HC Deb 01 November 2001 vol 373 cc855-8W
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many care homes have been investigated since 1997 in the historical abuse investigations in each police authority area; [9418]

(2) what recent research he has undertaken to evaluate the pre-trial procedures in connection with sex abuse inquiries; what recent work he has undertaken to measure the difference in the impact on the rights and liberties of persons accused or suspected of sex abuse crimes from the impact on the rights and liberties of those accused of other offences; what analyses he has carried out on the impact of compensation on the reporting of sex abuse crimes; what recent assessment he has made of police investigative powers in relation to people accused of sex abuse; how many applicants for criminal injuries compensation relating to sex abuse are serving a prison sentence; what steps he takes to advertise the availability of compensation; what assistance police have received from solicitors acting on behalf of victims with respect to sex abuse inquiries; and if he will make a statement on the controls imposed on the police while interviewing (a) suspects and (b) witnesses and on the reasons for the differences between treatment of both groups; [9419]

The budgeted work force totals can be subject to change in the light of changes in circumstances.

(3) how many suspects have been identified in connection with historical institutional child abuse investigations, broken down by police authority and since 1997; on what basis in each such area persons have been regarded as suspects; how many such individuals have been (a) arrested, (b) charged, (c) convicted and (d) acquitted; how many pleaded (i) not guilty and (ii) guilty; how many who pleaded in (i) and (ii) were convicted; of those arrested how many had no further action taken against them; how many individuals who were convicted appealed against their (x) conviction and (y) sentence; how many appeals were successful and, in each case, on what basis and how many failed and, in each case, on what basis; how many complaints of sexual abuse in such cases, broken down by authority were referred to the CPS; what percentage of the complaints received were so referred; how many cases the CPS accepted; what was the basis of each rejection; of the persons charged, how long they (A) waited and (B) were waiting before they came to trial; of the persons arrested, how many persons are on police bail; how many separate complaints have been received; how many complainants there are; how many of the victims have (aa) served and (bb) are serving time in prison; how many victims have applied for compensation; how much each individual has received in (1) 1997, (2) 1998, (3) 1999 and (4) 2000; and how many applications for compensation are outstanding. [9417]

Mr. Denham

[holding answer 31 October 2001]: Information is not collected centrally on the number of investigations into institutional child abuse, on the number of care homes involved in such investigations, or on the numbers of people arrested, charged or convicted as a result. A survey carried out in 1998–99 on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Crime Committee established that 32 forces in England and Wales had been investigating claims of institutional child abuse or were doing so during the period covered by the questionnaire, (1 January 1998 to 30 June 1999). Many of the remaining forces stated that they had been engaged in such inquiries at other times. A similar survey was carried out by ACPO earlier this year to which 32 forces responded. During the period covered by this survey (1997 to 2000) those 32 forces detailed 96 investigations (some of which may have involved more than one institution) which had led to 543 arrests. Of the 1,197 referrals made to the Crown Prosecution Service no further action was taken in 940 cases. The survey revealed 193 successful prosecutions and 40 acquittals. Details of these individual cases are not centrally held.

The information retained by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) cannot be extrapolated to provide the information requested. Records are not kept regarding current or previous imprisonment of any applicants for criminal injuries compensation, and information held by the CICB cannot identify those who have applied for compensation following an allegation of historical institutional child abuse. There are no steps taken in such cases to advertise the availability of compensation to victims. If the police or social workers are asked about compensation they will advise the alleged victim to seek independent legal advice. For the vast majority of complainants compensation is not a motivating factor. Victims are seeking justice, not compensation.

The police have a duty to investigate all allegations of child abuse thoroughly, and to undertake a complete investigation in accordance with the law.

They are acutely aware of the need to ensure that their investigative procedures in these cases incorporate the necessary safeguards against false allegations, while fulfilling their duty to ensure that those who have committed serious crimes against young people in care do not escape justice. Discussions have taken place with ACPO and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary about what more can be done to ensure that the procedures in place for conducting these very difficult investigations are fair and robust.

ACPO are currently drawing up a manual for senior investigating officers working in child abuse cases, which will include a section on good practice in tracing potential witnesses and obtaining corroborative evidence. In parallel with this, an inter-agency working group is developing guidance to the police and social services on the handling of complex abuse investigations.

Both sets of best practice guidance should be completed shortly. Together they will provide a coherent policy framework for how to conduct child abuse investigations, building on best practice drawn from around the country and ensuring that the necessary procedures are in place to safeguard against the risk of false allegations.