Saturday, 26 May 2007

abuse probe

ABUSE PROBE LEAVES LIVES RUINED POLICE were today accused of ruining the lives of carers and teachers, after the closure of a major investigation into sexual and physical abuse at North East care homes. Operation Rose was launched in 1997 by Northumbria Police amid allegations that staff had abused children in their care. The investigation, which cost the taxpayer more than £4million, led to 32 people being charged with a total of 142 offences. In total, 277 residents and former residents of 61 children's homes made 558 allegations against 223 care workers for alleged actions including rape, indecent assault and physical assault. Of the 32 who faced court action, six were found guilty and one other pleaded guilty. Four male staff at the former council-run Witherwack House residential home, in Sunderland, were among those whose cases were thrown out. The home closed in 1992. The four, who were arrested in 1998, had denied charges of child cruelty. Judge Michael Cartlidge said too much time had elapsed since the dates of allegations stretching back 20 years when he dismissed the charges at Newcastle Crown Court in February 2000. Another Witherwack carer died in 1999 before he could stand trial. The North East branch of Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers (Fact) today condemned police methods used to collect complaints. The group claimed officers working on Operation Rose had used so-called "trawling methods" where they revisited former care home clients asking if they had ever experienced any problems whilst in care. Fact (North East) co-chairman Ray Johnson said: "Operation Rose has cost the taxpayers millions of pounds and yet has delivered very little. "Scores of carers and teachers have had their lives ruined and the lives of their families destroyed by these actions. "People who abuse children physically or sexually should be caught and punished, but the methods employed by Northumbria Police have brought the downfall of innocent people whose only crime was to look after disaffected children in care homes." Court reporting restrictions, which had covered Operation Rose cases in the past few years, were lifted yesterday with the end of the investigation's final case. Esme Allenby, 54, of Yeovil Close, Westwood Grange, Cramlington, Northumberland, was told she would not face trial for nine counts of indecent assault dating back 27 years. The prosecution in the case said it was in the public interest that the trial did not proceed because vital documents were missing. Northumbria Police was due to comment on Operation Rose at a press conference at police headquarters, Ponteland, this afternoon. Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith intends to pass his concerns regarding Operation Rose on to Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin. Mr Mullin will chair a House of Commons Home Affairs select committee study into police handling of investigations into alleged historic institutionalised child abuse in care homes across the country. Mr Beith, MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, said: "There are a lot of questions that need to be asked about this operation, which must have cost a large amount of money, but must have cost a lot more in the lives and careers of care staff and teaching staff. "A lot of innocent people have been severely hurt by this whole operation

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