Seaford couple's 'lives shattered' by north Wales child cruelty claims
A couple have said their lives have been "shattered" after they were wrongly accused of historical child cruelty dating back more than 40 years.
Denis and Aideen Jones faced charges of cruelty against two boys between the mid-1970s and 1980 at a north Wales care home.
A Chester Crown Court jury unanimously cleared the couple, from East Sussex.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the couple had been subject to a "thorough and ethical investigation".
The couple had spent more than two-and-a-half years on bail since being arrested in August 2013 under the NCA's Operation Pallial.
'Distressing' Facebook chat
It was claimed Mr Jones, 66, took one boy into an office and threw chairs at him while encouraged by Mrs Jones, 63.
The couple said the main allegation against them related to 1973 and 1974 when the accuser was aged nine or 10, but during the nine-day trial, jurors heard they did not start working in north Wales until 1975.
"We spent two-and-a-half years of not being able to clear our names and not being able to talk about it," said Mrs Jones, who was chief executive of Southdown Housing Association, based in Lewes at the time of her arrest.
"On alleged victims' sites on Facebook and Twitter, people seem to feel they can talk about anything even if it's not factual or just. That was quite distressing."
Mrs Jones was awarded an OBE in 2014 for her services to people with learning disabilities.
What is Operation Pallial?
- The National Crime Agency is investigating allegations of historical abuse at children's homes in north Wales
- More than 100 allegations of historical abuse between 1963 and 1992 are under active investigation
- 51 men and women have been arrested, or interviewed under caution - 16 of them charged
- To date, six people have been convicted
- The CPS is currently considering files of evidence relating to 26 people
- Mrs Justice Macur has been appointed to review the 2000 Waterhouse inquiry into north Wales abuse dating back to the 1970s
At the time of their arrest, Mr Jones was a national research officer for the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).
They have both now lost their jobs and have used their life savings on their £106,000 legal costs.
Mr Jones called for a limit to the length of time people spend on bail and said people accused of crimes should be given anonymity until proven guilty.
"It's had an impact on our health, with the worry and stress of it all," said his wife.
"We have seen celebrities... falsely accused but there are hundreds of people in our position."
Mr Jones said it would be hard to return to normality now the case is over.
"We have got to accept that we are going to go through a post-traumatic stress phase," he said.
"It has felt like two-and-a-half years of our lives have been put on hold and our plans for the future destroyed."
The NCA said it accepted the jury's decisions.
"We would like to thank all those who came forward and provided information or who gave evidence at the trial," it said in a statement.
"This was a thorough and ethical investigation.
"It was independently reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service who decided that there was sufficient evidence to be heard by a jury.
"Channels are available if Mr or Mrs Jones wish to make any formal complaint."