A SENIOR police officer is at loggerheads with a solicitor in an extraordinary row over the collapse of criminal cases involving more than 50 alleged victims of child sex abuse.
The Crown Prosecution Service has decided not proceed with allegations brought by dozens of former residents of St William’s, a notorious former children’s home in Market Weighton.
The decision was taken after the force and the CPS were unable to obtain statements made by the complainants to their solicitor, David Greenwood, of Jordans Solicitors, for the purpose of civil proceedings.
Colin Andrews, the Humberside Police detective who is leading a third criminal investigation into decades of abuse at the home, said the force had been to court to try to secure the documents but access was denied by a judge.
Mr Greenwood denied advising his clients to withdraw their complaints and insisted he had and would continue to co-operate with the police.
But Mr Andrews, a former chief superintendent, now business manager for the force’s criminal justice unit and senior investigating officer for Operation Reno, which was launched in 2010, said: “He’s told his clients not to co-operate with the police; he’s written to us to say if you go near my clients I’ll make a claim of harassment; and thirdly, he’s refused to give us vital documents we need to meet our obligations under disclosure of evidence rules. Of course it’s down to him, how can he say it’s not?”
Mr Greenwood, who is representing 205 men who claim to have been abused at the home in the 34 years up to its closure in 1992, said: “I have and will always co-operate with the police in my investigations. I have worked alongside many police forces throughout the country to achieve justice for victims of child abuse. I strongly resist any suggestion that I have tried to hamper any police investigation.
“My clients are entitled to confidentiality. This is information which has to be legally protected because of ongoing civil proceedings.
“Humberside officers took steps to obtain papers and in some cases my clients felt the officers’ conduct amounted to harassment. At this point I had to warn the police regarding their conduct in those cases.”
He added: “I am constrained due to the ongoing civil proceedings from giving more details at this point. I am committed to achieving justice for my deserving clients.”
Detectives are continue to investigate other claims of sexual abuse at the home.
Peter Mann, head of the Complex Casework Unit at the CPS, said: “In this case we have become aware that in addition to making statements to the police the complainants have also made statements to their solicitor for the purpose of civil proceedings. In order to meet our duties under the Code for Crown Prosecutors, we have sought sight of those statements from both the complainants and their solicitor.
“By law we must disclose to the defence any material in the case which could undermine the prosecution or assist the defence. Therefore, both the complainants and their solicitor were advised that without sight of those statements made for the purpose of civil proceedings we would not be able to proceed with the criminal allegations made by those complainants.
“This is not a question of whether there is sufficient evidence, whether we believe the complainants or whether a prosecution is in the public interest. We are not able to meet the legal requirements to proceed with a prosecution.
“Having been given this advice, 29 of the complainants have chosen not to allow us sight of those statements and we have therefore advised those complainants and Humberside Police that we are unable to proceed.
“In relation to the three that have agreed to the release of their documents, their cases remain under review and we await the documents from their solicitors.”
Mr Andrews said the number of cases dropped was now 53.
In November, the Supreme Court ruled that a Roman Catholic lay order, the De La Salle Brotherhood, must share liability for a multi-million pound compensation claim for child abuse at the home. The Brotherhood, which provided staff to the home, will have to compensate victims of abuse committed by its members, along with the Middlesbrough Diocese, which had overall responsibility for the home’s management.