(CNS): Following an RCIPS internal audit of all open child abuse cases in the Cayman Islands, triggered by a recent court case where the failure by the police to investigate a serious complaint of child sex abuse became apparent, an external review has been commissioned by the new police commissioner, Derek Byrne. Three officers from the UK with extensive expertise in child abuse investigations and child protection will be conducting a full review of all open investigations currently assigned to the RCIPS Family Support Unit (FSU).
The RCIPS said in a release Wednesday that the officers arrived Tuesday and the review is expected to take about three months, during which time cases will be “assessed and completed in as timely a manner as possible”, and referred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutiuons for charges where appropriate.
The British officers will focus on open investigations, and primarily child abuse investigations, but will also be reviewing RCIPS policies and procedures and advising on the implementation of international best practices in this area, police said.
This “outside assistance” has been engaged as a result of an audit of the Family Support Unit’s cases and procedures conducted by Detective Superintendent Pete Lansdown, conducted before the arrival of CoP Byrne in November 2016, which identified a number of cases requiring further investigation, as well as critical risks in the resourcing and rising workload of the FSU.
This audit was undertaken following the acquittal of two men accused of systematically abusing a young female relative, possibly from when she was as young as seven years old, because of the inexplicable incompetence of the police officers who had conduct of the case. (See RCIPS auditing child sex-crime cases)
As he delivered his verdict in September last year, Justice Timothy Owen said the “inexplicable and inexcusable delays”, the failure to interview relevant potential witnesses and the loss of important notes by the police undermined the case, which was first reported in 2012.
“Clearly, we need to make some fundamental changes in this area of our law enforcement work,” Commissioner Byrne is quoted as saying in the release.
The creation of a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), involving the FSU, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and HSA Counselling Services, which was announced last year, is set to begin later this month. The MASH unit is intended to bring together all relevant agencies to ensure proper management of cases and policy across government, in coordination with the Cayman Islands Child Safeguarding Board.
“The establishment of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) this month will provide us with a good basis for needed changes and improvements, as will the input of the officers who joined us yesterday,” said Byrne. “We must respond to the changing needs of the islands with proper support for child abuse investigations going forward, which are among the most sensitive and difficult for any police service.”
The RCIPS said the three British police officers have extensive experience in working in MASH units in the UK and “will be able to lend their expertise in cross-agency collaboration and safeguarding procedures as a MASH Unit is established in the Cayman Islands”.
“Having these structures in place will enable faster progress toward a strong child protection regime through timelier interventions, and overall, greater prevention of child abuse and the lifelong damage caused by it,” Byrne noted. “This is our ultimate goal.”