Institutions under police investigation for alleged CSA nearly doubles within five months
By Tim Wood | 21 October 2015
The new figures were gathered by ‘Operation Hydrant’, which has been taking a co-ordinating role across the UK for police investigations into child sex abuse (CSA) by “prominent” people or at institutions.
The number of “people of public prominence” under investigation over CSA allegations has increased by 26 since Operation Hydrant released a set of figures in May. The number of “prominent” suspects rose from 261 to 287.
The new figures came as Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary and who is in charge of Operation Hydrant, told the Society of Editors conference on Monday: “There are a number of offenders that fit the Hydrant’s criteria who are serving substantial sentences, and this has given more victims the confidence to come forward.”
Of 287 prominent people under investigation, 89 are national or local politicians, 145 from radio, TV and film, 38 from the music industry and 15 from the world of sport, according to Operation Hydrant. The total number of suspects has jumped from 1,433 to 2,016, a rise of more than 40 per cent. Among these are 372 suspects from religious institutions, 289 teachers and 157 care workers, the latest figures show.
In total, 676 institutions are under police scrutiny, almost double the figure as of May. These include 271 schools, 181 children’s homes, 76 religious institutions and 31 health establishments, with all types of institution seeing higher numbers within the past five months.
Operation Hydrant is co-ordinating 262 “significant police investigations” across the UK. But Bailey said that police were still only dealing with “the tip of the iceberg”.
“These are some of the most complex cases that the police service will investigate.”
And he admitted: “We have not always got it right. We have made mistakes.”
Police work from the starting point of “believing” the victim “until given reasonable cause to do otherwise.”
The fact that alleged perpetrators may be dead or very old will not stop police investigating, he said. “I know of cases of men in their 90’s who are still offending.”
In the past, when a case concerned a prominent person, victims would “fear that they simply would not be believed.”
“We have to accept we have let victims down in the past. They felt that we, other authorities and other parts of society did not take them seriously enough,” he continued.
“Allegations of non-recent sexual abuse are invariably one person’s word against another. Rarely are there witnesses to offences.”
Bailey said that reports of sexual abuse have risen 88 per cent since 2012, and the total is expected to hit 70,000 this year.
If this rate continues, he said, police will be investigating 200,000 cases of sexual abuse a year by 2020.
The cost of policing sex offences is now £1 billion a year, and this does not include “the costs to society in terms of the greater impact it has.”
Between 40 and 50 per cent of contested cases in crown courts involve sex cases, and one in five serving prisoners are sex offenders, he added.
Technology is driving an increase in sex crimes, he said. “I do believe more abuse is being perpetrated and technology is playing a key role.”
Some 50,000 people a year are watching images of child abuse, he said. There is also an increase in the number of people who access livestreams of child abuse, directing what they see.
“I believe that there are 200,000 children being sexually abused every year,” he said.
His comments came in the wake of the BBC1 Panorama earlier this month that attacked CSA survivors who have made allegations against politicians and other prominent people.
Bailey, speaking on BBC Newswatch, was critical of Panorama. “There is absolutely a risk of the programme putting people off coming forward,” he said.
“I would be bitterly disappointed if as a result of that programme victims did not think they had the confidence to come forward because of the way that their position and their reputation has the potential to be exposed in the way that it has been in the recent past by the media.”
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