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2.6 Operation Hydrant

The Inquiry is required to refer all allegations of child abuse that it receives to the police so that they can be investigated.[1] Referrals are passed to ‘Operation Hydrant’ ‒ a body that is independent of the Inquiry and was established by the National Police Chiefs’ Council to co-ordinate police investigations into non-recent child sexual abuse. Operation Hydrant receives referrals from a range of organisations, including the Inquiry, and passes them to the relevant police force for investigation.

Operation Hydrant has provided the Inquiry with information from police forces in England and Wales about the outcomes of Inquiry referrals made between March 2015 and June 2017. In that period, 1,575 referrals were made to Operation Hydrant by the Inquiry. As Operation Hydrant can pass these referrals to more than one police force or agency, 2,402 referrals have been made to police forces or law enforcement agencies in total.

Chart 3    Institutions where abuse took place in Inquiry referrals to Operation Hydrant

A chart showing Inquiry referrals to Operation Hydrant, categorised by the institution where abuse took place
Long Description
Institutions where abuse took place in Inquiry referrals to Operation Hydrant
Number in Wales Number in England
Schools 33 541
Children's homes 38 396
Religious institutions 14 152
Health settings 5 96
Prison / Young offenders institute 1 59
Other location 3 46
Children and young people associations 2 27
Sports venues 1 19
No institute identified 35 946

Operation Hydrant will pass a referral to the most appropriate police force for investigation. In some cases, the same information will already have been reported to the police in a different way.

The amount of information and detail included in a referral can vary significantly, and this has a direct impact on the ability of the police force to investigate further. It is up to a victim or survivor to decide what information they want to share with the Inquiry. The Inquiry only shares a victim or survivor’s contact details with the police if they agree to the Inquiry doing so, or if the Inquiry is concerned that a child or adult may be at risk of serious harm.

Every investigation is different and many do not progress as far as a criminal prosecution. However, a small proportion of referrals made by the Inquiry have resulted in convictions (Table 2).

Table 2 The outcome of Inquiry referrals to Operation Hydrant in England and Wales*




No further action



Ongoing investigation



Charged and awaiting trial






Not convicted



Offence occurred outside England or Wales



*Police forces and law enforcement agencies have notified Operation Hydrant of the outcome of Inquiry referrals. Where a single referral includes information relating to multiple individuals, police forces and / or law enforcement agencies, it will result in more than one outcome.

As at March 2018, a significant proportion (78%) of referrals made by the Inquiry resulted in ‘no further action’ following consideration by the receiving police force or agency. 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. Fourteen referrals from the Inquiry to Operation Hydrant have related to offences where the offender has subsequently been convicted. A further 14 referrals from the Inquiry relate to investigations where an individual has been charged and is now awaiting trial.

Conviction following an Inquiry referral to Operation Hydrant

A victim and survivor reported the sexual abuse they experienced to the Inquiry. They explained that they were abused during their childhood in the 1960s and 1970s while attending worship with Jehovah’s Witnesses at Kingdom Hall.

This resulted in a police investigation and led to the perpetrator being convicted of nine counts of indecent assault against a child. The perpetrator was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment, and was given an indefinite Sex Offender Notice and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order until further notice.


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