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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

03 JUN 2015

Researching Reform: Inquiries and investigations looking into allegations of child sexual abuse – where are they now?

Researching Reform: Inquiries and investigations looking into allegations of child sexual abuse – where are they now?
An imminent report looking into the scale of child sexual abuse in Britain from Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, Sue Berelowitz is likely to shock the public conscience - Ms Berelowitz claims the evidence shows child abuse is so rife that there is not enough land in the country to build prisons to house all the perpetrators. In the wake of that hugely concerning thought, this article looks at current inquiries and investigations into child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom and Jersey, and charts their progress.

Whilst ongoing research and the many investigations into child sexual abuse share a common, and unfortunate theme, they can be broadly divided into three categories: criminal investigations by the police looking into allegations of abuse, investigations into cover ups and corruption surrounding child sexual abuse and the nation’s overarching Statutory Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, which covers every area and hopes to offer insight on how government bodies failed vulnerable children. Whilst the investigations are in some ways separate, there is considerable overlap, often as a result of individuals being sighted or noted as present in one or more locations and venues where abuse was alleged or known to have taken place.

The Metropolitan Police-led Operation Fairbank, which is now made up of four other Operations all stemming from it, began in secret in 2012. Rather than being a formal inquiry, it was set up to try to assess the extent of allegations made about abuse which occurred at Elm Guest House near Barnes, London during the 1970s and 1980s. The investigation shed light on allegations which involved senior politicians and in January 2013, Cyril Smith, a former Liberal MP who died in 2010, was implicated as a senior figure involved in sexually abusing boys at Elm Guest House. Following the allegations against Cyril Smith, police started to investigate claims that a network of high profile individuals, later labelled as “VIP Paedophiles” had been operating a paedophile ring in the 1980s, at a children’s home in Richmond, south west London. Three men who had been identified as visitors to Elm Guest House were later arrested and convicted of multiple sexual offences against children.

As a result of allegations made during Operation Fairbank, Operation Fernbridge, a full criminal investigation, was set up. Several people were arrested on suspicion of sexual offences against children at Grafton Close, the same children’s home in Richmond which was investigated by Operation Fairbank. Two men were awaiting trial in January 2015, however one of the men, John Stingemore, who had worked for Richmond Council, was found dead at his home that same month.The other defendant, Tony McSweeney, a Catholic priest, was tried and found guilty in February 2015 of child sexual abuse. He is serving three years in jail. Operation Fairbank is now closed, however allegations which arose from it, were moved to other ongoing investigations like Operation Athabasca, and are being looked at.

Further to allegations which centered on children’s homes, concerns were also raised about child sexual abuse which was claimed to have taken place during the 70s and 80s at Dolphin Square Estate, in Pimlico, London and other locations at the hands of powerful men, including high profile politicians, army officials and lawyers. Some claims involve the death of children, and sex parties which were alleged to have taken place at Dolphin Square. Due to these claims, Operation Midland was established in November 2014 and is currently still trying to locate the bodies of those children alleged to have been murdered, reported as missing at the time.

Schools have also been placed under the spotlight. Operation Garford is currently investigating child abuse allegations in Suffolk from the 70s to the 90s, which centre on Kesgrave Hall. The original investigation took place in 1992, and the findings are being reviewed. Stemming from its investigations, a man has recently been charged with 16 sexual assaults against three children at schools in Suffolk and Devon . John McKno appeared in court on 23rd April, 2015. Further updates on the case have not yet been reported. Two other men were also questioned and released on bail. Both have since died: one man took his own life whilst another died of natural causes.

High profile persons, or VIPs, have become an integral part of these ongoing child abuse investigations, the most infamous celebrity involved being, arguably, Jimmy Savile. As such, Operation Yewtree has been tasked with the sole aim of investigating the extent of Savile’s sexual offences against children and their connection to other such offences. The criminal probe focuses on three lines of inquiry: claims against Savile, claims against Savile and others, and claims against others. Launched in October 2012, the investigation uncovered allegations against Max Clifford, Rolf Harris and Dave Lee Travis. Both Max Clifford and Rolf Harris have since been sentenced and jailed for sexual offences against children. Dave Lee Travis was given a suspended sentence of three months. In conjunction with Operation Yewtree, and due to the far reaching nature of the allegations against Jimmy Savile, three further investigations were set up: the Savile NHS Inquiry, BBC Inquiry and the Department for Education Inquiry.

Operation Yewtree’s arm dedicated to looking at the extent of Savile’s abuse was closed in December 2012, and a report co-authored by the NSPCC was issued in January 2013. The scale of child sexual abuses perpetrated by Savile and subsequently formally recorded as criminal offences was unprecedented. Following on from this investigation, Operation Hydrant, which works to gather information from other Inquiries and focuses on links between child sex abuse and “prominent public persons”, revealed last month that more than 1,400 suspects, many of whom are celebrities and politicians, have been investigated by police examining child sexual abuse allegations.

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Due to the involvement and placement of high profile individuals within the many reports of child sexual abuse during this time, a growing concern over the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), a movement to legalise sexual intercourse with children supported by some politicians and other government officials, and its part to play in the allegations surfaced. In order to address these concerns, Operation Cayacos was launched. This investigation focuses upon allegations of a paedophile ring linked to the late Peter Righton, who was a founding member of PIE. To date, one person has been arrested and convicted under Operation Cayacos: Charles Napier was jailed in 2014 for 13 years, for child sexual abuse. Napier was a serving Treasurer for the Paedophile Information Exchange.

Perhaps inevitably, these investigations have cast a long shadow over the way in which police forces handle allegations of child sexual abuse. As a result, in March 2015, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) began to investigate allegations of corruption within the Metropolitan Police force, which include claims that the Force covered up child sexual offences because some of its officers and Members of Parliament were involved.

Investigations into child sexual abuse have highlighted the need to look at nation-wide responses to abuse and how this phenomenon is processed. Police inertia and government department reticence to process historic allegations of child sexual abuse have been identified as recurring themes within child sexual abuse claims, and are now being addressed in a spate of Inquiries.

The Pallial Inquiry has been tasked with looking at child sexual abuse that took place in children’s homes in North Wales. The Inquiry published an update on its findings on 29 April 2013, which set out a total of 140 allegations of abuse at 18 children’s care homes in North Wales between 1963 and 1992. One man, who was the owner of several children’s residential homes in the Wrexham area, has since been convicted of 33 counts of sexual abuse against 19 boys and one girl, aged between 7 and 15. For his crimes, John Allen was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2014.A further 12 people are to stand trial for various offences, in 2015.

The island of Jersey too, has been rocked by a series of allegations involving child sexual abuse. The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry has been set up to examine child abuse claims within Jersey’s care system from 1960, to the present day. The Inquiry has been hearing evidence from members of staff at schools and witnesses from care homes. A witness for the Inquiry has defended former education boss Mario Lundy’s practice of grabbing children to prevent them from kicking during temper tantrums at a children’s home on the island. The evidence sessions continue.

Northern Ireland is also conducting its own investigation into child sexual abuse and in order to do this they have set upThe Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry. This Inquiry is designed to establish if there were any systematic failings by institutions or the state towards children in their care from 1922 to 1955. It is Chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, and is due to report in January 2017. Its most recent developments include the granting of a judicial review starting on June 1st 2015, into how the allegations stemming from Kinkora Boys’ Home, which involve members of British Intelligence services, will be dealt with, and its focus on Father Brendan Smyth, whose child sexual offences will be examined in a focused investigation. Father Smyth was convicted of more than 100 child abuse charges. He died in prison following a heart attack in 1997. An update last month on the Inquiry’s website outlines further institutions to be investigated and the schedule of hearings ongoing until December 215.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.
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