Peter Davies: police have no lack of moral courage to tackle child sex abuse – by anyone
By Mark Conrad | 30 January 2013
In an interview with Exaro, Peter Davies, head of child protection at the Association of Chief Police Officers, issued the stark warning to anyone who carried out any paedophile activities – regardless of the offender’s social status.
“I do not think that you are seeing a lack of moral courage on the part of the police in tackling this, bluntly,” he said.
Davies, who is also chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), the London-based police unit that works with forces throughout the UK to tackle sexual abuse of children, said: “To us, it will not matter whether you committed your offence today, yesterday, a month ago, a year ago or a decade ago.
“You have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life because there is no time limit on prosecution.”
“It does not matter who you are. For me, that is a fundamental part of the ethics of policing, and I believe that is what my colleagues up and down the country believe in as well.”
CEOP, based in central London, assists police forces investigating child sexual exploitation by providing expert analysis and investigative skills.
Davies said that UK forces had transferred significant resources to “child protection” to help investigate fresh and historical allegations.
He said: “It means that, increasingly, this is seen not as what people say it might have been five years ago, a bit of a ‘Cinderella’ part of the service, set aside as a specialism. It is absolutely mainstream, hardcore investigative policing.”
His tough message is aimed at addressing concerns that the police have previously failed to take allegations of sexual abuse of children seriously enough – for all types of offenders. Police also face accusations that they have previously backed away from investigating such allegations against people in powerful positions or with high social status.
Last week, Exaro disclosed that police forces are working on at least 30 “major” operations investigating suspected child sexual exploitation by groups or gangs in England and Wales.
Davies said that the kind of resources used to tackle such offences is akin to those devoted to investigating murders or serious organised crime.
A comprehensive list of the 30 “major” operations was compiled using data gathered from police forces, some of it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Exaro has made a series of revelations about the case of an alleged paedophile ring, including MPs and other VIPs, centred three decades ago at Elm Guest House in south-west London. Last weekend, Exaro disclosed how a Conservative party campaign group “strongly recommended” the guest house to members in a newsletter.
The Metropolitan Police Service two weeks ago launched a full criminal investigation – ‘Operation Fernbridge’ – into those allegations.
The Met’s paedophile unit is also running ‘Operation Fairbank’, which is scoping other allegations against political figures passed on by Tom Watson, Labour MP.
And the Met set up ‘Operation Yewtree’ to investigate allegations against Jimmy Savile, the BBC presenter who died in 2011, and other people from the celebrity world.
Davies said that all cases of child sexual exploitation were about “vulnerability meeting power”, whether or not the offender is a prominent person.
“Power can range from physical force, money, authority, celebrity and a number of different things. Vulnerability can mean different things as well.
“But that is the essence of it,” he continued, “Power uses the situation to exploit sexually.”
Talking about Exaro’s list of 30 major operations, he added: “That is a common thread running through these cases.”
“I sometimes hear people say that ‘historical’ allegations should almost be left on the shelf because we have ‘current’ cases.”
“None of it can be left on the shelf,” he said. “First, if you are the victim, it is not historical. It is current probably until the day that you disclose it to somebody, achieve as close to justice as you can and had support in closing it off.”
“These high-profile historical cases have a value in their own right and, in a sense, they are as much about policing the present as the current cases.”