Abuse claim cops blasted by Solicitor

July 31, 2004

The lawyer defending the former headmaster of a Birmingham children’s home accused of ignoring complaints of boys being abused by staff has launched a stinging attack on West Midlands Police after a judge ruled the case should not proceed.Following several days of legal submissions Judge Alan Taylor said difficulties in prosecuting the case meant George Meanwell would not get a fair trial over allegations made up to 30 years ago when he was headmaster at the Tennal Assessment Centre.The 80-year-old man, of Tennal Drive, Harborne, denied 13 allegations of misconduct in a public office relating to a number of boys between 1971 and 1982.Following the judge’s ruling Mr Meanwell’s solicitor criticised the police’s decision to bring the prosecution, accusing them of “trawling” for witnesses.Chris Saltrese said: “All the complainants against Mr Meanwell were gathered by the police, by the police going to complainants and inviting them to complain, some of whom were in prison at the time.”I feel very strongly that this prosecution, which has been extremely cost-ly, should not have been brought.” He said this kind of “trawling” had been criticised by a select committee at the House of Commons and that it could lead to a miscarriage of justice.Police have carried out a wide ranging investigation at the centre in Har-borne which has resulted in the successful prosecution of a number of staff who were sexually abusing the vulnerable boys for a number of years.Care worker Arthur Birch, 82, who has since died in prison, was convicted of seven charges of indecent assault and three of a serious sexual offence, and was jailed for eight years.Police rejected accusations they were on a “trawling” expedition when they arrested Mr Meanwell.An incident room for the Tennal investigation, Operation Camassia, is still operating out of Aldridge police station.Det Insp Mark Salt, the officer in charge of Operation Camassia until recently, defended their actions.He said: “We interviewed a large number of individuals, some of whom had experienced significant sexual abuse while in the care of the local authority historically.”In circumstances such as these the police have a legal and moral obligation to follow all reasonable lines of inquiry.”This was done extensively in this case and gives a totally balanced picture.”

IC Birmingham

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