'80 child sex abuses cases a month being referred to police'

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An average of 80 child sex abuse cases a month have been referred to police over the last year following victims' testimony to an independent inquiry.

The figure emerged as the first report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse's (IICSA) Truth Project was published on Thursday amid a growing scandal of historical offences in youth football.

As one strand of the wide-ranging probe, the project was intended to help victims of child sexual abuse share their experiences with the inquiry, allowing it to build a picture of why crimes remain unreported and undetected for so long.

Some 500 people have come forward wanting to attend one of the project's private sessions, IICSA said.

The referrals to the dedicated national police team, under Operation Hydrant, are the result of written submissions and reports received by IICSA as well as evidence from many of the 150 people who have already spoken to the Truth Project itself.

Drusilla Sharpling, a member of the probe's panel who leads the project, said: "We make roughly about 80 (referrals) a month, that's overall.

"It would be rare, in my experience, not to make a referral from the Truth Project because most people are coming to report child sexual abuse and that is a crime.

"Where somebody reports child sexual abuse they are clearly reporting a criminal offence. Our terms of reference require us to report those matters to the police.

"We can do so anonymously if that person wishes."

Ms Sharpling said not every referral would necessarily be a new case or the first time an allegation had been made.

She said: "We would pass any allegations on. Sometimes it's difficult to discern whether there has been a completed criminal investigation or not and we can't put ourselves in the police officers' shoes at that point. It's a matter for the police to investigate."

The new report, the first in a regular series, included the experiences of 45 anonymous men and women, who opened up about abuse including in religious institutions, care homes and schools.

Professor Alexis Jay, the inquiry's fourth chairwoman, said their testimony would help shape its recommendations.

She said: "By publishing the first set of victims and survivors' experiences, we create a permanent record that cannot be swept under the carpet or ignored.

"They will act as a spotlight on the cultures and practices of institutions and serve as an enduring statement so that no-one can again claim ignorance of past institutional failures."

Among the suggestions for changes survivors said they would like to see were lifelong support for victims and a restorative justice approach which would allow victims to confront institutions.

Many reported frustration at institutions for failing to act on allegations initially and for authorities for failing to prosecute the accused.

The inquiry has been beset by problems, including resignations and leadership changes, since it was set up by then home secretary Theresa May in 2014.

Described as the most ambitious public inquiry ever launched in England and Wales, there are suggestions it could cost more than £100 million.

The findings of an internal review into its approach, including its 13 investigative strands, was "imminent", Ms Sharpling said.