A hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has been taking place over the past three weeks. Its focus has been to investigate institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC.
Leicestershire Police has participated in this inquiry which covered a number of investigations into Lord Janner, some of which date back several decades.
Matt Hewson, who was the senior investigating officer in the fourth investigation into Lord Janner, has given evidence as part of the inquiry. This fourth investigation, Operation Enamel, resulted in 22 charges being brought against the former MP. Following Lord Janner’s death in December 2015, the charges against him were formally discontinued.
Mr Hewson, along with a number of serving and retired Leicestershire Police officers, has also attended the inquiry remotely.
Leicestershire Police will welcome IICSA’s final report when it is issued and any recommendations. The report will be analysed carefully and lessons will be shared within the force to ensure continued organisational development and improvement, in this hugely important area of policing.
Further details of the work of the inquiry can be found at www.iicsa.org.uk
Anyone affected by any of the issues raised during the hearing is encouraged to contact Leicestershire Police for any support, guidance or assistance which the force may be able to provide (https://www.leics.police.uk/ro/report/ ).
Support is also available by contacting the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (https://napac.org.uk/ ) or the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (http://www.nspcc.org.uk/ ).
Below is the full closing statement which was read to the IICSA hearing today (Friday) by the force’s legal representative on behalf of Chief Constable Simon Cole.
Chair – over the last three weeks Matt Hewson, the Senior Investigating Officer of Operation Enamel, together with a number of serving and retired Leicestershire Police Officers, have attended these hearings remotely and observed Counsel to the Inquiry’s probing forensic examination of the conduct of institutions, covering a number of investigations and dating back several decades. Previous inquiries – including those of Sir Richard Henriques and the IOPC - have looked into discrete aspects of the actions of Leicestershire Police and Social Services, but this is perhaps the first time that the full picture has emerged showing the gradual accumulation of allegations regarding Lord Janner and the institutional responses to those allegations.
Leicestershire Police has welcomed this scrutiny and throughout has cooperated fully with the Inquiry. The Chief Constable reiterates his intention to remain open and not defensive, to acknowledge and learn from past mistakes and to take on board any recommendations you make. It is fair to say that Lord Janner could and should have been investigated more thoroughly and faced prosecution earlier than 2015.
As I said in opening, the Chief Constable apologises wholeheartedly on behalf of Leicestershire Police to any complainant whose allegations during earlier police investigations were not responded to as they should have been.
He also wishes me to express his appreciation to the Chair and Panel. First, for determining that these hearings should take place, in accordance with the wishes of the complainant Core Participants. And second, for conducting the hearings with due sensitivity, whilst ensuring a determined and thorough investigation of institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse involving Lord Janner.
Whilst the focus of this investigation has been institutional responses, underlying it are the allegations of a number of complainants that they were sexually abused by Lord Janner when they were children. At different times over the years they have found the strength to come forward and speak out about what they say happened to them – at a time when they were young and vulnerable, many of them in care – and at a time when they most needed society and institutions to protect them.
The Chief Constable would like publicly to recognise the courage and determination of all the complainants who have been involved in the hearing process, knowing that, for many, this will have been a painful and distressing experience.
It is regrettable that the complainants never had the benefit of a criminal prosecution of Lord Janner for which many of them had hoped when they came forward, and which had been anticipated following the charging decisions made in 2015. Nor have they given oral evidence to this hearing. However, their bravery and tenacity in making disclosures – and in supporting and engaging with these proceedings – have helped the Inquiry to probe the conduct of a number of institutions. More importantly, their input will have contributed to the Inquiry’s crucial work in making recommendations to improve institutional responses in future.
I want to turn briefly to Operation Enamel…
When, in late 2012, Leicestershire Police launched Operation Enamel – its most recent investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Lord Janner, – it was treated as a high priority. As I explained in opening – and as you have heard over the last three weeks – Operation Enamel was taken seriously by senior officers and provided with the level of resources afforded to a major investigation. The HOLMES system was used, alongside a team of well-trained, specialist and expert investigators and support staff, including victim support officers. It was supervised by a highly experienced Gold Commander – Roger Bannister.
As you have heard, the DPP initially decided that it was not in the public interest to charge Lord Janner. Leicestershire Police were of the firm view that charges should be brought and drafted a Pre-Action Protocol letter to challenge the DPP’s decision. The Judicial Review proved to be unnecessary. The DPP reversed her decision after a number of complainants exercised their rights under the Victims’ Right to Review scheme. Charges were ultimately brought against Lord Janner on the basis of 22 separate allegations of sexual abuse relating to nine children. Four of these charges related to the allegations made by JA A27.
In relation to the Operation Enamel investigation and charging decisions - the Chief Constable wishes to remind the Inquiry (and indeed the media) of the evidence it heard from Matt Hewson, the SIO, about the allegation made by Carl Beech about Lord Janner. Carl Beech, also known as ‘Nick’, was not one of the 40 complainants whose allegations were investigated and progressed by Operation Enamel. His complaint played no part “whatsoever” in the decision to bring charges against Lord Janner.
I turn now to referrals to the IOPC…
During the course of Operation Enamel’s enquiries, as you have heard Leicestershire Police became concerned about various aspects of previous investigations into allegations made against Lord Janner. This included the criticism by some officers of the conduct of others. The Chief Constable took the view that where it appeared that the conduct of officers may have fallen below the Standards of Professional Behaviour, referrals would be made to the IOPC pursuant to Schedule 2 of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 and the Police Reform Act 2002. The decision that the referrals would be made voluntarily and proactively enabled the Force to remain independent and to act in a transparent manner. Having now heard in detail about the earlier investigations, the Chief Constable remains firmly of the view that it was not for his own Police Professional Standards Department to reach conclusions on the earlier investigations, and that these referrals were the appropriate course of action to take.
Turning to previous investigations and standards of the time…
The Chief Constable of Leicestershire does notseek to excuse or justify any failings by his force. It has always been of the utmost importance professionally and thoroughly to investigate allegations of child abuse, without fear of favour, and, where possible, prosecute offenders.
However, it is right to say that some of the previous investigations into allegations against Lord Janner pre-dated Operation Enamel by a number of years. As has been explored by Counsel to the Inquiry during these hearings – it is important to have in mind the relevant legal provisions, the investigative tools available to the police then and the standards of the time. There is now an increased level of expertise in the investigation of current and historic child sexual abuse, a greater awareness of its prevalence, and better understanding of methods of grooming, barriers to abuse and reasons for delayed disclosure. The approach of the criminal justice system (including judges) to allegations of child sexual abuse has changed beyond recognition, from the change in ABE interviewing, to the use of intermediaries and the special measures available in the court system. And there are now more widely available resources such as specialist training, electronic resources and information sharing protocols with other institutions.
The Inquiry has heard the evidence and will reach its own conclusions on the issues examined: whether, and to what extent, there were failings by relevant institutions, and what the reasons were for these.
Current Approach / Changes
As Operation Enamel demonstrates, allegations of current or historic abuse against children are taken extremely seriously by Leicestershire Police. The protection of children is one of the most important tasks that the police undertake – the police play a crucial role working with other agencies to ensure that children are safeguarded and offenders are brought to justice. Sexual offences and child sexual abuse and criminal exploitation are key priorities within the force’s current Police and Crime Plan.
There have been significant developments and improvements to training, understanding and systems. Leicestershire Police now has a specific Non-Recent Child Abuse Investigation Team, which forms part of the Child Abuse Investigation Unit. A specialised ‘career pathways’ process has been developed in order to bring experienced and skilled detectives into these teams, who undergo specialised training and ongoing professional development. IT systems and processes have been enhanced. Leicestershire Police procedures are aligned with national guidance, and the force has a strong commitment to reviewing, improving and transforming services to prioritise child protection.
Leicestershire Police is also part of a multi-agency Vulnerability Board, which includes all primary agencies engaged in protecting children and young people. It has developed a multi-agency safeguarding hub, based at a police station. As well as the Child Abuse Investigation Unit, this incorporates a Child Referral Team, Child Exploitation Teams, and a Child Case Conference Team. Police and social services work in partnership, meeting daily to review all relevant incidents, share information where appropriate, and conduct strategy discussions to identify children at risk. These changes have improved and facilitated effective multi-agency working.
Extensive support is offered to victims of child sexual abuse. ‘The Lighthouse’ is a hub used to provide child victims of abuse with a safe space to tell their story, and give court evidence by remote link. This also provides access to specialist support services. For adult victims of sexual abuse, ‘Juniper Lodge’ is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre which is used to offer multi-agency support to victims.
Allegations are now appropriately recorded and responded to, including through safeguarding actions taken in conjunction with other institutions. Complaints about historic offences are investigated with the same rigour, independence and determination as complaints about recent offences. Complainants – whoever they are and whatever their background – are treated sensitively, fully supported, and can be assured of thorough investigations into their allegations. The status of an alleged offender is irrelevant.
By way of conclusion, as I said in opening, the Chief Constable recognises that failings in institutional responses may have prolonged or added to the suffering of complainants and is truly sorry for this.
The Operation Enamel team have been noting and keeping the Chief Constable informed about any evidence concerning police actions and inaction, resourcing and systems, and issues which arise in relation to inter-agency working. These issues are being discussed and analysed internally.
We hope that the process of examining this material in this forensic environment will contribute to the public understanding of what has happened in the past in Leicestershire and to the complainants’ understanding of what happened to their own allegations. As an organisation, Leicestershire Police is committed to learning whatever lessons for the future can be drawn from that history.
The Chief Constable will welcome the Inquiry’s report and recommendations in this investigation. They will be analysed carefully, and the lessons learned will be shared within the force to ensure continued organisational development and improvement, in this hugely important area of policing.