allegations is also difficult to find as there have been educational boundary changes which have caused the separation and movement of the very school documents for which access by a defence team is imperative. It is also likely that some documents will have been destroyed in the light of some former schools having been sold off after closure and then demolished to make way for other developments such as housing as is the case with the former St Vincent's School in Formby, Merseyside.
3. THE COMPENSATION CULTURE
I do not consider that I am competent enough to put forward any conclusions with regard to this area as I believe that if the other issues are addressed then this will lessen, or, cause it to cease to be a problem. I am informed that there will be submissions by other individuals which will address this factor and whilst I am aware, anecdotally, of the significance of this problem I do not have sufficient information to give an informed submission.
However, I do believe that retribution against the compulsory care home system, and their former employees, is one motivating factor for some of the complaints and this is in addition to the issue of financial compensation.
4. THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE
It must be stated that the Crown Prosecution Service are in an invidious, and unenviable, position with regard to these issues as they are legally bound to discharge their duties but the question must be asked that if the starting point is questionable then how can they evaluate the strength of the evidence appropriately. The venue that is being utilised to validate this "evidence" is sadly the court system on the basis that it is in the public interest to prosecute and whilst this is understandable it is a regrettable use of the English Criminal Legal System.
I am also aware, by way of anecdotal evidence, from Judges who have dealt with these cases that there is a serious disquiet amongst the judiciary but because of confidentiality I am unable to identify these people. The recent case of David Jones, the former Southampton Football club manager, is one example where there was serious disquiet, both from the judiciary and the police, as to the fact that the case was being brought by the Crown Prosecution Service as there was a virtual certainty of a finding of not guilty. Thankfully, the case did not go to a full hearing but David Jones was still subjected to a period of uncertainty and found it necessary to stop carrying out his responsibilities as a Premier League Football Club manager.
I wish to put forward the following:
1. There should be a reinstatement of a Judges Warning to juries in cases where similar fact is the only evidence used;
2. All complaints from former residents of care homes should be thoroughly investigated by police prior to being handed over to the Crown Prosecution Service and all documents from Children's homes must be found and checked before a complaint is accepted and the same must be made available to all defence teams in the disclosure process;
3. There should be no publicity as a precursor to any enquiry by the police regarding these issues;
4. All Crown Prosecution Service decisions should be based on evidence alone, and only made by the Senior members of that service, and not on the need to prosecute in the public interest;
5. A Statute of Limitations establishing a time bar on prosecutions should not be considered as this would appear to be an excuse to stop these enquiries and send a wrong signal to the public at large but if this is deemed to be remedy then it should be set at 30 years or one generational phase.