On 25th April 2012 the London Evening Standard reported that a 31 year old female police officer with Southwark’s Sapphire sex crimes investigation unit had falsified a crime report and fabricated the testimony of a victim.
The IPCC found the Constable guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed her from the police service. The investigation revealed a string of claims that officers of the Southwark unit breached rules on rape cases, and had written off allegations as “no crime” incidents.
On 28th April 2012 the Daily Telegraph reported a similar case, where Greater Manchester police detective Dominic Griffiths faked a rape forensic report, failed to send samples for testing, lied to superiors and falsely claimed an exhibit had been lost.
Commenting on the Southwark case, IPCC Commissioner Rachael Cerfontyne said “It takes courage for victims to report a sexual assault to the police and it is essential that when they do, they are treated with respect, supported and have their allegations thoroughly investigated.”
These are fine words, but have a hollow ring with regard to repeated allegations of serious sexual and physical abuse by a number of students at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College OCVC dating back to 2006 / 2007.
UK Column reports from December 2011 have exposed allegations ranging from the encouraging of students to drink alcohol in the college and in a local pub to verbal and racist abuse, physical assault, and failing to take action to protect female students from sexual assault and harassment from other teachers and students - including attempted rape. Since then we have been contacted by more ex-students graphically describing their traumatic experiences whilst attending the Oxford & Cherwell Valley College - Blackbird Leys campus.
Victims, some as young as 16 at the time, claim that many of their complaints were never addressed by senior managers, and information provided suggests that at least 30 complaints were ignored and trivialised by teachers who were responsible for the welfare of young students. Where complaints were actioned, individuals claim that safeguarding procedures were not followed and one complaint took nearly six months to deal with.
Personal testimonies coupled with contemporaneous notes and documented evidence reveal a consistent pattern of serious abuse and collective failures by the local safeguarding body – The Oxfordshire Safeguarding Board.
Many of the allegations and complaints centre around OCVC programme manager John Guiver. Allegations include racial abuse, and reports that Asian students were called ‘Paki’. One student complained regularly in writing to Guiver’s line manager Steve Capewell. In a letter dated 20th October 2007 the 16 year old complains that Guiver ‘happy slapped’ him around the head. He goes on to say “I’ve not long started the course and I’m getting sworn at by John Guiver all the time. Can you please stop John bullying me.”
In another letter addressed to Capewell ten days later the same distressed student claims Guiver had physically assaulted him and made his face bleed. He writes, “Paul [a teacher no longer at the college] again made me take my trousers off for being late and Mark Biggs is still swearing at me. This is starting to affect me” and asks Steve Capewell to intervene. He also complained about two other teachers.
Former OCVC students, and those still at the college aware of abuse allegations, were shocked when they learned that Steve Capewell is named as a ‘point of contact’ on a new OCVC ‘Student Safeguarding Team’ poster.
On the 11th Feb 2010, the Oxford Mail reported that a teacher at Oxford & Cherwell Valley College had been suspended for showing pornography to pupils on his mobile phone. Former students claim the teacher was Andrew Fellows, who was managed by John Guiver.
Students allege that Fellows regularly enouraged men not employed at the college to enter the premises via a fire door. These men then showed students pornography, offered sweets and drugs, and encouraged students and school children on day release to meet them. Despite Fellows’ name appearing in several complaints dating back to 2007, it took OCVC nearly three years to dismiss him.
Fellows was arrested and bailed months after he had left the college in connection with the allegations originally reported in the Oxford Mail in Feb 2010. No evidence was found to bring criminal charges against him. But why did the Police wait until he left the college before arresting him, months after he was suspended?
Despite well over 30 specific allegations of abuse being raised against her College, OCVC Head Sally Dicketts is standing by Guiver, a man some claim has an ‘exemplary record’.
In February 2010 Oxfordshire County Council Education safeguarding co-ordinator Rebecca Melmoth stated that “Following discussions and interviews with a wide range of students and Thames Valley Police, the Education Safeguarding Team has concluded ... there is no evidence to suggest any of the allegations made are true.”
One senior Detective Inspector claimed in her letter of October 2011 that “the existence of such recorded material [a implied reference to pornography] contained on the suspect’s IT equipment would have been extremely useful to the prosecution case. The investigator’s enquiries did not however, reveal any such record.”
In making this glib statement the Inspector must have been fully aware that no such evidence existed, because the police had not impounded personal IT equipment at the start of the abuse and child pornography allegations. OCVC later disposed of its entire computer suite during these ongoing allegations - ordering new computers from Portsmouth firm Novatech in July 2010.
Evidence indicates that Thames Valley Police has failed to fully investigate reports of serious physical and sexual assaults, has failed to use properly trained police officers to interview victims, and has relied on unsatisfactory internal reports by Oxford and Cherwell Valley College to dismiss their concerns. There are worrying parallels with the shameful action by the Southwark police unit to hide crime.
As a result of UK Column investigations, yet more victims have now come forward. We understand that a full report of student abuses at OCVC is now being prepared for the Independent Police Complaints Commission.