Police's 25 failings in children's home sex inquiry

By Simon Bristow
January 28, 2010 / yorkshirepost.com.uk
A POLICE force failed to properly investigate allegations of physical and sexual abuse at a Roman Catholic children's home, a report has revealed.
A total of 25 complaints against Humberside Police were upheld in the highly critical report into the handling of Operation Aldgate, an inquiry into allegations of abuse at St William's Children's Home in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) identified a series of failings during Aldgate, which looked into allegations dating from 1965 to 1992, and how the force dealt with potential suspects or those who may have known of abuse.

Former school principal James Carragher and chaplain Anthony McCallen had already been convicted of sexual abuse when Aldgate was launched in April 2001, following complaints by former residents.

The force's failure to put adequate resources into the operation contributed to fundamental faults, the IPCC found, and it said two officers should receive "formal words of advice" as a result of its findings.

Nicholas Long, IPCC Commissioner for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: "This was a very difficult investigation dealing with highly sensitive matters. The investigation has found the majority of the complaints to be unproven but it is clear there were failings in the investigation.

"Some of these appear to have been due to the failure to pursue lines of inquiry, compounded by lack of staff and resources.

"The basis of any investigation must be about the thorough examination of all available evidence to reach a conclusion. In this instance, whether it was on the basis of the prior convictions of Carragher and McCallen, there appears to have been an assumption of guilt.

"In such circumstances it is understandable those subject to the investigation will feel hounded and under unwarranted pressure, particularly if they are innocent."

The IPCC inquiry, led by West Yorkshire Police's Deputy Chief Constable David Crompton, looked into 120 complaints by nine people who had been investigated as part of Aldgate.

Twenty-five complaints were substantiated, six were partly substantiated and 80 were unsubstantiated. A further nine could not be proved or disproved.

Humberside Police Assistant Chief Constable Alan Leaver, who was divisional commander of the East Riding at the time of Aldgate, accepted responsibility for the lack of resources but defended the overall results.

He said: "The inquiry was nine years ago and Humberside Police was an entirely different organisation back then. I accept my responsibility because I was responsible for organising the staffing.

"We had different priorities as a force which were seen as more important than staffing an historic child abuse inquiry. There was much more concern and organisation around local policing teams and more concern about delivering high visibility policing to the public.

He added: "Now Humberside Police has a Major Incident Team (MIT), which is very successful in investigating murder and serious crime, and if we took on today a similar inquiry to St William's, MIT would handle it. In that sense we have picked up on the recommendations."

Carragher was sentenced to 14 years in prison in November 2004 after being convicted of abusing boys at the home between 1968 and 1992. He had already been given a seven-year term in 1993 for other offences of serious sexual abuse at the home.

McCallen was jailed for three and a half years for offences against young boys after he left the home.

The Roman Catholic Middlesbrough Diocese is facing a potential £8m compensation and costs bill after a judge ruled it, and not the De La Salle Brothers, was liable for running the home.

Where the force made its mistakes

Lack of sufficient resources and funding to ensure a robust investigation.

Failure to investigate alleged witness intimidation.

Failure to properly record the policy and rationale for decision-making. This led to "inconsistent" arrests.

Failure to pursue reasonable lines of inquiry.

Failure to seek corroboration of allegations.

Failure to adhere to national guidelines about historical sexual abuse.

Giving false and misleading information to an outside agency regarding a complainant.

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