This is a rehash of a post that I wrote in 2015 about a complaint by three politicians, Boris Johnson, Nigel Lawson, and Edwina Currie, that the police were spending too much money on historic child abuse and not enough to keep the public safe from terrorism. Note carefully which political party they come from. The party that is often accused of putting money before the needs of the poor and vulnerable?
Nigel Lawson said
‘Look at how much the police is spending now on chasing up often unsubstantiated accusations of historic sex abuse. That’s got nothing to do with security. Those resources should be put where the need is.’ He suggested that present day offences should have more priority.
Boris Johnson said,
“And one comment I would make is I think an awful lot of money and an awful lot of police time now goes into these historic offences and all this malarkey.
“You know, £60m I saw was being spaffed up a wall, you know, on some investigation into historic child abuse.”
Lack of Understanding
The comment displays a complete lack of understanding, and empathy for the survivors of abuse, for whom the word “historic” is insulting. It suggests, of course, that the abuse is a thing of the past, long forgotten over time, whereas, in fact, it is a life sentence for an “abusee” and something they are reminded of in suffering every day. It is also, often, a crime yet to be investigated today by the police where sometimes evidence still survives in, for example, diaries and letters.
The sexual appetite of the sex offender, and his/her interest in children does not necessarily wane with time, and, despite their often advancing years, they can still be a danger to children of today.
The Role of Politics
Whilst the police are independent of politicians, they are very alive to political opinion, the view of the media of their effectiveness, and the feelings of the public towards them. Their paymasters are the government, and they are quasi governed by political figures ie Police and Crime Commissioners.
So it is no wonder that Police priorities change, almost with the wind.
The Savile Effect
In 2012 the Jimmy Savile scandal broke. There then followed media full of news about child abuse, which, we suddenly discovered transcended all echelons of society. Savile had even been courted by Royalty. The police came in for criticism for not investigating abuse thoroughly enough (thanks partially to the Home Affairs Select Committee Enquiry that I was involved with), and the pendulum swung back. Keir Starmer, then head of CPS re-invented the police guidelines for the investigation of child abuse by being very careful to avoid the use of the word “trawling”, closely followed by Theresa May setting up the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in 2015
The Pendulum Swings
Somehow the media got a bit bored with child abuse scandals and moved onto other topics. It was not a cynical decision by one media outlet but a gradual shift in news towards other topics. Now for example we are all obsessed with the cost of living. Eventually we will move onto other topics. The public will think that child abuse may have gone away because the news isn’t full of it. We are quite fickle and let important issues drift into the background.
Present Day Police Priorities
So where are we in 2022? How important to the police is child abuse, not only present day but historically?
I went onto a Police website to find out if priorities have changed and what they are now, some 11 years after Savile. The site expressed the views of high ranking police officers as part of the National Police Chief’s Council’s view looking forwards to 2023. I was not surprised to discover that historic child abuse, or even child abuse did not feature in anyone’s list. It is arguable that because some of the views were generic, child abuse could be subsumed within what they said. It confirmed to me, however, that priorities have changed with political will and media influence.
Mention was made of:-
- Inclusive attitudes to policing ie more ethnic members of society in the force
- Strengthening relationships with the public
- Improving the professional standards of the force
- Domestic Burglaries
- Violence against women and girls
- Mental Ill Health and Anti-Social Behaviour
- Better Data Delivery and Technology to solve crime
- Trust of Ethnic Communities in the Police
I have seen the pendulum of opinion about abuse swing backwards and forwards several times during the last 29 years that I have been dealing with it professionally. I hope that momentum does not swing the pendulum too far in the wrong direction.