Former professional footballer David Lean has given his backing to a scheme which helps victims of child sexual abuse get justice.
The Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel, which is a joint enterprise between the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Crown Prosecution Service, revisits cases where a victim or survivor feel the decision to take no further action in an investigation was unjust and would like the result to be reconsidered.
David was abused by football coach Barry Bennell in 1980 and had his case referred to CSARP in 2013. The panel made the decision for police to reinvestigate, which resulted in Bennell being charged. David said: “If you are not able to move on because you have this anger, this bitterness inside you from your case being dropped five, six years ago or longer, I would recommend you go through this system.
“Without the panel, there wouldn’t have been a second look at my case. There is no guarantee that your case will be reinvestigated and yes, it will be difficult, but it could change your life. It changed my life,” he added.
In April 2015, Bennell pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault on a male under the age of 14, and two counts of enticing a boy under the age of 14 to commit an act of gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment for these offences.
The panel was set up in June 2013 and considers whether the approach taken by the police or CPS was wrong and advises whether the allegations should be reinvestigated and/ or reviewed.
The panel looks at the information requested of and provided by the relevant police force or CPS area, to decide whether to advise that the original decision was correct or if further action should be taken.
If the decision is made to reinvestigate or review the case, it will be referred back to the police force or CPS area from where the case originated for them to decide on the action to be taken. If the panel agrees with the original decision to take no further action, the victim or survivor is informed by letter but signposted for specialist help and support. There is, however, no appeal point beyond the panel.
Since being set up, 184 cases have been referred to CSARP. Of these:
- 143 cases were reinvestigated by police or reconsidered by CPS (78%)
- 20 cases were agreed NFA by the panel (11%)
- 21 cases where the victim disengaged with the panel (11%)
Of the 143 cases that were reinvestigated or reconsidered:
- 44 cases resulted in NFA by police or CPS (31%)
- 29 cases resulted in a charging decision (20%)
- 21 cases resulted in a conviction (15%)
- 14 cases remain live investigations (10%)
The remaining 35 cases are recorded as either having insufficient details, resulted in NFA due to victim disengaging with the investigation or are recorded as unknown (24%).
NPCC lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “We have listened to the experiences of victims and survivors and we are doing our best to ensure that today, they can be confident that if they come forward to police they will be treated with empathy, their report taken seriously and a proportionate investigation will follow.
“Policing has made mistakes in the past and we recognise that some victims and survivors may feel that they have been previously failed. However, the Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel seeks to give those victims and survivors the opportunity to get the justice they deserve – as David Lean says in the film, the impact can be life-changing.
“It is really encouraging that 78% of cases being referred to the panel are being reinvestigated or reconsidered by police and CPS, ensuring the case is examined again to present day standards. Whilst some cases do not result in a charging decision, it is crucial that victims and survivors feels they have been listened to and provided with an explanation regarding why the case cannot proceed,” he added.
CPS Chief Crown Prosecutor, Ed Beltrami, said: “Getting justice for victims of these horrific crimes is a priority and I urge anyone who feels a decision should be revisited to engage with the panel. Working with police, it is imperative we give victims the confidence to come forward and report these offences.
“Since its inception, a number of cases referred have been reviewed, charged and prosecuted. CPS and police have come a long way over the years in understanding sexual abuse offences, and our knowledge and understanding of them will continue to develop. It is important that decisions that were made before this change came about are looked at again,” he concluded.
Victims and survivors who wish to refer their case to the panel can do so through a dedicated email address: email@example.com