Behind the headlines

regular panel comments on a topic in the news.

Have prosecutions of residential workers
alleged to have abused children in institutional care gone too far? According
to the campaign group Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers (Fact), the operation
carried out recently by Northumbria Police was marked by "devastatingly
damaging, wild prosecutions of cases having no merit".

The three-year investigation into allegations
of physical and sexual abuse – most of which took place, as with other similar
inquiries, in the 1970s and 1980s – at children’s homes in the north east of
England ended with a trial. Northumbria Police’s Operation Rose led to the
charging of 32 suspects with 142 offences. In total, 260 residents and formers
residents of 61 children’s homes made over 500 allegations of rape, buggery,
indecent assault, assault and physical restraint involving 197 care workers.
Six people were found guilty with five jailed for a total of 25 years. A
similar approach was taken in other inquiries in north Wales, Cheshire and

national chairperson, Care Leavers Association
"The cases of abuse of children in
care that have so far emerged are only the tip of a massive national scandal.
In the Care Leavers Association we know of many child abuse cases that, under
the current legal system, will go unreported because the victims are
intimidated. Thousands of child abusers are left to roam because the
government, local authorities and the voluntary sector are not tackling the
issue head on."

Felicity Collier, chief executive, BAAF
Adoption & Fostering
"I am very concerned
that this publicity may discourage police forces from making inquiries
following allegations of historical abuse.

No one who has read the whole Waterhouse
report will doubt that many young people suffered abuse that had a devastating
impact on their lives. For those young people who are wrongly not believed and
their allegations or cases not pursued, the impact can be just as devastating
as for those adults who are wrongly accused. There are no simple

Warwick, senior practitioner, Barnardo’s
"There will never be a way of
investigating institutional abuse that protects every innocent person.
‘Trawling’ for evidence appears somewhat unethical but I can also see that it
is a means to an end. As a result of this method a number of people were
exposed and convicted. This can only be regarded as a positive outcome. It
horrifies me to consider that abuse was occurring at such an endemic

programme manager, Children’s Society
"Being falsely accused of abuse is
traumatic. Being a child abused in public care is a personal tragedy and public
scandal. Government must tackle barriers to disclosure by reducing children’s
isolation and powerlessness. They should do this by implementing the
recommendations of the Utting and Waterhouse reports. The government should
ensure that the children’s rights director (in England) has sufficient powers
to do the job to develop effective complaints and advocacy procedures with high
levels of confidentiality. Also the director should have the power to
investigate individual cases and have immediate access."

principal research fellow, Nuffield Institute for Health,
University of Leeds
"There is no easy answer to
this. To say that in each case a reasoned and balanced judgement needs to be
struck between the interests of the children, the staff and the cost to the
public purse will inevitably sound trite, but it is preferable to taking a predetermined
position. In the case of Operation Rose, it is not clear whether or not the
right balance was struck between these various factors."

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.