1. On 2nd November 2012, the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight broadcast an
interview with Mr Steven Messham, which included allegations made by him that he
was abused as a child whilst in the North Wales care system and that the Waterhouse
Inquiry (see paragraphs 4-8 below) had failed to uncover the full extent of abuse in the
1970s and 1980s.
Receipt of new complaints
2. Following the broadcast of this interview and the ensuing intense public interest, the
North Wales Police, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
(NSPCC), the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, National Health Service (NHS)
Wales, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and other public
and voluntary services began to receive multiple complaints of historic child abuse
relating to the North Wales care system.
Home Secretary’s Speech
3. The Home Secretary summarised these past events in a statement to the House of
Commons on 6th November 20121:
4. “In 1991, North Wales Police conducted an investigation into allegations that,
throughout the 1970s and 1980s, children in homes that were managed and
supervised by Clwyd County Council were sexually and physically abused. The result
of the police investigation was eight prosecutions and seven convictions of former
care workers. …… a report produced by Clwyd Council’s own inquiry was never
published because so much of its content was considered by lawyers to be defamatory.
5. In 1995, the then Secretary of State for Wales….appointed a QC to examine all the
relevant documents and recommend whether there should be a public inquiry. The
recommendation was that there should not be a public inquiry but an examination of the work of private care homes and the social service departments in Gwynedd and Clwyd Councils.
6. This work revealed not only shortcomings in the protection of vulnerable children, but
the shortcomings had persisted even after the police investigation and subsequent
prosecutions. In 1996 …. [the] Secretary of State for Wales, invited Sir Ronald
Waterhouse to lead an inquiry into the abuse of children in care in the Gwynedd and
Clwyd Council areas.
7. The Waterhouse Inquiry sat for 203 days and heard evidence from more than 650
people. Statements made to the Inquiry named more than eighty people as child
abusers, many of whom were care workers or teachers. In 2000, the Inquiry’s report,
‘Lost in Care’, made 72 recommendations for changes to the way in which children in
care were protected by councils, social services and the police. Following the report’s
publication, 140 compensation claims were settled on behalf of the victims.
8. But the report found no evidence of a paedophile ring beyond the care system, which
was the basis of the rumours that followed the original police investigation, and indeed
one of the allegations that has been made in the last week.
9. Last Friday, a victim of sexual abuse at one of the homes named in the report – Mr.
Steve Messham – alleged that the Inquiry did not look at abuse outside the care homes,
and he renewed allegations against the police and several individuals.”
II REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION
10. The Chief Constable of North Wales Police, Mark Polin, asked for an external
investigation to be established in order to demonstrate his commitment and that of the
North Wales Police, to achieving independence and transparency. This decision was
taken in recognition of the fact that there may be residual public concern about a lack
of independence on the part of North Wales Police as a result of perceived failings of
historic investigations in this area.
11. The Chief Constable of North Wales Police requested that the Director General (DG) of
the National Crime Agency (NCA), Keith Bristow, lead an investigation into specific
recent allegations of historic abuse in the care system in North Wales. This
investigation is hosted by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). The Chief
Constable of North Wales and the DG of the NCA agreed that any evidence of police
misconduct that came to light would be referred to the appropriate authority. No such
evidence has been identified.
12. The investigation, named Operation Pallial, has been separated into two distinct phases
and its terms of reference are as follows:
“Phase 1Examine specific, recent allegations made in relation to historic abuse in care in
i Assess any information recently received in relation to abuse allegations.
ii Review the historic police investigations into such matters.
iii In light of the above, provide the Chief Constable of North Wales, copied to
the Home Secretary, an initial report, by the end of April 2013, identifying and
making recommendations for consequential action and further directions to
deliver the terms of reference.
If the need is identified, investigate those allegations and where necessary take
This review/investigation will not cover any new allegations of abuse which are
unconnected to the investigations in relation to the historic abuse in care homes
in North Wales. Any such new allegations will remain the operational
responsibility of the Chief Constable of North Wales.”
13. The following sections describe how the Operation Pallial investigation has come to its
preliminary conclusions and how the investigation has been conducted, resourced and
governed to date. In addition, the report gives detail and analysis of its findings so far,
and indicates the future direction of the investigation.
Summary of findings
14. The DG of the NCA has already reported the initial findings from Phase 1 of the
investigation to the Chief Constable of North Wales Police. This report was submitted
on the 28th March 2013 and a copy was sent on the same day to the Home Secretary.
The Chief Constable of North Wales Police has provided the Police and Crime
Commissioner, Winston Roddick CB QC, with a copy.
15. This report reveals that Phase 1 of the investigation has resulted in the collection of
significant evidence of systemic and serious sexual and physical abuse of children
whilst in care, at 18 North Wales care homes between 1963 and 1992. The
complainants were then aged between 7 and 19 years old.
16. No evidence of systemic or institutional misconduct by North Wales Police officers or
staff in connection with these matters has been identified.
17. The report recommended that Phase 2 should be proceeded with.
The Macur Review
18. The Macur Review is an Independent Review, chaired by The Hon Mrs Justice Macur
DBE. On 8th November 2012, The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Lord Chancellor and
Secretary of State for Justice, made a Parliamentary Statement announcing that a
review of Sir Ronald Waterhouse’s Inquiry into the abuse of children in care in
Gwynedd and Clwyd Council areas would be conducted. The Terms of Reference for
the Review are:
‘To review the scope of the Waterhouse Inquiry, and whether any specific
allegations of child abuse falling within the terms of reference were not
investigated by the Inquiry, and to make recommendations to the Secretary of
State for Justice and the Secretary of State for Wales’.
19. Mutual co-operation
The Macur Review and Operation Pallial are separate undertakings, but operate in
parallel. Mrs Justice Macur and the Director General have recognised that historic and
new information about child abuse in North Wales children’s homes in the 1970s and
1980s are relevant to their respective review and investigation, and that there are
significant public confidence issues attached to both undertakings.
20. Against this background, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was put in place at
the outset, governing how the two teams would work together. The memorandum is
based on three key principles: integrity, mutual co-operation and the sharing of
information. Both teams will hold, process and dispose of any information obtained as
part of their review process in full compliance with legislation including the Data
Protection Act 1998, Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Public Records Act 1958.
21. Given that Operation Pallial is an investigation into criminal offences that may in due
course lead to future prosecutions, it was agreed the Operation Pallial team would have
primacy over any information required as part of its investigation. When information
held by the Operation Pallial team is no longer required but which may be relevant to
the terms of reference of the Macur Review it will immediately be made available to
22. This sharing of information, in compliance with confidentiality and data protection
rules, is also intended to mitigate costs and duplicated effort by those holding
information relevant to both undertakings, including the North Wales’ councils.
Moreover, to avoid any prejudice to potential criminal proceedings, the Macur Review
team routinely seek clearance from Operation Pallial before conducting interviews and
meetings with individuals who might be assisting Operation Pallial.
23. Since their inception, regular meetings have taken place between the Secretary to the
Macur Review and Operation Pallial’s Co-ordinator, SOCA Deputy Director Andy
Sellers. The MOU has worked well and continues to do so.
Strategic Coordination Group
24. From the outset, the investigation has been complainant focused. A Strategic
Coordination Group (SCG), chaired by the DG of the NCA, was established consisting
of representatives from across the range of relevant agencies; including the NCA, North
Wales Police, SOCA, CEOP, Conwy County Council, Victim Support, NSPCC, the
North Wales Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG) and the Children’s
Commissioner for Wales. The group meets regularly to scrutinise, and when necessary,
to challenge the investigation, monitor its progress and provide advice and guidance.
25. SCG members have been encouraged to challenge the Investigation Team if they
consider more can or should be done, particularly in relation to the handling and care of
complainants. The group continues to serve as a useful ‘touchstone’ for the
Investigation Team and a forum in which members can raise any concerns.
26. This investigation has already been subjected to an in depth independent review of its
management, processes and systems. This review has been conducted by Detective
Chief Superintendent Naylor and Detective Chief Inspector Coombs from Merseyside
Police. It has concluded that the investigation is being well managed and on target to
achieve its objectives.
27. It is recognised that in addition to the interests of the complainants, there is a very
broad range of institutions, organisations and individuals that may have an interest in
Operation Pallial. In recognition of this, the SCG has produced a Stakeholder
Engagement Plan to maintain and develop liaison and communications between all
28. The form and frequency of this communication is commensurate with their level of
involvement or interest in the investigation. These channels of communication are twoway
and provide an opportunity for individuals and groups outside of the SCG to
provide advisory feedback to the investigation.
29. Operation Pallial has a designated lead communications officer, Mr Carl Baldacchino,
who is in contact with a network of communication officers in all other agencies and
organisations with an interest in Operation Pallial.
30. The Stakeholder Engagement Plan is updated under the supervision of the SCG.
Stakeholders and other interested parties not presently engaged will be added as and
when identified. The investigation communications officer will make a positive effort
to engage with all relevant parties when there is material to be communicated.
31. Operation Pallial is independent of North Wales Police and draws policing,
investigation and forensic resources from police forces and law enforcement agencies
across England and Wales. By completion of Phase 1, there were 31 permanent team
members deployed comprising of police officers, police staff and SOCA officers. The
North Wales local authorities and CEOP have each supplied a social worker; one with
experience of mental health issues and one with child protection experience.
32. In addition, a sub group led by Jenny Williams, Director of Social Services for Conwy
County Borough Council, has focused on identifying the short and long term support
and counselling required by the complainants who have come forward.
33. There are a number of other SOCA and police specialists providing support when
required. Levels of resources are regularly reviewed to ensure they match demand and
are being used efficiently and effectively.
34. A detailed financial report has been forwarded to the Chief Constable of North Wales
Freedom of Information
35. A number of public bodies with an interest in the events leading to this investigation
have received Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) requests. The Association of
Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Central Referrals Unit (CRU) has taken responsibility
for assisting Operation Pallial and its stakeholders in relation to these requests.
36. The CRU has given advice to organisations that have received FOI requests relating to
or linked to this investigation. However, the decision whether or not to publish the
requested material rests entirely with the agency holding that material. The Act
provides for some circumstances where publication can be refused, for example where
it is judged it may harm a criminal investigation or lead to the identification of an
individual who is entitled to anonymity.
III THE INVESTIGATION
37. The aim of the investigation is, in accordance with the terms of reference (set out in
paragraph 12), to examine specific, recent allegations made in relation to historic abuse
in care in North Wales; and if the need is identified, investigate those allegations and
where necessary take appropriate action.
38. The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), Detective Superintendent Ian Mulcahey from
Merseyside Police, has defined the objectives of the investigation. They are as follows:
a. Where necessary take appropriate action to gather cogent evidence with a view to
securing convictions for those involved in offences;
b. To create an environment wherein complainants are supported in order that they
feel safe to co-operate with the investigation and to give evidence in court; and
c. To promote the perception in the community that offences of violence against
children and vulnerable people are taken seriously and investigated properly.
39. As part of this process, all reports made to North Wales Police or any other
organisation known to Operation Pallial were collated and the personal details of those
making contact were checked to ensure that all reports reached the investigative team.
All other police forces and agencies which might have received a complaint, have been
given the Operation Pallial dedicated telephone number and e-mail address.
40. Within the first two weeks of the start of the investigation the team had received over
seventy reports, which broadly fell into the following categories:
a. New complainants who have not made previous allegations to the police;
b. Complainants who have previously made disclosures and now have more to tell;
c. Complainants who have previously been spoken to by the police and did not
make any allegations at that time but now wish to make disclosures.
41. Not all of the persons contacting Operation Pallial wanted to make allegations. Some
provided information, while others made allegations of crimes that did not fall within
Operation Pallial’s remit. In the latter case, these people were directed to the
appropriate police force for action.
42. The decision was taken to have all complainants video interviewed in order to facilitate
them giving the best account of events they could. These video interviews have been
conducted by specially trained and accredited investigators, sometimes accompanied by
a social worker, and have taken place in a fully equipped interview suite. The procedure
is designed to provide a comfortable environment for the interviewees and to ensure
that the complainant or witness is able to give the best account possible.
43. Many of the complainants have now left the North Wales area. The SIO created
Witness Interview Packages so that these complainants could be contacted and their
accounts taken as soon as possible following initial contact. These were used by
officers on the Operation Pallial investigation team and were also despatched to the
relevant police forces across the country for witness interviews to be conducted by
local police on behalf of the investigation.
44. The package was designed for the interviewing officer to study before conducting the
witness interview. Each package contains a brief explanation of the background of the
investigation and most importantly the objectives of the interview, as well as providing
an interview plan with key questions to be asked to ensure uniformity.
45. The DG of the NCA is grateful to forces for conducting interviews on behalf of the
NCA and to local support services and agencies that provided support to complainants
(and in some cases continue to do so).
46. As part of the investigation, the SIO has completed risk assessments and management
plans in several distinct areas of the investigation. The SCG reviews progress on these
issues. Specifically, the Investigation Team has recognised the significance and
importance of the following:
a. Management of complainants and witnesses – the identification of safeguarding
needs, expectations, anxieties and fears. Two full time social workers have been
employed to deal with safeguarding issues before and after interview and to
advise witnesses and complainants of appropriate therapeutic services;
b. Community impact assessments – it is recognised that there is a substantial
interest in the local and wider communities in the investigation, and wide
engagement occurs in an effort to meet public expectations. The measures
deployed in respect of this assessment include press briefings, media and website
statements and partner and stakeholder briefings.
c. Recognition of the impact of a wrongful accusation. The confidential handling of
personal data to reduce the risk of accidental disclosure and the effective
management of an inaccurate revelation in order to minimise potential harm.
Step-by-step route for complainants and witnesses
47. The following is a summary of the process once a witness or complainant has made
contact with the investigation:
a. A complainant or witness contacts the investigation team (or prior to the
establishment of the investigation, another organisation that has passed on his or
her details) and indicates that he or she wishes to provide information about a
b. The complainant or witness is contacted by an investigator to ascertain the nature
of the allegations and identity of any suspected offenders. This information is
assessed to determine whether it falls within the Operation Pallial terms of
reference. If this is the case, arrangements are made to conduct a video interview.
c. The complainant or witness is video interviewed.
d. A safeguarding assessment is carried out and this is provided to the dedicated
Operation Pallial social worker.
e. The social worker speaks to the individual after the interview to offer appropriate
49. The following provides a representative example of how Operation Pallial responded to
one particular complainant (named “Oliver” for the purposes of this report) during the
course of the investigation:
In early January 2013, Oliver telephoned the Operation Pallial team. He disclosed that
he was a victim of physical and sexual violence back in the late 1970s and early 1980s
whilst in care in a children’s home in North Wales.
Later the same day, Oliver was contacted by an experienced investigator working as
part of the Operation Pallial team. Oliver disclosed that he had not previously spoken
to the police and wanted to report offences against two named individuals. The officer
established that the allegations fell within the remit of the investigation.
Oliver was informed about the next steps, which included an explanation of the
interview process and its purpose. Oliver agreed to be video interviewed and
arrangements were made for an interview to take place.
Just five days later Oliver was video interviewed by investigators. He was able, during
the interview, to give a detailed account of abuse that he had suffered whilst in the care
Shortly after the interview, Oliver was contacted by one of the Social Workers attached
to the investigation team. He was offered support, including specialist counselling and
was given contact details of dedicated Social Workers in order to provide him with ongoing
50. All video interviews have been transcribed after which they have been reviewed by the
SIO. The SIO has then sought to identify what offences have been disclosed and by
whom. This information has then been supplied to the Intelligence Analyst who has
been commissioned to undertake offender analysis (please refer to paragraphs 60-66).
Forensic and medical evidence
51. Each allegation has been reviewed in order to establish whether any forensic
opportunity exists, albeit that a considerable period of time has passed since the time
these offences are alleged to have occurred and the use of forensic evidence as an
investigative and evidential tool was much less developed than it is today.
52. If there can be any fresh forensic work this will be pursued on a case by case basis. Any
relevant item recovered will be the subject of a forensic plan in order to maximise any
53. Any previous forensic results will be scrutinised to establish the reliability of any
previous findings and an assessment of its potential use in any new prosecution.
54. The SIO has considered the importance of ensuring that any relevant medical evidence
is obtained and its significance understood. Where relevant, a Forensic Medical
Examiner will provide advice upon the obtaining of and interpretation of medical
findings, and the significance of any relevant matters recorded in documents obtained.
The Crown Prosecution Service
55. A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyer has been appointed to assist Operation
Pallial, in addition to the SOCA solicitor, Mr Robin Weyell, who is already attached to
the investigation. The CPS provides on-going support to the investigation as interviews
are conducted and as the investigation moves on to pursuing further lines of inquiry.
56. The CPS lawyer has advised that priority should be given to the most serious
allegations and a prioritisation process has been agreed with them.
57. The SIO will, at appropriate points in the investigation, refer the evidence in relation to
named suspects to the CPS lawyer for advice. This advice will be in accordance with
the terms of the Code of Crown Prosecutors, namely:
a. Whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction;
b. Whether the prosecution would be in the public interest.
58. The CPS lawyer will also advise in respect of the most appropriate offences with which
any suspect should be charged; and on whether there may be any further evidence to be
secured to assist the case.
59. Advice on the above will also be provided to the CPS from a senior barrister with
extensive experience in historical sexual abuse cases.
IV OUTCOME TO DATE
ANALYSIS OF FINDINGS
60. Complainants and witnesses have reported suspected offences to Operation Pallial from
locations across England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
61. At the date of this Report a total of 140 complainants have contacted Operation Pallial
with allegations relating to their time in care. This figure is comprised of 125 male
complainants and 15 female complainants.
62. Of these, interviews with 18 complainants remain pending as a result of their being
unavailable for interview or choosing not to pursue their allegations.
63. Of the remaining 122 complainants, most have now been video interviewed. So far, 76
have provided new allegations to the police.
64. Reports have been made of offences and conduct at 18 care homes in North Wales
between 1963 and 1992 and the age range of the complainants at the time of the
allegations was between 7 and 19 years old.
65. Complainants have provided accounts of serious criminal offences being committed
against young and vulnerable people by the adults charged with their care. In the vast
majority of reports there was a clear element of grooming with a serious abuse of trust
and dereliction of duty of care. The offences range from verbal and physical assaults
and abuse through to indecent assaults, rape and buggery.
66. At present there are allegations against 84 named individuals, of whom 75 are males
and 9 are females. There are a further 32 allegations against unidentified individuals.
There are 16 alleged repeat offenders i.e. more than one complainant naming the same
individual. Ten of these alleged repeat offenders are believed to be deceased.
67. Complainants have provided graphic accounts of serious criminality. A common theme
from complainants’ accounts is that they have previously been reluctant to make
allegations or co-operate with investigations through fear of not being believed or taken
68. These are serious allegations that require further investigation. On 28th March 2013, the
DG of the NCA provided the Chief Constable of North Wales with his report, copied to
the Home Secretary, with a recommendation that Phase 2 should be pursued. The Chief
Constable of North Wales is in agreement. The Investigation is now moving to Phase 2.
69. The investigation has already started to embark upon a significant number of
investigative actions generated by the complainant interviews.
70. Phase 2 will involve the further investigation of allegations made by complainants, the
interviewing of alleged named offenders, liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service
and where appropriate, the charging of an alleged offender or offenders. Key to the
prioritisation process for sequencing future action will be an assessment of the level of
on going risk to the public.
71. Complainants have in the past been reluctant to come forward for fear that their
complaints would not be taken seriously. The investigation team recognise and respect
the courage of the people coming forward and that some may still feel unable to do so.
Some may wait until later. This does not diminish their right to be heard, dealt with
sympathetically and have their allegations fully investigated and the investigators
would like to encourage them to come forward.
The full report can be downloaded here
Below are some useful links for information or for the reporting of any offences:
Operation Pallial team:
Incident Room: 0800 118 1199.
Children’s Commissioner for Wales:
Freephone:0808 801 1000 Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays between 9am
Text 80800. Start the message with COM.