Police close child sexual abuse team Operation Winter Key without informing ISN

Survivors in the dark as abuse probe is ended. Despair as Met’s care homes investigation is wound down. Islington Tribune 08.04.22

Survivors in the dark as abuse probe is ended

‘Despair’ as Met’s care homes investigation is wound down

Friday, 8th April — By Anna Lamche

Dr Liz Davies

Dr Liz Davies: ‘At the very least, police should set up a small team to make sure children now are protected, which is the main concern for survivors’

A MET investigation into historic child abuse in Islington’s care homes has been wound down without a survivors’ group being told.

It has emerged that Operation Farmack, a dedicated police operation looking at the case, was brought to a stop in November.

Dr Liz Davies, from the Islington Survivors Network (ISN), said nobody had told them of this development and that she was in “complete despair” that nobody had been prosecuted by the Met in relation to the scandal since 2014.

She works closely with 300 survivors of abuse carried out in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. The total number of those who suffered as children is even greater. The ISN refers allegations and evidence to the police, with many suspected perpetrators still alive.

The Met Police has said it thoroughly investigates the ISN’s referrals but will not update the organisation on the progress of the case.

Dr Davies, however, has said “we absolutely would be aware of any prosecutions – we work closely with survivors, do our own research, collate evidence and witnesses” – and she was not aware of any.

In 2017, the Met Police established Operation Farmack, a dedicated police operation set up to investigate all allegations of non-recent child sex abuse in Islington care homes, which ran in two iterations until 2021.

Now Dr Davies has learned it was wound down before Christmas and cases will instead go to local police.

“It’s shocking. In eight years, we’re not aware of a single prosecution [by the Met Police],” she said.

The only person known to be prosecuted in connection with the scandal is Paul Lamb, a former police officer who had worked in Islington.

Last year, he was found guilty of 19 sex offences. This investigation was led by Yorkshire Police – not the Met – in relation to a care home Lamb ran in York in the 1980s.

Another specialist inquiry into historic child abuse across all of London by the police – Operation Winter Key – was closed earlier this year.

Dr Davies said: “We’ve got absolutely nowhere: we’re back to square one.”

Islington survivors wishing to report their allegations are now being told to call 101, submit information online, or visit the front desk of a police station.

Dr Davies has said this is likely to deter survivors from reporting their allegations. “It’s a totally insensitive, disgraceful response,” she said.

“At the very least, police should set up a small team to make sure children now are protected, which is the main concern for survivors.

They want justice, but mainly they want to know that this person is not still out there hurting children like they were hurt.”

She added that it is vital any perpetrators are brought to justice immediately, as they may still pose a risk to children.

“Paedophiles don’t change their behaviour,” she said.

Islington Council apologised for the scandal and has set up a support payment scheme which is set to go live this spring.

“There must be back-up police teams for allegations of criminal offences that come to light as a result of the scheme,” Dr Davies said.

“That’s what we asked to be set up in readiness for the scheme.”

Dr Davies, who was an original whistleblower on the child abuse scandal, said: “When I worked [for the council] in the ’90s, I got one conviction. And I thought: people believe me now. If somebody had shown me a picture of me aged 73 still trying [to get justice], I would have fainted.”

A spokesperson for the Met Police said: “We take all reports of abuse, recent or non-recent, extremely seriously. Specially trained officers will support victim-survivors and we will work to seek justice for them wherever possible. Victim-survivors who have reported non-recent abuse will be directly updated with regards to their investigation. If a third party refers information relating to allegations, then we have and will follow these up directly with the individuals concerned.”

An Islington Council spokesperson said: “Abuse of children in Islington’s care homes was the worst chapter in the council’s history, and we’re deeply sorry for the council’s past failure to protect vulnerable children. We are talking with the Metropolitan Police about the best ways survivors can be supported to report allegations or evidence of abuse.

“Islington Council today is a very different organisation from in the past, and today protecting children from harm is our top priority.”