IPCC faces scrutiny over its handling of complaint about sexual abuse of boys in borough

By Mark Conrad | 22 April 2013

Met investigates police watchdog over Richmond ‘paedo ring’Detectives on ‘Operation Fernbridge’ are investigating their own watchdog over claims that it failed to examine allegations of child sex abuse in Richmond.

Exaro can reveal that Scotland Yard is turning the tables on the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by investigating allegations that the watchdog had failed to act over the claims nine years ago.

The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit has asked the IPCC for all its files on the case, including tapes of interviews.

Police have taken the extraordinary step as part of their investigation into allegations that boys in care in Richmond, south-west London, were sexually abused between 1977 and 1983 initially at Grafton Close children’s home and then at Elm Guest House nearby in Barnes.

This was turned into a full criminal investigation in January, and covers allegations that prominent people – including MPs – sexually abused boys at the guest house.

The IPCC is under scrutiny over its “review” of a previous Met investigation into the claims of child sex abuse in Richmond.

An official at the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames prompted the first Met investigation in 2003. Most of his allegations were about claims of physical abuse of elderly people in the care of Richmond council.

Case files show that the police were told then that children were “procured from care homes” to work at the guest house that operated as a “brothel” and was frequented by “ex-ministers”.

The official, who wishes not to be identified, then complained to the IPCC in 2004 about what he saw as the Met’s failure to investigate the allegations properly.

After 14 months, the IPCC dismissed the official’s complaint against the police force.

Under Operation Fernbridge, the Met is already investigating claims against its own officers that they had failed to look into the allegations properly back in 2003.

But, in an amazing twist, the Met is also investigating the IPCC’s handling of the case.

An IPCC spokeswoman declined to comment about the case, referring questions to the Met.

The IPCC oversees the handling of complaints about the police across England and Wales. It is independent of police forces and government.

The watchdog often supervises investigations by the police forces themselves. But, for the most serious complaints, it can conduct investigations itself.

In January, the House of Commons home affairs committee said in a report that the IPCC “has neither the powers nor the resources that it needs to get to the truth when the integrity of the police is in doubt.”

The Met was aware of allegations of child sex abuse in Richmond long before they were raised by the council official.

Terry Earland, the borough’s former director of children’s services, told Exaro that he referred allegations from more than one boy at Grafton Close children’s home to police as well as senior council figures.

He arrived at Richmond council in 1981. The following year, the police carried out a raid on the guest house because of allegations that boys were being sexually abused there. The police notified the council in advance, he said.

“When one social worker brought a child to me to say, ‘This child is saying this,’… we referred it again to the police. The police certainly have investigated this on at least one, if not two, subsequent occasions after 1982.”

“My modus operandi at that time was always that if there was an allegation of abuse, it got referred to the [police] child-protection unit.”

Police have seen a huge growth in operations aimed at tackling child sexual exploitation since Jimmy Savile, the late BBC presenter, was exposed as a paedophile last October. That case prompted Scotland Yard’s ‘Operation Yewtree’.

Only last week, Exaro revealed that Scotland Yard’s paedophile unit is investigating the Catholic Church in the UK for the first time over allegations of child sex abuse. A Catholic bishop has even been drawn into the police investigation.

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