Sex abuse survivors ‘struggling to trust police’ after bungled investigations

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Sex abuse survivors are “between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to trusting the police, a leading campaigner has said, following revelations Nottinghamshire officers have bungled previous investigations.

A newly published watchdog report identified the mishandling of six cases, including one in which crucial evidence was lost and another in which delays meant a suspect could keep on offending.

The bombshell is badly timed for Nottinghamshire Police, who are continuing their appeal for abuse victims from former council-run children’s homes to come forward.

About 100 people have already stepped forward as part of the extensive investigations – codenamed Operations Daybreak and Xeres – into the homes.

While the latest damning report has no link to the children’s homes investigations, David Hollas says it does little to encourage others to come forward.

Mr Hollas leads the Nottinghamshire child sex abuse action group, campaigning for justice.

He says: “Survivors are between a rock and a hard place.

“On the one hand, they want to do nothing that prejudices ongoing police investigations so that abusers are bought to account.

“They want to do nothing that gives rise publicly to a lack of confidence which puts other survivors off from coming forward to report and give their evidence, as it might be the important piece in a jigsaw.

“However, they also want assurances the police investigations are robust, inquisitorial and determined to detect criminality wherever it was committed.

“It does not fill survivors with confidence.

“That said, survivors will continue to work positively now, today, with the police to bring abusers to justice, even though it comes late.

“We will continue to try to hold the police leaderships feet to the fire, to ensure everything that can be done is being done.”

Operations Daybreak and Xeres were launched by Nottinghamshire Police to investigate allegations of emotional, physical and sexual abuse by staff at county children’s homes from the 1950s to the 2000s when the last of the homes closed.

These include Skegby Hall in Skegby; Laybrook, Berry Hill Open Air School and The Ridge in Mansfield; and Cauldwell House in Southwell.

The action group has so far been critical of the police involvement in the hunt for the perpetrators.

A Freedom of Information request found just four people have been arrested so far since the police began investigating nearly six years ago.

One has been jailed, while another is awaiting trial.

The husband of one abuse survivor who plucked up the courage to break her silence says, although frustratingly slow, they have faith that justice will prevail.

He said Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire police and crime commissioner, had even visited their home to discuss the investigation.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said: “It is challenging to support someone who has survived the most horrific sexual and physical abuse in children’s homes.

“However, the hope of justice is a trade off and partially compensates for the pain.

“Obviously the process has not been without anguish and frustration as at times progress has seemed slow. However, I am of the opinion that the police are working hard to prepare cases for court under Operations Xeres and Daybreak.

“The police do take the matters seriously, you will be treated with respect and there is, in my opinion, no conspiracy.”

The recent investigation by HM Inspectorate examined six cases at Nottinghamshire Police relating to children aged between 10 and 14 who were at high risk of sexual exploitation.

One was assessed as “requiring improvement” while the other five were deemed “inadequate”.

All six were found to have ‘poor supervision’.

In one case involving a 14-year-old girl in a sexual relationship with a 21-year-old man, a frontline officer took six months to complete an initial investigation, a timescale the watchdog found unacceptable.

HMIC raised concerns non-specialist staff were investigating child protection cases without having received training in how to manage them effectively.

For example, in the case of a 10-year-old girl who had been groomed to send indecent images of herself over the internet, there was a 10-week delay in requesting analysis of the suspect’s computer “because the officer did not understand the procedure”.

The inspectors ordered the force to produce an action plan and make immediate improvements.

Chief Constable Chris Eyre, of Nottinghamshire Police, says the issue have been addressed.

He said: “The safety and welfare of children is paramount, and at the heart of everything we do.

“I’d like to reassure people we have expert officers and staff working extremely hard to keep young people safe from harm.

“Indeed our good progress in domestic abuse cases involving children has been highlighted in the report.”