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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Investigation Report

Operation Jaguar

55. In addition to Operation Clifton, the other police investigation relevant to Knowl View in recent times was Operation Jaguar. Operation Jaguar had two distinct elements. The first part was an investigation into allegations made by pupils who had been at Knowl View during the period it was open. The second part of the investigation related to allegations made against Cyril Smith. In summary, Operation Jaguar’s terms of reference were to investigate allegations of abuse, both physical and sexual, made to GMP by former pupils from Knowl View following publicity surrounding Operation Yewtree and abuse allegedly committed by Smith. It was also to document allegations of abuse made against Smith that fell within the remit of GMP.[1] 

56. That included taking evidential accounts from each identified witness, despite Smith being dead. Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Jones explained to us the rationale for investigating allegations against Cyril Smith. First, it enabled complainants to feel they had had the opportunity of providing a full and evidential account. Second, this enabled Operation Jaguar to establish if any other individual who was still living had committed any offences. The investigation did not extend beyond taking such an account where it was alleged that Smith had acted alone. However, in Operation Jaguar, a number of complainants alleged that Knowl View staff members were involved in Smith’s sexual abuse of them and these persons were the subject of further investigation.[2]

57. The focus of Operation Clifton, by contrast, was the investigation of whether there had been a cover-up by GMP or by the Council in relation to the allegations of child abuse at Knowl View. This investigation was particularly concerned with whether there had been any concealment of the reports generated by the Council about Knowl View in or around 1991 or 1992.

58. Operation Jaguar did not ‘trawl’ for complainants. In other words, it did not seek out former pupils about whom it had no information or intelligence to suggest they had been abused. That said, Operation Jaguar had access to the materials that the Council held in relation to Knowl View. Those materials enabled Operation Jaguar to identify former pupils who may have been abused on an intelligence-led basis. That Cyril Smith was the subject of investigation also meant that Operation Jaguar generated a great deal of publicity.[3]

59. The purpose of Operation Jaguar was not to reinvestigate the entirety of Operation Cleopatra. However, Operation Cleopatra had not investigated allegations of abuse made by former pupils against other pupils and so it was determined that Jaguar would investigate those.[4] 

60. In short, Operation Jaguar considered allegations that pupils made against former staff at Knowl View, allegations against Cyril Smith and allegations made by former pupils against their peers. Those peer-on-peer allegations were complicated by the fact that a number of those pupils identified as having sexually abused fellow pupils in turn made allegations that they themselves had been sexually abused by other pupils.

61. We have, at points in Part 3, referred to some of the specific allegations that were investigated as part of Operation Jaguar. These included allegations by former pupils that they had been sexually abused by other pupils. What was of note was the acceptance on the part of one individual, accused of child sexual abuse by two different former pupils, that sexual activity had taken place between boys but that this was a normal part of school life. Detective Chief Inspector Jones explained that some cases of peer-on-peer sexual abuse had been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service but that they did not proceed because of the ‘doli incapax’ presumption, which applied at the time of this alleged conduct. The presumption was that a child aged not less than 10 years but less than 14 years was incapable of committing a crime.[5] 

62. The presumption could be rebutted, but only if the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the child did the criminal act with ‘mens rea’, and additionally appreciated that the particular act was not only naughty or mischievous but seriously wrong.[6] This is just another example of the complexities that an investigation like Operation Jaguar faced.

63. Detective Chief Inspector Jones confirmed that David Higgins is currently serving a 14-year sentence in respect of child sexual abuse unrelated to Knowl View.[7] In the course of Operation Jaguar, three former pupils came forward to make allegations against Higgins. Only two felt able to proceed and Higgins was charged in respect of the sexual abuse of both. One complainant then withdrew his complaint. The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed to trial in respect of the third complainant. This decision related to the third complainant having provided an account during Operation Cleopatra that varied in some respects from the account given in Operation Jaguar.[8] The fact that witnesses may have given different accounts, many years apart, about their sexual abuse is a difficulty inherent in the investigation of non-recent child sexual abuse. There may be entirely understandable and wholly innocent reasons why complainants’ accounts change over the years, but it is nonetheless a matter that the Crown Prosecution Service will take into account in determining the prospects of a prosecution being successful. 

64. On the other hand, there was a successful prosecution of Anthony Whitehead in 2017 for the sexual abuse of RO-A9. As we have explained in Part 3, this conviction demonstrates the risks that children who resided in Knowl View faced. Whitehead had no links to the school yet was able to abuse RO-A9 while he was a pupil there. Whitehead, who had a previous conviction for a similar matter, was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. The previous conviction was admitted into evidence at the trial.[9]

65. Detective Chief Inspector Jones explained further difficulties that Operation Jaguar faced (as compared to an investigation of recent allegations) because of the strands of evidence that were inevitably not available. This included telephone evidence that might show contact between individuals and the nature of that contact, or demonstrate where individuals were physically located. Similarly, CCTV footage was not available. Non-recent sexual abuse cases often rest therefore entirely upon the account of complainants or other witnesses who have come forward. In Operation Jaguar, some of the allegations dated back 30 years. Accounts of sexual abuse and surrounding circumstances need to be detailed but that becomes more problematic with the passage of time, as does the risk of inconsistency. Moreover, social media and publicity in general may contaminate the independence of a witness’s account as might alleged collusion between complainants.[10] These were all challenges faced by Operation Jaguar. 

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