Senior police officers “must be required” to have experience investigating child sexual abuse cases before they can be promoted to top positions, a public inquiry has recommended.
The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said on Wednesday that officers should not be able to reach the position of chief officer without “operational policing experience in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse”.
Officers should also have accredited training in dealing with child exploitation issues, the IICSA’s interim report said, signalling that a “culture change” was needed within policing to deal with the crime.
The report made 18 recommendations.
Between March 2015 and June 2017, the IICSA made 1,575 referrals to a police operation set up to deal with allegations of child abuse, but as of March 2018, 78% had resulted in “no further action”.
“Reasons for this can include a lack of evidence, being unable to trace or identify a perpetrator, a perpetrator being deceased, or a victim and survivor no longer wanting to continue with the criminal process”, the report said.
Fourteen referrals led to convictions and a further 14 have resulted in charges, with the individual now awaiting trial.
Inquiry chair Professor Alexis Jay also called for reforms to the civil courts to ensure victims of child sexual abuse were fairly heard during compensation claims.
She wants legislation that gives victims “the same protection as vulnerable witnesses in criminal court cases”.
Victim Support welcomed the call, saying: “For too long victims have been let down by a compensation system that is unfair and arbitrary.”
It urged the Ministry of Justice to “urgently act and bring about these much needed changes for victims”.
The report expressed concern that investigators had encountered reluctance to accept responsibility from institutions, including Rochdale council and the Roman Catholic Church.
“Across its work so far, the Inquiry has seen examples of institutions failing to have open and honest leadership. For example, the UK Government ‒ which should set an example for others to follow ‒ did not for many decades take full responsibility for its failures in relation to the child migration programmes,” the report reads.
During its examination of institutions in Rochdale, the Inquiry heard senior leaders deny any responsibility for the lack of effective response to the sexual abuse of vulnerable boys. This was despite compelling evidence and testimony indicating that they were aware that abuse was taking place.”
The report added that “all too often” institutions are “prioritising the reputation of political leaders or the reputation of their staff, or avoiding legal liability, claims or insurance implications, over the welfare of children and tackling child sexual abuse”.
The UK Government were urged to set an example, with Professor Jay lamenting that it was yet to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse which it signed in 2008.
The inquiry has been hampered by controversy since it was set up by Theresa May in 2014, with Professor Jay being the fourth person to chair it.
She took on the role in August 2016 after the controversial resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard.
Professor Jay expects the inquiry will make “significant progress” by 2020.
Since Professor Jay’s appointment the inquiry has heard from over 1,000 victims and survivors through its Truth Project and established 13 investigations to examine the conduct of institutions in England and Wales.
The IICSA was set up to review claims of historical child abuse in Westminster and to investigate “organisations and institutions that have failed to protect children from sexual abuse”.
The Truth Project runs along side the inquiry, offering victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences.