Abuse Scandal: Thousands on care blacklist

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The Independent Online
Nearly 5,000 care workers and former care workers are on a government black list, it is revealed in the report. The 4,800 names on the list have all been referred by the police and all have received either convictions or police cautions.

There are another 750 names on the so-called "consultancy index", also run by the Department of Health. Names here are provided by employers and are considered to be unsuitable for work with children.

The figures give an insight into the scale of the abuse problem not found elsewhere. Although there have been various estimates of up to 110,000 paedophiles in Britain, the number operating within the care system remains unknown.

There are thought to be around 18 police investigations currently underway in Britain, and there have been a number of high profile prosecutions in Leicestershire, North Wales, Cheshire, Merseyside and London.

But successfully prosecuting alleged abusers is difficult. In North Wales, for example, police interviewed 2,500 people, which produced 500 complaints of abuse, but only eight people were prosecuted and of them six were convicted.

The Utting Report recommends that there should be a ban on the export of child pornography as well as its import. It estimates that in the US alone the market is worth pounds 2bn a year. "It is claimed that producers have filmed one million children in America. In the UK the market is clearly considerable, in the first nine months of 1994 the Metropolitan Police seized 7,200 child pornography tapes, a 50 per cent increase on what was seized during the whole of 1993," the report says.

One of the problems in successfully prosecuting abusers is the reliance on children giving evidence. The report says there should be flexibility in allowing evidence in a form best suited to the age of the child. It says that one in three children who report sexual abuse are under eight, but that prosecutions are extremely rare in this age group. "It is not acceptable that criminal justice should fail the weakest in society in this way."

Home Office figures confirmed the decline in the number of successful prosecutions for sexual offences against children. Recorded offences of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 went down from 299 in 1985 to 178 in 1995.

The report says that the conviction rate for gross indecency with children under 14 is just 12 per cent.