Weekend read: Inside the CAIU non-recent team
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Last year – 2019 – was a busy year for Leicestershire Police’s Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU).
And for the team responsible for the investigation of non-recent cases – based at Wigston police station with the rest of the CAIU - things have been no different. Made up of eight detective constables and two Investigative Support Assistants (ISAs), their work is overseen by Detective Sergeant Claire Hughes.
Last year, the team saw the number of convictions secured increase from 12 to 16 compared to 2018, with the overall length of sentences also increasing from 123 years to 139 years.
“We’re a small team, but we’re also a very busy team,” explains DS Hughes. “Our officers are always at court. When you look at last year, we’ve had a successful conviction at least once a month.
“But that’s only a small part of our work. With a report of non-recent child abuse, it takes time to build up the case. We have to identify and make contact with the person who is alleged to have committed an offence and then we have to identify and speak to witnesses or anyone connected to those involved.
“Because people move around – you have to remember we’re often talking about things that happened 20 years ago or more – it’s something that takes our investigations all over the UK.
“While officers are doing that, they’re also assisting other forces whose investigations have uncovered a Leicestershire connection.”
DS Hughes says that it is not uncommon for an investigation – between a report being made to the force and a case appearing at court – to be a lengthy process. However it is time that allows both the investigating officer and victim to gain trust in one another.
“Our officers very much build up a rapport with the victim in a case,” she adds. “The type of crime we’re investigating more often than not has had a profound – and sometimes lasting – effect on the victim’s wellbeing.
“It can be incredibly difficult to relive your experiences again and again to different people in such great detail – but it’s that level of detail which can be vital in court.”
For Detective Constable Anna Blockley, being involved in non-recent child abuse investigations and being able to help those who have suffered terrible experiences is the most rewarding part of the job.
“I feel like I’m doing something good for others by opening a door they never thought could be opened,” she says. “For many people, they don’t even know the option to report matters to police is there, after such a long time.
“It’s no secret within the department that I love my role. The feeling I get when those victims feel listened to, valued and their experiences believed is irreplaceable. Giving them a chance for their story to be heard is a feeling like no other.
“Many victims have remained silent for years and they just want the time to tell their story. The satisfaction of helping victims far outweighs the stresses of the workload.”
“Victims definitely appreciate our work, but we are here to help them,” adds Detective Constable Kate Dabrowska.
“When a case has concluded, it’s not uncommon for us to get a final message of thanks from a victim. Those messages don’t go unnoticed. I think I speak for the team as a whole that we really do value that recognition.
“We’re here to support people and knowing our work is valued and appreciated helps spurs us on during subsequent investigations.”
This year, the message from the non-recent team remains clear – we are here to help and listen to you. If you report something, you will be supported throughout the investigation process.
On 29 April 2019 two brothers – Peter and John Mackenzie – were jailed for a total of 30 years for non-recent sexual abuse.
Peter, 58 of Borve, Isle of Lewis, was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault, six counts of indecency with a child, five counts of rape and one count of causing actual bodily harm. John, 61, was found guilty of five counts of indecency with a child, three counts of rape and two counts of indecent assault.
“The abuse happened in the 1970s,” says DS Hughes, “So we’re talking about incidents that happened more than 40 years ago.
“In cases like that, I often think that the offender thinks the victim will never report the matter to police, but it’s definitely not the case. It often takes some time before a victim feels confident and comfortable enough to talk about what happened.”
On 30 August 2019, 64-year-old Tony Bamford was sentenced to 23 years after pleading guilty to seven counts of rape, relating to two different victims and one count of indecent assault, relating to a third victim. The abuse happened between 1992 and 1998.
“In many cases where a conviction is secured, the sentences given can be quite substantial,” adds DS Hughes. “It’s not necessarily something we ourselves are surprised by, but it may come as a surprise to other people.
“I’d like to think such sentences act as reassurance not only to our victims, but also to anyone who is considering making a report of non-recent child abuse, but is yet to do so.”
Detective Inspector Nicole Main adds: “I am very proud to manage such a team of compassionate and experienced detectives who are dedicated to supporting the victims of non-recent child sexual abuse.
“The courage shown by these victims enables us to identify offenders and protect children in our communities today.”
- There are a number of different agencies who are able to offer independent help and support to victims of sexual offences in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
- Juniper Lodge is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) that offers support, forensic medical facilities and advice, to anyone aged 18 years and above regardless of whether a report is made to the police. Specialist staff can be contacted on 0116 273 3330 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- United against Violence and Abuse (UAVA) provide a dedicated helpline along with specialist support including access to an independent sexual violence advisor (ISVA) for males and females of any age, including children.
- The Truth Project offers victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the chance to share their experiences and be heard with respect. It is part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and further information is available by visiting www.truthproject.org.uk
- Abuse involving children can also be reported to the NSPCC - www.nspcc.org.uk