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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of the Nottinghamshire Councils Investigation Report

B.8: Operations Daybreak, Xeres and Equinox

41. Since 2010, Nottinghamshire Police has been investigating allegations that former residents of children’s homes in the City (Operation Daybreak) and County (Operation Xeres) were sexually and physically abused. These investigations were combined in 2015 into Operation Equinox.

Operation Daybreak

42. Following receipt of two civil claims by the Councils in December 2009 and June 2010, alleging physical abuse at Beechwood,[1] a multi-agency strategy meeting was held in August 2010[2] and Nottinghamshire Police’s CAIU subsequently started an investigation. Initially, limited progress was made, although alleged victims and perpetrators were interviewed. 

43. In June 2011, as a result of further allegations received,[3] Nottinghamshire Police initiated Operation Daybreak, a dedicated investigation into allegations of non-recent abuse at Beechwood from the 1960s onwards. All allegations of sexual abuse were to be investigated,[4] but allegations of physical abuse were only to be pursued if the suspect still worked with children.[5] The investigation was extended in 2013 to include other City children’s homes.[6] In terms of scale, there were approximately 15 allegations of sexual abuse made to Operation Daybreak in 2011, 20 in 2012, 20 in 2013 and 40 in 2014.[7]

44. However, evidence from witnesses involved in Operation Daybreak, and from reviews carried out at the time, suggest that its progress was hampered by three main issues:

44.1. The lack of a dedicated Senior Investigating Officer (SIO): Detective Inspector (DI) Yvonne Dales, the initial SIO of Operation Daybreak, retained responsibility for the CAIU at the same time.[8] The lack of a full-time SIO to supervise and control the investigation on a day-to-day basis had a negative impact[9] and it was not until January 2015 that a full-time dedicated SIO (DI Pete Quinn) was appointed.[10]

44.2. Staffing: Staffing levels were “at a minimum” from the outset.[11] Concerns about the impact of insufficient resources were raised as early as September 2011[12] and subsequently by team members and in independent reviews.[13] An October 2014 peer review identified “current resources” as “insufficient to manage the demand”.[14] The Police and Crime Commissioner was aware that Operation Daybreak was under-resourced but was assured at the time by the Chief Constable that it was manageable.[15] However, Nottinghamshire Police now accepts that resourcing for the scale of the investigation was “wholly inadequate” and affected the “pace of the investigation”.[16] 

44.3. Attempt to scale down the investigation: Despite requests for more resources and the increasing numbers of allegations, senior officers requested in 2014 that the investigation be scaled down or even closed down.[17] An external review in October 2015 recommended that the investigation should continue.[18]

Senior officers in Nottinghamshire Police should have ensured that the investigation was prioritised and adequately resourced. 

45. There was “really, really helpful”[19] early engagement between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, with the reviewing lawyer also involved in providing early investigative advice such as whether to reinterview a complainant or which lines of enquiry needed to be followed.[20] There was no overall policy about how cases were to be approached; each case was judged on its own merits.[21] On completion of an individual investigation, the Operation Daybreak SIO assessed “whether the evidence available provided a reasonable suspicion that the offence had been committed”.[22] If not, no further action was taken and the complainant was informed. If the test was passed, a comprehensive advice file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided whether to charge based on the ‘Full Code Test’.[23]

46. A number of files were passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on whether to authorise charges. However, there were no prosecutions for sexual abuse during the lifespan of Operation Daybreak.[24]

46.1. In September 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service concluded that there were too many problems with each allegation against three suspects (NO-F2, NO-F1 andNO-F10), including concerns about collusion between complainants.[25]

46.2. A single allegation against John Dent[26] did not proceed to charge in February 2013, due to inconsistencies with the dates of the alleged offence and issues of identification.

46.3. In June 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service determined there was no reasonable prospect of conviction in relation to NO-A86’s allegations of serious sexual abuse by staff members, and that her allegations of rapes and murders of residents by NO-F11 were “not true”.[27]

46.4. In June 2014, a decision was taken not to prosecute NO-F1 for sexual abuse at Beechwood and Ranskill Gardens.[28]

A review by East Midlands Police in May 2015 found all of the Crown Prosecution Service decisions not to prosecute to be “understandable”[29] and supported most of the SIO’s decisions not to proceed with cases.[30]

Operation Xeres

47. In 2014, Nottinghamshire Police received more than 10 allegations of non-recent abuse in relation to children’s homes in the County.[31] In early 2015[32] the force launched Operation Xeres to investigate allegations of non-recent abuse at nine children’s homes previously managed by the County.[33] However, by June 2015, Operation Xeres had also stalled due to “staffing issues”.[34]

Operation Equinox

48. In August 2015, Operations Daybreak and Xeres were merged to form Operation Equinox,[35] in order to ensure a more consistent approach to investigating allegations and to amalgamate resources. In total, as at March 2018, 832 allegations of sexual or physical abuse had been made to Operation Equinox by 355 different complainants against 559 suspects, 63 of whom had died.[36]

49. In some cases, the police decided that no further action should be taken as the threshold for passing the case to the Crown Prosecution Service was not met.[37] In others, the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was no realistic prospect of conviction.[38] There have been several successful prosecutions arising out of Operation Equinox.

49.1. Andris Logins was convicted in March 2016 of four counts of rape, 12 counts of indecent assault, and one count of child cruelty, related to his time as a residential care worker at Beechwood in the 1980s. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.[39] As he was a registered social worker at the time of his conviction, he was removed from the social work register.[40]

49.2. Barrie Pick, a former member of staff at Beechwood, was convicted in December 2017 of the sexual abuse of a male resident between 1976 and 1977, and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.[41]

49.3. Dean Gathercole was found guilty in May 2018 of six counts of indecent assault and three counts of rape at Amberdale in the 1980s. He was sentenced to 19 years’ imprisonment.[42]

49.4. Myriam Bamkin was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment in June 2018 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 15-year-old male resident at Amberdale in 1985. In his sentencing remarks the judge noted that, although a member of staff reported the concerns at the time, “The head of the unit appeared to have told that member of staff to keep it to himself and it was swept under the carpet.”[43] 

49.5. Christopher Metcalfe, a former member of staff at Skegby Hall and a foster carer, was convicted in September 2018 and sentenced to two years and nine months’ imprisonment for indecently assaulting two girls.[44] 

49.6. David Gallop, a former social worker for the County, was sentenced in October 2018 to 21 months’ imprisonment for sexually abusing a child in the 1970s when the child was placed at Hazelwood.[45]

49.7. Michael Robinson was convicted in January 2019 of sexually abusing boys at Hazelwood in the 1980s and was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.[46]

50. In May 2018, the police carried out an analysis to try to identify whether any collusion took place between suspects or offenders whilst working at Beechwood and whether any collusion could be considered to be a “Paedophile Ring”.[47] Six alleged or convicted offenders – John Dent, NO-F29, NO-F1, NO-F11, NO-F49 and NO-F2 – were reviewed.

The combined results support the hypotheses that a small and limited level of collusion may have taken place between suspects but the evidence is not robust enough to support the existence of a Paedophile Ring.

As Chief Superintendent Griffin explained, some of the six suspects were working together at the same time and therefore had had the opportunity to act together. However, it was not possible to conclude that they had in fact done so.[48]

51. Operation Equinox remains ongoing.[49] Chief Superintendent Griffin told us that Nottinghamshire Police has established a dedicated non-recent child abuse investigative team which will continue beyond the lifespan of Operation Equinox.[50] It is unclear whether this will continue indefinitely or how it is to be structured. 

References

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