A special programme on Operation Pallial, the investigation into historic allegations of child abuse in North Wales. David Williams goes behind the scenes of the investigation.
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Tonight a special programme as The Wales Report is given exclusive
access to Operation Pallial. The investigation into allegations of
historic child abuse in North Wales care homes. The man in charge tells
us it is far from over. I am confident there will be further
charges and further arrest, we will pursue the truth and ensure through
the evidence we collect, with put the CPS in the best position to make
proper judgment. Stay with us for The Wales Report.
Good evening and welcome to a special programme. The Wales Report
has been given exclusive behind the scenes access to a major
investigation into allegations of historic child abuse, in care homes
in North Wales. Operation Pallial is led by the
National Crime Agency, and based over the border at its northern
headquarters in Warrington. It was set up in November 2012, amid
concerns that previous investigations had not been robust
or thorough enough. There were concerns too that the voices of
those coming forward to report allegations of abuse in the care
system had not been heard. The investigation had already
resulted in 19 people being arrested, with more expected. 37
potential suspects have so far been identified. It is thought at least
12 suspects have died. David Williams who has covered the event
as they have unfolded over the past 25 years has been behind the scenes
with the police to discover the true extent of the allegations.
We will start with an investigation update. I am content we are making
steady progress in Operation Pallial, we are dealing with 255
victims. In terms of suspect inquiry, again, making steady
progress, 37 people have been raised to suspect status and from that
figure we have made 19 arrests. Ian Mulcahey the man in charge of
Operation Pallial, an investigation into historic child abuse in North
Wales lists the latest shocking statistics to emerge from an inquiry
into what is nothing less than a human tragedy.
Offences were committed between the time span of 1953 to 1995. The age
range was between 6 and 19. The majority of the victims were boysers
although there are a number of girls.
-- boys. 37 potential suspects have been
identified. Of the 255 people who have come
forward, since the investigation was launched, 14 months ago, a great
many are new complainant, outlining a catalogue of serious crime and
abuse, allegedly committed decades ago, in Local Authority and
privately run children's homes in North Wales.
28 care homes have been named by complainants.
In terms of named... The rolical is staggering. 28 homes are named. --
roll call These were places where young vulnerable children were
supposed to have been cared for. Instead they are now at the centre
of an inquiry into sexual and physical abuse, and inquiry which
has taken on a life of its own. And for the time being at least, one
in which there is no end in sight. We are dealing with alleged
offenders who are responsingable... 19 people have been arrested, one
man has been charged, and more arrests and charges against others
are expected. I am confident there will be further
charges and further arrests. We will pursue the truth, and we will ensure
through the evidence we collect, we put the CPS in the best position
possible, to make the proper judgments.
Over the years in reporting the growing number of complaints of
abuse in children's homes in North Wales, I have ended up outside this
building. The headquarters of the North Wales
Police in Colwyn Bay. It has to be said they weren't happy memories.
At the time, rightly or wrongly, there was a perception that the
police were hostile and disbelieving of claimants abuse claims.
All that, it is said, has changed and frankly it is an attitude that
had to. Attempts to try and establish the
whole truth have to date all failed. Time and again, over the last 30
year, I have heard the same depressing stories from some of
those alleging abuse. Nay simply were not listened to, or believed.
-- they. At least 13 young people have killed
themselves. The damning findings of the first real attempt at an
inquiry, the Jillings Report, was suppressed.
What should have been the definitive public inquiry, the Waterhouse
Tribunal, is itself now subject to another inquiry, the review. In the
'80s there were police inquiries, and eight people were eventually
convicted of child abuse. But young people continue to tell me that they
had no confidence in the north Wale police.
Fearful of coming forward when they were children, many waited until
they were adults before telling their stories.
But they still remember vividly what happened to them Keith Gregory says
that he was sexually, and physically abused in homes in England and in
Wales. He had a chilling account of his
first attempt as a teenager, at the then Bryn Estyn children's home in
Wrexham, to bring allegations of abuse to the attention of staff, and
police, during a case conference at the home.
Before I went into the meeting, I marched into the meeting, sort of
thing, there was the police officer standing there, with his arm round
one of the people I was accusing, smiling, laughing, joking. Then he
said to me I believe you have something to tell me.
I couldn't, you know. So did you find that the police weren't
prepared to listen do you, or were they hostile or what? Nobody would
listen. Nobody wanted to know. We were naughty boys, from when you
come out, when I was there, when I come out, for years it has been
hushed up. The current chief constable of north
Wale police has, from the outset, been at pains to demonstrate his
force's full cooperation with the current investigation.
-- North Wales. It was Mark Polin who wanted it conducted by an
outside force. Why? Because at the time, some
victims were indicating that they ad at that point didn't have the
confident in the force to carry out a reinvestigation to allegations
made some time ago. There was a perception that North Wales Police
during this period weren't listening, and sometimes worse, were
demonstrating hostility towards those who were coming forward, or
who wanted to come forward, what do you say to that? First of all, I
wasn't here. Let us be clear, there are few staff in this organisation
now, who were here at the time of the investigations, so the
organisation has moved on in terms of staff and what it does. It is not
therefore for me to comment on prior investigation, because I wasn't
party to them, this was about let us make sure we get it right this time,
if we have not got it right before, and encourage victims to forward to
put everything on the table, as far as we can possibly could, and to
ensure there was a thorough comprehensive investigation that was
independent and transparent. This is the nerve centre of
Operation Pallial, based here at the northern hub of the National Crime
Agency, in Warrington, in Cheshire. Geographically located in England,
it is at the same time at arms-length from but in close touch
with the north Wales police, whose force area is at the epicentre of
this inquiry into historic child abuse.
We have been given unparalleled access to see for ourselves some of
the inner workings of this operation.
For the first time since the inquiry was set up in November 2012, the
National Crime Agency or NCA, Britain's equivalent of America's
FB. It has allowed cameras in to get a snapshot of the complex and
delicate work that goes on behind the scene at one of the biggest
police inquiries of its kind. In that Pantheon of crimes that you
deal with, where does this one it is? It is difficult compare
different types of crime so with deal with organise crime, to drug,
gun, people trafficking and through child exploitation, it is a broad
range, what I would say is be try and work through the detail of that
to identify where the real opportunities are to cut crime and
keep the public safe, our priority is pursuing criminals. Is That is
what you are doing in this operation? Absolutely.
Day after day, week after week, month after month, the Pallial team
of 26 officers have been following up the stories and allegations from
men and women, but mainly men, who have contacted them to outline the
abuse they say they suffered while in care in North Wales.
Elaine Coult iris the deputy officer in -- Elaine Coulter is the deputy
officer in charge of the Pallial operation. We have had an overview
of what it is about but this is where it takes place isn't it. Talk
us through the kind of processes that go on here. This is the
incident room for Operation Pallial. People will contact us by a number
of source, whether by telephone, e-mail or other agency, we have an
0800 number. A lot of people have not previously reported their
allegations to the police. Some had and sometimes it has been
investigated so we have to research all that first, this is not the
first investigation into the care home abuse, so we have to research
the archive material, which is about 260 boxes, held in North Wales, so
there is a lot of research to do, so you might get someone who thinks I
have give my account to the police, why hasn't that person been arrests?
We have to make sure the research round, is that person still alive,
how can we trace them? Because some have died? Yes.
The majority of those who have come forward, in response to the latest
appeal for information are telling their stories, often deeply
disturbing story, of abuse, for the first time. Not even members of
their own family have heard what officers of Operation Pallial are
now being told. It takes a lot for a person to come
forward and divulge, the worst time of their life when they should have
been a place in care. Do they tell you why they have taken so long to
come forward? They do, although there have been previous
allegations, they have been asked in the '90s and they might have said
no, they might have been in that good place in their life. They
haven't wanted to talk about it. As they lives have gone on they have
wanted to talk about it. People are getting older and they need to tell
their story, I have had people come to me and I ask me how to get in
touch with Pallial. I spoke to the Children's Commissioner and they put
them forward. There is one old chap I talked to, he just wants to tell
his story before he die, he doesn't want anything, he is well-off, all
right. He needs to say what happened to
To you get any feel, any idea, of how many of those 250 have in any
way been wasting your time, or have they not? I don't think anybody has.
That is a lot of people. Disturbing though they are, the
allegations do not mean the accused are automatically guilty. Neither do
the numbers necessarily mean there is an increased chance of
conviction. The job of the officers is to collect the evidence. The
police and law enforcement let evidence, presented to persecute
us, the CPS, they make an objective judgement based on clear guidelines
about who should go into a court. The courts decide who is guilty or
not guilty. This is the cord and 18 team,
otherwise known as the Gold group, which meets regularly at the
Warrington offices to discuss the progress of the enquiry. Every
agency either directly or indirectly linked is represented. The NCA is
represented by their boss, director-general Keith Bristow.
There is also a representative of the North Wales police. Social
services in North Wales have a joint coordinator. The Crown Prosecution
Service, CPS, is represented by the chief prosecutor for Wales. Also is
the Children's Commissioner for Wales.
Because of the sensitive nature of what they are discussing we have
been asked to leave the room but I have had a glimpse of the kind of
joined up thinking that goes on. And the attempt to provide necessary
support for those who have been willing to come forward and provide
harrowing accounts of the abuse they suffered. You can't help but think
why wasn't all this done years ago? Perhaps there was a lack of
understanding of the impact, and the level of abuse that had occurred. We
are much better these days at recognising what we need to do to
ensure that we support people where they have suffered abuse, and the
impact on their lives, that has been one of the things that has been most
hard-hitting for us, is seeing the tragic impact on some peoples lives
of this, and some people will never recover and we will have two be
there to ensure they have that support for as long as they need it.
There is little doubt the level of support for those coming forward has
improved dramatically, compared with what wasn't done 20 or 30 years ago.
We have discovered a new problem, the counselling sessions offered by
Operation Pallial are running into difficulties because those coming
forward are being instructed, for legal reasons, not to verbally
identify their alleged abusers to their councillors. As a result, some
witnesses feel the counselling sessions are pointless, and have
decided to withdraw from those sessions. This threatens to leave
them, as witnesses to the enquiry, for trouble again.
It is good that you managed to chat to somebody who is not part of your
family, but we are not allowed to speak about what has happened and we
are not allowed to mentioned names of the people who abused us, for
legal reasons. Does that inhibit you? It does, it stops you. To go
forward you have got to go backwards, get your story out, write
three to present day. Every time you mention something they say sorry, we
cannot listen to that part. I think that is holding us back a lot.
Once again, survivors of abuse have difficulty in unburdening themselves
of their past. Hopefully this is a temporary blip, and one that can be
rectified. In terms of the investigation, the emphasis now is
on the credibility of the allegations, rather than the
perceived weakness of the witnesses. And in general terms the man in
charge of Britain's crime-fighters is optimistic we are witnessing a
change in society's attitude to child abuse.
We should recognise society generally in England, Wales, and
wider has changed and attitudes towards sexual violence and abuse of
conduct has changed and law enforcement, the police, the justice
system has changed along the same lines. We take this incredibly
seriously, we are sensitive to some of the pressures on victims and
complainants and take a more robust approach than a generation ago.
There has been a cultural shift, argue animating that they didn't do
everything they should have done all those years ago? -- are you
admitting. 250 victims coming forward in direct response to your
appeal. There are things that with the benefit of hindsight we would
all have sought to have done differently. That is about learning.
That is deeply regrettable, there are occasions when we cannot be
proud of the way in which some allegations have been dealt with
historically, but we have learned those lessons, things have
improved, the numbers of victims coming forward expressing confidence
in the process is a real testament to the journey we have been on.
At the outset of the enquiry so Ronald Waterhouse was clear, his
tribunal would not act as a court putting individuals on trial, but
was intended to establish the extent of the abuse and why it wasn't
detected earlier. Of course, historic abuse of
children in North Wales has been the subject of an investigation before.
At a cost of ?13 million of public money, the Waterhouse Enquiry spent
three years gathering evidence and coming up with various
recommendations aimed at preventing a recurrence of the abuses of the
past. Statement, Mr Secretary Murphy. For
those who lives have been chattered, the family of those who
have died, we all say sorry. -- been shattered. We are determined this
report will lead to a society where young people can be cared for in
safety. In some quarters there is a real
concern the remit was not wide enough and the enquiry did not go
deeply enough into the allegations of abuse. And the way that some of
the abused learnt of Waterhouse's interest in them was shocking. They
just turned up on my door and expected, which was really bad --
unexpected. I haven't told my partner I was with at the time, and
the kids were in my house. You had no warning. No, they just came to
the door and said we believe you were abused in care. It was bad. But
you were able to tell your story to those people concerned? With the
Waterhouse Enquiry, all they wanted to know was which staff were abusing
you or whatever, we were being stopped on packs. -- pass. I wanted
to tell them we were not just being abused on site, people were being
taken off site. We were not allowed to mention that. Not to Waterhouse.
It was outside their re-met? Yes. We were told you cannot mention
anything that happened outside. Despite Keith Gregory's misgivings
it did find there was evidence of an paedophile ring operating in Wrexham
and Chester. One of the positive results to emerge was the creation
of the post of Children's Commissioner for Wales. The current
Commissioner sits on the Gold group and was one of those who called for
a new enquiry. In fact, he got to, Operation Pallial, and another
enquiry into the Waterhouse Enquiry. -- he got two. The second
enquiry was called to review and is headed by a High Court judge.
When I spoke out, I spoke out when I didn't know there would be Operation
Pallial, I didn't know there would be a review into the Waterhouse
Enquiry, I just felt very strongly something had to happen, not least
because the stories that were beginning to come forward for
victims who had held this for 30 years or more, were incredibly
powerful. I am really pleased with what has happened since, with the
way in which agencies have taken this job so seriously, and my job is
to make sure those people have the strength to come forward, get their
voices heard, and have everything they want to say listened to.
The general consensus is those coming forward are being listened
to, but those investigating the latest claims of historic abuse are
also conscious of the growing concern about the wisdom of pursuing
allegations of abuse which span several decades.
With the passage of time that presents particular challenges.
Human beings struggle with passage of time to remember exactly what
happened, forensic opportunities may have passed but we are pursuing
evidence. We follow the evidence, presented to prosecutors and
prosecutors make decisions about who should go into the criminal justice
system. It has to be remembered Operation
Pallial is focused on historic abuse, but the North Wales police
are still responsible for investigating any new or current
claims, and they know they have to get it right.
Never again does North Wales police want to be accused of failing in
their response to allegations of child abuse. At some point in the
future as Operation Pallial's work draws to an end in North Wales force
will once again have to take over all responsibility for investigating
any allegations of abuse, whether new or historical. Those who have
been child abuse perpetrators need to look over their shoulder for the
rest of their lives. We have invested a lot of time and effort in
training our staff are fashionably making sure we have the capability
to go where we haven't gone before and making sure we are providing the
best possible service to victims. For those who were abused the
passage of time has not made the crime any more or less serious. It
was, and will always be, the same. A time of the world at and betrayal at
the hands of adults who were charged with the most fundamental of
responsibilities, keeping children in their care safe. Children in our
looked after system are much safer than they were in the 70s and 80s,
there is no doubt in my mind that is true. We have made huge amount of
progress. I am still the Children's Commissioner for Wales who in 2014
is saying to the Welsh government we need to make sure that children and
young people get their voices heard. I don't say that because it
is a nice thing to say, I say that because when children are not
listened to all believed, if there are bad things happening to them and
people don't respond, that is when you have real problems.
There is no definitive timescale on completing Operation Pallial. It
will take as long as it takes to complete an investigation which
should have been done a long time ago. It wasn't and the scale of the
current operation and the response to it is evidence of a failure, and
the consequences for hundreds of people is immeasurable. And whatever
happens now, those people will never be able to reclaim their childhood.
I don't want to be sitting here in ten years like we have been doing
for the last ten, 20 years. This time it has got to be right and I
hope everybody does their proper job which I think they are doing, to be
honest. There are more arrests, enquiries. I hope we get it sorted
and we can all move on with our lives.
Keith Gregory ending that special report by David Williams. The cost
of Operation Pallial has risen to three quarters of ?1 million, paid
for by the Home Office. It is expected to rise again as the
investigation continues and further arrests are made, with court cases
to follow. Please say for those wishing to contact them about
historic abuse the door remains very much open -- police. That is it for
this week. You Edwards will be back next week. You can get in touch with
us about the issues discussed tonight or anything else will stop
-- Hugh Edwards. Thank you for watching. Good night.
A special programme on Operation Pallial, the investigation into historic allegations of child abuse in North Wales. David Williams goes behind the scenes to reveal the true extent of the investigation.