Today Wrexham.com and others who have requested copies of the document were given a formal reply to their Freedom of Information requests for the release of the Jillings Report into North Wales Child Abuse.
We wrote last week how it had taken over 80 days for a decision to be made, with councillors taking it upon themselves to ask questions on the delay.
Today’s reply states “The Council’s commitment to wishing to publish the report remains, subject to advice on timing and what may be published. However, it has concluded that due to the ongoing Police investigation it is unable to release any of the report at this time.”
It appears that the FOI has been paused pending an ongoing Police investigation. A timeline is hinted at saying that publication in the future depends on what occurs into Operation Pallial. The Council state “Your current request for disclosure will be considered again at that time. There is no need to submit a further request.”
Although this appears that the FOI is still ‘live’ , the accompanying documentation suggests otherwise stating “The Council believes that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the interest in disclosure at the present moment in time.”
We have asked the Council if our FOI is considered closed and dealt with or if it is still considered active due to its quasi answered state.
You can read our previous articles on our attempts to get information about the Jillings Report, and Wrexham Council’s discovery of the report public by clicking here.
For completeness, the arguments given for and against disclosure by the Council are copied below:
Public Interest favouring disclosure:
“Operation Pallial is a current criminal investigation commissioned by the Home Office to look into recent allegations of historic child abuse in North Wales. To date it has been contacted by over 100 alleged victims of abuse and their complaints are currently being individually investigated. It is the intention of the senior investigating officer (CC Keith Bristow) that they “will work in an open, honest and accountable manner with all those who have a shared interest in protecting vulnerable people and bringing offenders to justice”
The information requested relates to alleged investigation failings of the Police Service and other agencies when investigating allegations of historic child abuse within care homes. Where such allegations relating to mistakes have been submitted against a public authority, into the way an original investigation was carried out there is a public interest in the community being made aware of all the facts in order to ensure complete openness and transparency.
Another argument which favours disclosure is the fact that there is already a vast amount of information already in the public domain.”
Public Interest favouring non- disclosure:
“Whilst we appreciate that the Jillings report was completed back in 1994, that and other similar reports commissioned since that time, contain a vast amount of information which may relate to potential victims, perpetrators of abuse or witnesses in the current police investigation. It is for this reason that we believe that any disclosure of any information contained within the report at this stage would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime, and the apprehension or prosecution of offenders.
Upon completion of the investigation there is a possibility that criminal charges may be made against certain individuals. This of course may or may not involve individuals already named within the Jillings report. Once someone is charged with an offence then various legislation, governing such matters, becomes relevant. Primarily, parts VII and VIII of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, the latter governing the rules around such matters as disclosure to the defence. One of the current unknowns is what the shape of any future disclosures are yet to look like, and therefore in our opinion, it could be damaging to the judicial process, if that system was compromised in some way, by the public disclosure of relevant material now.
As you can imagine, these types of enquiries are extremely sensitive times for those involved and the disclosure of information from the report will certainly refresh their memories. The police investigation will be obtaining statements and evidence from the victims involved and therefore such evidence must remain as reliable as possible, and any suggestions that it has in some way been shaped by information being seen from that time by the victims is best avoided.
A shared concern of Operation Pallial, North Wales Police, Local Authorities and the Children’s’ Commissioner for Wales is to ensure that appropriate support is provided to all victims, witnesses and anyone who may be identified publicly as a potential offender (whether this is the case or not) during the investigation.
We feel that anything which may prejudice any future court hearings will either be grossly unfair to anyone accused of offences and/or deny the victims the justice they so rightly deserve. This would ensure that the public interest, at this time does not favour disclosure.“