Police chief warns over historic crimes inquiries

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One of Britain’s top policemen has warned that forces in England and Wales are ill-equipped to deal with inquiries into past wrongdoing.

Sir Hugh Orde said there is increased demand for dealing with historical matters and current inquiries risk being under-resourced.

The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), addressing an event in Belfast, said: “We are seeing a demand to look into the past more and more and the police services of England and Wales are ill-equipped to deal with that.

“You cannot under-resource a historic inquiry; bizarrely, you can under-resource current inquiries.”

Sir Hugh established the Historical Enquiries Team of independent detectives in Northern Ireland to deal with more than 3,000 unresolved murders.

He has previously said a historic enquiries team with a dedicated focus and budget should be set up for the rest of the UK.

A national police group will meet for the first time next month to link child sex abuse investigations involving public figures and institutions such as schools and care homes.

The group, while not leading any investigations itself, will gather information on inquiries involving well-known figures such as celebrities and elected officials, or organisations such as schools, councils, hospitals, prisons, children’s homes or a parliament.

There are currently several ongoing inquiries across the country into alleged historic sex crimes, including Operation Pallial, which is looking at claims of abuse in care homes in North Wales; an inquiry into Knowl View school in Rochdale, where late MP Sir Cyril Smith is said to have preyed on boys, and Scotland Yard’s Operation Yewtree, which has seen Rolf Harris and former PR guru Max Clifford jailed for sex crimes.

Claims have also been made about an alleged paedophile ring with links to Westminster.

Sir Hugh was also referring to Hillsborough investigations into the stadium disaster in Sheffield on 15 April 1989.

Among other inquiries, a dedicated team of officers has been set up in South Yorkshire to examine historic allegations of child sexual exploitation in the area.