Abuse victims should be 'believed', says College of Policing

Sir Bernard Hogan Howe Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has said abuse claims should not be "unconditionally" believed

Police in England and Wales need to further encourage sexual abuse victims to come forward, the College of Policing has said.

Chief executive Alex Marshall said claims should be "believed" unless there was evidence to the contrary.

The guidance was sent out three days before Scotland Yard announced the closure of its inquiry into claims of a paedophile ring in Westminster.

The investigation, costing over £1.8m, ended without charges being brought.

In a letter from the college - the body which sets standards and guidance for police in England and Wales - chief constables were told they need to "further improve" the confidence of abuse victims to report allegations.

Mr Marshall said a "significant reason" why sexual assault victims did not report crimes was a concern they would not be believed.

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In his letter, he said "substantial efforts" had been made to make victims feel more confident about coming forward.

"It's important that progress is not lost," he said.

Mr Marshall said when someone makes an allegation police should "believe" their account and record a crime unless there was "credible" evidence to the contrary.

A thorough investigation should then take place, focusing on the allegation itself, not just on the victim.

Last month, a row erupted after the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said police must adapt their approach to abuse allegations so they do not "unconditionally" believe what victims say.

On Monday, the Met announced its inquiry into claims a VIP Westminster paedophile ring abused children in the 1970s and 1980s had closed without charges being brought.

The controversial Operation Midland ended as ex-MP Harvey Proctor was told he faced no further action over claims against him of child abuse and murder.

The investigation, which began in November 2014, was triggered by allegations made by a man in his 40s known as "Nick", who claimed he was abused for nine years from 1975, when he was seven, to 1984.

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