Leading child abuse lawyer, Peter Garsden, was interviewed on BBC Merseyside last week about the Cheshire Police announcement of a new initiative to take a more protective and proactive approach to the possibility of sexual exploitation in Cheshire by announcing that each children’s home will have it’s own designated police officer.
Simpson Millar, where Mr Garsden is the Managing Partner, have in the past dealt with large scale Cheshire Police enquiries into children’s homes which are now closed such as Danesford in Congleton, Greystone Heath in Warrington, St. Aidan’s in Widnes, St. Joseph’s in Nantwich, Newton Hall in Frodsham, and Kilrie in Knutsford. They all involved abuse by care workers many years ago.
After consultation with young people and relevant organisations about what their requirements are, Cheshire Police have assigned a special officer to each children’s home so that young people can talk about anything they want to in safety. Peter Garsden, who is also president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers said: “It’s a shame that the same thing didn’t happen many years ago at the homes where abuse took place.”
A similar initiative was attempted at Danesford in Congleton many years ago by a child advocacy organisation called NYAS on the Wirral. The idea was that the children should have their own independent voice and means of support outside the home. It was planned that they should have their own telephone number to ring. Mr Garsden believes this move failed because the care workers within were, at that time, abusing the boys. “The last thing they wanted was an outside body coming in to discover what was going on” he said.
This latest move by Cheshire Police means that if there are any potential sexual exploitation incidents of children being taken out of the homes for sex, then the police force will be able to show that they have done everything they can to prevent issues before that occur, or take root.
Mr Garsden believes that the big difference between sexual exploitation and other crime is the difficulty of the police force to bring prosecutions because the victims are:
- Young and vulnerable
- Threatened in an aggressive way by the abusive gangs
- Unwilling to give evidence out of fear and intimidation
- In need of intensive witness protection
Mr Garsden believes that the Jimmy Savile scandal has brought about a new attitude to the investigation of allegations of sexual abuse. He says that historical abuse now has a higher priority than it used to.