Last month a man was jailed for five years for committing serious sexual offences against a female relative in the 1970s. Detective Constable Matt Smees led the case and blogs about what it’s like to investigate non-recent sexual abuse.
“It was early in 2015 that I took up the investigation. A woman had contacted us to say that she had been raped more than 40 years ago and had now decided that she wanted the case investigated.
“People come forward about non-recent abuse for many different reasons. Often they feel the need for a sense of closure, or they may now be in a position in their lives where they feel able to cope with reliving the trauma.
“No matter how long it’s been since the offences were committed, it’s equally important that we believe the victim and investigate everything as thoroughly as we possibly can.
“Naturally cases with a historic element such as this one do present investigative difficulties as there aren’t always as many evidence trails. For example, there may not be the forensic or CCTV opportunities that some more recent cases may have. Instead we have to rely on testimonies from other people, people who knew the victim and or offender at the time and in the subsequent years.
“In this case the victim had disclosed the abuse to some of her relatives at around the time the abuse happened, which gave us a number of lines of enquiry to follow.
“One of the key witnesses to the case lived in Jamaica and was unable to travel to the UK for health reasons.
“We spoke to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who advised that this witness could be crucial to a decision to charge the suspect, and so after a lot of letters back and forth we flew to the Caribbean to interview the witness.
“Certain areas of Jamaica were deemed to be too dangerous for us to go to – both for our own safety but also for the safety of the witness who could potentially be in danger if they were seen to be associating with us.
“Instead the Jamaican officers brought the witness to us and the interview was carried out as any other witness interview in this country would be.
“The evidence that the witness gave proved key. The man was charged with a number of counts of sexual offences and following a trial was found guilty. The jury deliberated for 15 hours and worked really hard to reach their verdict.
“The offender was sentenced to five years in prison; a sentence which I believe shows how seriously the courts do take this type of offences.
“I was really pleased with both the verdict and sentence. This woman had been through years of hell, both during the abuse itself and in the subsequent years, as well as the difficulty of going through a lengthy police investigation and court process.
“For her it was a good result. She needed that closure; she’d told her story, she’d been believed, and she could now properly begin to move on.
“For many victims of non-recent sexual abuse, coming forward is their chance to speak out about what happened to them, and to make the person that inflicted this torment on them explain their actions to a judge and jury.
“I hope that cases like this show people that no matter how many years have passed since the abuse took place, it’s never too late. You will be believed, you will be taken seriously, and justice can be done.”
The National Association For People Abused During Childhood (NAPAC) is a charity that offers support and guidance to people who were abused as a child. Visit their website for further information or call their free support line on 0808 801 0331.
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