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Operation which involved allegations from 170 victims to conclude next week

An operation which investigated reports of non-recent abuse alleged to have been committed in residential children’s homes in South Cumbria is concluding on February 28, 2019.

Operation Tweed began in 2014 and has been complex with a dedicated team investigating multiple allegations from over 170 victims that were made against a number of people who worked at the schools.

Around 200 suspects were identified throughout the course of the Operation, and Cumbria Constabulary has worked diligently and professionally, working to national guidelines with advice and guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service and Operation Hydrant – the national co-ordinating hub for non-recent abuse investigations

The total cost of the investigation has been £2.3 million. Three men have been convicted of offences relating to the investigation, with one subsequently having his conviction quashed at the Court of Appeal.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Justin Bibby of Cumbria Police said: : “A dedicated team of detectives, led by a Senior Investigating Officer, has worked tirelessly to thoroughly investigate these reports, to gather and analyse evidence and to trace and interview a significant number of people, many of whom are now living in different areas across the country and further afield. This team have kept victims informed and signposted them to other agencies for support.

“Whilst we have ensured the victims who have come forward have been appropriately supported, we have also worked to ensure the entire investigation has been carried out thoroughly and impartially.”

Officers engaged on Operation Tweed investigated reports of abuse at Underley Hall School and six men were charged with offences. One man was charged with 18 counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and ten counts of child cruelty. This case was subsequently discontinued due to ill health. The man subsequently died.

Five other men were charged with offences. Three of those who were charged with single assault occasioning actual bodily harm offences were acquitted. One man had his case discharged by the judge and the sixth was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and child cruelty. However, these offences were subsequently quashed on appeal.

Officers also investigated allegations of abuse at Witherslack School and six men were charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and child cruelty offences. One man was subsequently acquitted prior to the trial and three men were cleared of the charges against them.

Two men were each convicted of one count of child cruelty and sentenced to suspended prison sentences.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Justin Bibby of Cumbria Police said: “Investigating cases which date back many decades are always challenging. In this instance, there were a number of potential defendants and people identified as victims who had died either prior to the beginning of the Operation or during it. Some of those who died had been charged with multiple offences.

“With 170 victims coming forward, the Constabulary sufficiently resourced Operation Tweed to allow a thorough and objective investigation to be conducted.

Cumbria Constabulary takes all reports of abuse seriously and we continue to urge anyone who believes they may have been a victim of abuse, to report it – no matter how long ago. All victims are treated professionally and sensitively, with dignity and respect.”

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