Why weren’t the police brought in when Cornwall abuse cases came to light?

If you were tied up in your home it wouldn’t be “inappropriate practice”, it would be a crime, says Joanna Perry

The report into the Cornwall abuse was a depressing and infuriating read. Not only because of the wide-ranging and serious failings it comprehensively reveals but also because of the almost total absence of reference to the criminality of the acts it discusses.

I found myself writing the words “theft” next to the description of “financial practices” on page 5 and “physical and sexual assault” next to the case study of Y on page 27, and wondering why the report doesn’t do the same.

Furthermore, the lack of involvement of the police in the Commision for Social Care Inspection and the Healthcare Commission’s own joint investigation sat hypocritically alongside their recommendation that the health trust could better safeguard vulnerable adults in the future by formal complaints to (among others) the police.

The report reveals the unacceptable disparity between the world that I live in where there is an expectation that such acts will be investigated by the police and prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service, and another where they are not even identified as crime and are perpetrated against people who have no hope of access to police protection and investigation or to justice in the courts.

The main lesson learned from the investigation is simple: we must now accept that the safeguarding policies and structures that were designed by people in this world actually add to reinforcing the cage of the other. As such there must be a wholesale review of how criminal acts committed against people who are dependent on others for their care are identified and addressed in our society.

At the moment, No Secrets governs this process. Yet, while the policy states that the criminal investigation takes precedence over any other, it appears that there are unacceptable barriers to making this happen in practice and that organisations can get away with being the judge and jury of their own – sometimes criminal – wrongdoings.

We must use the findings of this report to demand a world where there is a crystal clear responsibility placed on social care and health agencies – and their inspectorates – to ensure that people whom they are responsible for supporting can access and participate in the process of criminal justice.

Joanna Perry is policy manager at Victim Support and a trustee of the learning difficulties charity Values Into Action. She is writing in a personal capacity

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