Scores trapped in abuse inquiry

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 150 former care workers have been arrested, charged or convicted in on-going child abuse inquiries, according to police figures. Allegations against at least 40 others are still being investigated, and more than 35 have been jailed for a total in excess of 300 years. Inquiries into claims of abuse involve more than 140 homes that cared for children, mainly in the 1970s and 1980s.

The scale of the investigations and the number of homes involved in on- going inquiries shed light on the legacy of widespread, but previously unreported abuse in children's homes throughout Britain during those decades.

It will also add weight to suspicions that paedophiles infiltrated the care system. In the north west alone, allegations of abuse have been made against more than 200 people in separate investigations. Over the past three years, police forces have been investigating allegations of widespread sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in the care system. Most of the alleged abusers are former care workers and others once employed in residential units.

In most of the cases, police have interviewed large numbers of former residents of the homes. Some of the care workers accused of abusing children have died, or cannot be traced. Others have been cautioned or told that no further action is being taken, while in some cases the Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to prosecute.

In Merseyside, Operation Care, one of the biggest inquires in the country, has resulted in 19 people being jailed for a total of 126 years. A further eight have been charged and 26 are on police bail. Detectives have just begun inquires at their 79th children's home.

In Cheshire, police have begun two operations - Osmosis and Ozone - and are investigating allegations against 32 people. In four other operations, 13 men were jailed for a total of 110 years, and another dozen were arrested or charged at some time during the inquiry.

In Cardiff, Operation Goldfinch, an inquiry into allegations of abuse at more than 50 homes, has led to 13 people being charged and two jailed. In the parallel Taff Vale Inquiry, two former care workers were last week jailed for a total of 27 years.

The on-going inquires come in the wake of major police investigations into abuse in north Wales and Leicestershire, which resulted in former care workers being charged or convicted.

The North Wales Abuse Tribunal is due to report soon and is expected to make recommendations on the vetting and training of care staff.