Judge concludes girls were not systematically abused by members of paedophile ring

A judge has concluded that three girls were not systematically abused by members of a paedophile ring after an “unprecedentedly complex” High Court investigation.

Sir Mark Hedley (pictured) had analysed evidence at a lengthy private trial in the Family Division of the High Court in Manchester earlier this year in the wake of allegations by the girls.

Council social services staff had said evidence suggested that the girls, now in their mid-teens, were sexually abused over a number of years by members of a paedophile ring based around one family.

Bosses with responsibility for children within the family group had asked the judge to make findings.

The judge concluded that there had been some sexual abuse – and made findings against a male relative of the girls.

But Sir Mark says he is satisfied that no paedophile ring “ever” existed.

The judge said he had exonerated more than a dozen people who had faced allegations.

He concluded that there had been a “real degree of fantasy” in the case.

Sir Mark has outlined his conclusions in a written case ruling published online.

The judge said the case had been “unprecedentedly complex” and involved four councils, more than 50 barristers, 30 firms of solicitors, and a “huge outlay of public funding”.

He said police had investigated, and made arrests, before the High Court trial began.

But he said prosecutors had decided not to bring charges.

“In essence, the local authorities allege that there was a paedophile ring involving many (people),” said the judge in his ruling.

“The allegations demonstrate gross perversions.”

He added: “They include perversions which I have not previously encountered in evidence. Of course, any person found to have been involved in any such matter would inevitably pose a grave threat to any child in their care.”

Sir Mark said he was “entirely satisfied” that “no such ring” had been proved to exist and went on: “I am satisfied that no such ring did ever exist.”

The judge said: “I am satisfied that there is a real degree of fantasy in this case.”

Sir Mark says children and family members involved cannot be identified in media reports of the case.

He has not named the councils or the police force involved.

Judge who investigated paedophile ring claims tells of references to Cleveland

A judge who concluded that three girls were not systematically abused by members of a paedophile ring after a High Court investigation says the case generated references to two other high-profile child abuse inquiries.

Council social services staff had said evidence suggested that the girls, now in their mid-teens, were sexually abused over a number of years by many members of a paedophile ring based around one family.

Social services bosses had responsibility for a number of children within the family group and had asked Sir Mark Hedley to make findings.

Sir Mark said, in his ruling on the case, that “repeated reference” had been made to high-profile child abuse inquiries in Cleveland and Orkney, about three decades ago, during the litigation.

In both those cases, allegations about sex abuse resulted in children unfairly being taken by social services staff.

But Sir Mark said many other councils had been criticised for not taking action when they should have done.

He said investigators had been well-intentioned, but suggested that some might have been better trained.

“Repeated reference has properly been made to the Cleveland and Orkney inquiries, but to keep this case anchored in the real world, it must be remembered that for each of these inquiries, there have been many more excoriating local authorities for failing to take action when they should have done,” said Sir Mark.

“Child protection work is today carried out in a rabid and unforgiving atmosphere, generated by a well-grounded public fear that too many children are being abused in our society.

“It is unsurprising that investigators are not unaware of or unaffected by that atmosphere.

“That is, of course, why the court must never lose sight of the true lodestar of fact-finding, namely the reliability of the evidence.”

He added: “It is important to say something generally about the investigators in this case.

“I am satisfied that without exception they were all well-intentioned and well-motivated.

“In each case, their primary concern was the welfare of the girls, rather than the pursuit of any purist agenda of their own.”

He went on: “One thing that became apparent was that the training of many involved as investigators was either outdated and/or inadequate.

“Those who work in this area should always be versed in the current guidance and understand that it applies across the board.”

Sir Mark said social services staff were concerned with the welfare of more than 20 children in the wider family group.

But he said only the three girls at the centre of the case had been taken from home and gone into foster care.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The University Of Manchester.

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