RCIPS failed victims in child abuse cases

| 01/09/2017 | 24 Comments
Cayman News Service

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne and Inspector Kevin Ashworth

(CNS): Two cases of serious and historic child sexual abuse will probably never go to court as a result of police bungling and delays, a situation that was uncovered by an external review of the RCIPS Family Support Unit’s handing of child abuse cases. Another case of the same nature that was flagged by the British police officers contracted by the RCIPS to conduct the review may still proceed to court, despite “significant delays or deficiencies” in the case.

The RCIPS has not revealed details of the three cases flagged by the review team but the investigations were said to have taken place between 2012 through 2014.

No police officers have been fired as a result of the review, though the handling of these cases is the subject of ongoing investigations by the Professional Standards Unit, members of the media were told during a press conference Friday. However, one superintendent and one police constable have been transferred from the FSU to uniform duties, while other officers have since joined the unit, including Inspector Kevin Ashworth, who now heads the team.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said that errors had been made by individuals and there had been “corporate failings” by the service as a whole, as he described an overworked department where there had been little support from management, no real systems in place and where some officers who were better able to cope with the lack of established procedures bore the brunt of the work.

During the four months that the three UK officers were here in the Cayman Islands they reviewed 92 open investigations and had access to all cases investigated by the FSU since August 2012, when the current internal RCIPS database came online.

Although the review was instigated following a stern rebuke of the investigating officers by Justice Timothy Owen as he delivered a verdict in a Grand Court trial in September 2016, the review team did not look at child abuse cases that had already been sent to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

They did not therefore review the case of track coach Ato Stephens, who was found guilty last month of ‘sexting’ with a teenage girl he was coaching but acquitted on three more serious charges. The judge hearing this case, Justice Michael Woods, pointed to “extraordinary” omissions in the investigative work by the FSU officers.

“I can’t say it was a mistake,” Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said when asked if it had been an error not to include cases that had already been sent to the ODPP in the review.

The three police officers from the UK, who have extensive experience in child abuse investigations and child protection, were contracted by the RCIPS in early January 2017 to evaluate the case management, supervision, investigative standards and operational functioning of the FSU, and also to conduct a review of all open child abuse cases.

They were embedded first within the FSU and then the MultiAgency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) for four months, during which time they had full access to all active case files and worked closely with all officers in the FSU.

In a release following the review team’s findings, the RCIPS stated: “On the basis of their work, the RCIPS acknowledges that the August 2016 trial culminated a period significant corporate failure on the part of the organisation to effectively manage its investigations into child abuse and crimes taking place in the family setting.

“There was a lack of policy, procedure, prioritization, case management and effective supervision in the FSU for an extended period, during which officers were carrying out investigations in an environment of consistent understaffing, heavy caseloads, outdated equipment and onerous bureaucracy.”

At the press conference CoP Byrne offered apologies on behalf of the RCIPS to the victims of the bungled cases, including the girl in the 2016 trial and the three victims in the flagged cases.

However, he noted that the review team found that 89 of the 92 open cases that were looked at, which ranged from abuse and neglect to cyber bullying, were handled appropriately and in some cases the court had commended the officers involved. Several cases that had been reviewed had proceeded to the ODPP, though not all cases were headed for court, as some were referred for counselling or mediation.

The review team from the UK looked at alternative ways to address problems so that the FSU does not find itself in that situation again, Byrne said. He said they were “moving forward very aggressively to make sure we get it right”.

Among the planned improvements, the commissioner said that they were looking to identify additional officers to assign to the unit, especially local officers, both male and female.

Two of the British officers will be back at the end of the year for two to three weeks to look at the current status of the FSU, and the commissioner said they anticipate that the follow-up review will be positive.

“We’re letting the community know that we now have a new approach,” Byrne said. Accepting that mistakes had been made, he said, “It’s time to move on. We understand that there is business to be done and we’d better get on with doing it.”

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Comments (24)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Child protection teams needs to be accountable and act within a very strict timeframe as they do in other countries. If an incident is identified, they have a duty to remove child within 12 hours until issue has been addressed. Whilst this can be traumatic for the child, at least they are in a place of safety until case resolved. There should be a 3 week maximum time to investigate and if needed take to court. Our children are so much more important than i.e. Fraud cases or thefts etc. Prioritise and stick to a timeframe for the sake of our children. If need be , make a different court available for these cases. Just get them done.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Congrats and bravo to RCIPS for standing tall and shouldering the blame in this matter. This should be the level of transparency that the public should expect from all sectors of the public service, but I doubt this example or standard will take hold.

    • Anonymous says:

      Accepting and owning the ineptitude is hardly cause for celebration. What will change culturally now to deliver the standard we expect of our crimefighters?

    • Anonymous says:

      At least the police has opened up to this failing. I wish the private sector would do the same.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are aware that the police didn’t volunteer this information, correct? This is the result of a visiting grand court judge who, in my own words, was shocked and sick to his stomach to learn of the absolute piss poor policing associated with a girl being religiously used for sick twisted bastards satisfaction. Then the Governor had to make a response. Then came the independent review. Then came these recent announcements. All of which has been publicised.

        The press is playing a key role in raising these matters.

        Are you aware what some of the the officers involved in this department are accuded of? Do you know what information the police are witholding?

        I am firmly of the belief that the police are balancing the release of information against the potential backlash as it seems the police are desparately trying to regain the publics confidence.

        Don’t get me wrong, there are some fine officers in there who truly seem switched on and want to battle these issues as best as possible.

        The police need assistance with this. They need information. They need names. They need dates. They need evidence.

        Society as a whole needs to tackle this issue. We need to become educated at how big this issue is and how widespread it’s consequences are.

        This type of shit destroys entire families and truthfully probably generations.

        One thing lacking is objective prosecutions – which starts with the complainant coming forth, giving evidence, police making arrests and prosecutors going in on the defendants.

        There needs to be an amendment to procedures and how these cases are tried as we all know the difficulties surrounding witnesses, and their families, wanting to give evidence against someone who is close to them.

        The irony is this is the exact thing that gives the abusers their strength. They know it’s embarassing to talk about.

        This is a problem we all need to tackle and hopefully there is and competent independent police force which will make the arrests, regardless of who the perpetrator is.

        God bless the police overseeing this and I hope The Almighty guides them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Shame shame. you go ahead and celebrate bloke, as children bleed and suffer for life.

  3. Sharkey says:

    I hope that COP see that it’s time to make everyone accountable and enforce the laws against Child sex abuse . And don’t wait til it happens to your child . I know that it is only way that things get done , is when it hits close to home .

  4. Anonymous says:

    typical civil service incompetence….

  5. Anonymous says:

    This a failing of law enforcement CoP Byrne must be very familar with – check out the Murphy Commission of Inquiry report.

  6. Anonymous says:

    CNS… can you please confirm what is meant by the paragraph

    “The RCIPS has not revealed details of the three cases flagged by the review team but the investigations were said to have taken place between 2012 through 2014.”

    I’ve read elsewhere that the incidents may have taken place between 2012 and 2014, not the investigation of the incidents. It would be appreciated if you could provide clarity on this point.

    CNS: I double checked this point with the RCIPS. The CNS story is correct.

    I am finding it extremely difficult to understand, and to accept, that the RCIPS knows it has made absolute failures and can simply “recuse” itself from responsibility, and further cite severe “legal and evidential difficulties”, which the RCIPS itself created due to its own negligence and incompetence, as a justification for not pursuing these atrocities. Why are there no severe legal ramifications for the RCIPS or the officers involved? And the officers are still on the job?

    Furthermore, the RCIPS states “all it could do was apologize” to the victims. This isn’t even an apology! What a crock!

    How about the RCIPS/government provide restitution to the victims/complainants for the RCIPS’ muck ups?

    Where is the Attorney General in all of this? What about the Human Rights Commission? Where are the prosecutions for the accomplices concealing these offenses?

    And for all those who may be interested, the “senior UK investigators” who are meant to be back later in the year will be in Cayman in November 2017, as I understand it.

    Something needs to be done!

    All of that being said, thank you to the officers, and others, who have identified and are working hard to fix the problems in this particular area of policing. Please let’s get this right.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you CNS. Based on this information it would mean that an investigation which occurred during 2015 and onwards would fall outside of the scope of these 3 cases, since the investigations occurred during 2012-2014 – regardless of when the report was first made to the police.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Fire the officers responsible and leadership who have failed the public yet again!

  8. Shanobi says:

    Wouldn’t have been no mistake made if it was a drug or gun case….Deliberate if you think about!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Shanobi. I think if you check back a bit you’ll see that RCIPS have recently blown several major drugs and firearms cases because of investigation screw ups.

  9. MI6 in Paradise says:

    Disgraceful by RCIPS with zero accountability as usual.

    All the public seem to get are excuses and apologies that mean nothing to victims who have suffered while relying on the RCIPS to do their jobs professionally. Yet the leadership consistently request more funding while giving the public very little value for an annual budget of CI$35million per year. It’s time to fix this mess instead of just throwing more money at these systemic problems. Get rid of the dead wood and those who are not interested in performing their jobs at the appropriate standards of professionalism.

    IT IS TIME for a comprehensive and independent review of the RCIPS by the appropriate body the audits the police in the U.K. e.g Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC)

    Governor Kilpatrick it’s time to do some work and address the incompetence within the RCIPS which is under your direct control and supervision

    • Very concerned says:

      So true! The moral of the RCIP is very low. They need it to be a professional job. Starting with the recruitment . Until you stop hiring nannies, domestic helpers, gardeners window cleaners the moral of the Police will remain low. You know what I have never heard of a Police Force comprising of such calibre of people. No vetting. For an Island of such prestige or deemed the Jewel of the Caribbean our Police Force should be NO. 1 . About 20yrs ago they were a high percentage of professional Police Officers in the Force and I can vouch matters of this nature were professionally investigated with conviction by the Courts. The Premier keeps injecting money into the RCIP however this should be earned. To whom much is given much is expected.

      • Anonymous says:

        There was never a need for Review Team as all matters were properly investigated by Professional Police Officers !

  10. Anonymous says:

    Over the years the RCIPS leadership continued to receive a vote of confidence from the countries leadership despite what many of us know to be the truth. The entire RCIPS is in need of an independent external review as the country is clearly not getting value for money from what is in place today.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Don’t blame RCIPS for this! They haven’t got the required experience. You all need to blame your Government that point blank refuse the funding for an experienced person (s) from the UK to be placed in a permanent post and not just to lead the Child Protection Team for a few months and investigate previous or current child abuse. You need this experienced person to lead the Child Protection Team in the right direction. It’s no good having people frim the UK to advise the team and them not adhereing to their instruction.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just show you the incompetence and disrespect for victims by unprofessionals

    • Anonymous says:

      To be clear let us all understand the role Government plays in relation to the RCIP. the Governor is in control of the force, our politicians grant the funding. So before we jump down people’s throats, establish who is at fault and apply pressure to remedy the situation and offer solutions.

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