Abuse case review sought

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Campaigners are pushing for a legal review of child sex abuse convictions against as many as 160 teachers and carers.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the men say they are making progress in their attempt to prove they are victims of a massive miscarriage of justice.

A team of solicitors, working together as the Historical Abuse Appeals Panel (HAAP), have compiled a database on all cases. They have found common threads among unsafe convictions, and have identified accusers who have made multiple allegations.

The panel is about to be awarded a contract by the Legal Services Commission, which provides funding for appeals. It would turn them into an umbrella organisation, which would win funds to advise all legal teams dealing with similar cases around the country.

The team already has a working agreement to advise the Criminal Cases Review Commission, responsible for referring cases to the Court of Appeal.

HAAP estimate up to 160 cases involving former teachers and care workers will come under its remit when the move is rubber-stamped in coming months, doubling its existing workload of around 80. It will then campaign for a review of all cases.

Concern centres around so-called police "trawling" techniques, when detectives contact the inmates of former children's homes years after the alleged abuse. It is thought it encourages false claims by some ex-residents motivated by compensation.

Mark Newby, an appeals panel director working with HAAP, said: "We don't object to trawling - what we object to is the way it is carried out and the lack of safeguards on how officers deal with it.

"A lot of former residents in some care homes have numerous police convictions. Sometimes you have an officer visiting an inmate 10 times before an official statement is made and this has to be regulated. We would like to see a block review of all these cases we are dealing with."

A report by the National Association of Schoolteachers Union of Women Teachers showed that allegations had been made against 1,742 teachers and carers in 10 years, but only 69 had been convicted.

At the union's conference in April members demanded legal rights for teachers to sue children and parents making false abuse claims.

A spokesperson for the Legal Services Commission said it was likely a special unit would be set up to deal specifically with cases from HAAP under the deal being brokered.

It is believed the cases of seven Welsh carers and teachers jailed for abusing children may be taken up. Chris Saltrese, the solicitor representing two of the men, including former headteacher and social services inspector Derek Brushett, who is serving a 12-year jail term on the Isle of Wight, said: "He was arrested following a trawling operation. I am 100 per cent sure of his innocence and we are still searching for new evidence to bring about an appeal."

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