MPs call for new safeguards to prevent wrongful abuse convictions

Police investigating allegations of child abuse should tape
interviews with people who claim they have been victims, a report
by the home affairs select committee has recommended,
writes Sally Gillen.

The report, based on an inquiry conducted over the summer into
historic abuse in children’s homes, calls for the
introduction of a number of safeguards designed to minimise the
risk of wrongful convictions.

It highlights “deep concerns” over the interview techniques and
“trawling” methods used by the police in such investigations, which
it says has led to a “new genre of miscarriages of justice that has
arisen from the over-enthusiastic pursuit of these

In the last five years 34 of the 43 police forces in England and
Wales have been involved in investigations of historical child
abuse in children’s homes and other institutions. But between
1997 and 2000 the Crown Prosecution Service rejected 79 per cent of
cases of institutional abuse referred by the police.

Committee chairperson Chris Mullin MP said: “I am in no doubt
that a number of innocent people, who have not been convicted, have
had their lives ruined.”

But the committee has rejected a ban on trawling, instead
recommending that guidelines on how to conduct investigations and
how to contact potential victims are revised.

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