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2 May 2014, 14:24
No charges are to be brought following a Hampshire police investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by pupils on fellow students at a special school.
The Crown Prosecution Service made the announcement after reviewing a decision not to prosecute anyone at Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey.
Following the claims and Ofsted inspections which raised concerns about safeguarding of pupils, the independent school, which had boarding and day pupils aged from 10 to 19, closed down after calling in administrators.
Now the chief crown prosecutor for the CPS East of England, Grace Ononiwu, has written to parents, and also to pupils who made statements to the police, explaining the reason for the decision. She has also offered to meet the families involved.
Ms Ononiwu said:
"CPS East of England was asked to look into this case after a complaint was made by the parents of one of the pupils over a decision not to prosecute by CPS Wessex on the grounds of insufficient evidence. The parents had originally complained to Hampshire police about allegations of their child being abused by pupils at the school.
"I was tasked with carrying out an independent review into CPS Wessex's decision not to prosecute. It is part of our procedure that a different area looks at a complaint if it cannot be resolved locally.
"As our review into the decision-making started, it became clear that a fresh review of the evidence was required, and not just into whether the decision not to prosecute was the correct one.
"In my opinion, it was vital to conduct a fresh review of the evidence, untainted by the previous decision that was made and placing it within the context of other allegations made by other pupils.
"It was necessary to determine if these were separate allegations of abuse against specific individuals or whether there was evidence of a wider conspiracy involving a number of pupils against a number of girls.''
A further investigation was carried out by Hampshire police and a file of evidence was sent to CPS East of England in September 2013. The review considered not only the original allegation raised by the parents of the pupil, but also separate allegations made by four others against 10 pupils, and an allegation of perverting the course of justice against two teachers at the school.
Ms Ononiwu said:
"The material supplied was considerable and has now been reviewed in its entirety and decisions have been made as to whether any of the 12 individuals who were the subject of the investigation should be prosecuted.
"The conclusion I have reached is that there should be no prosecutions arising out of the evidence which has been provided to us. This decision is not based on whether we believe the allegations made by the pupils but on whether there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to prosecute.
"I appreciate this decision may come as a disappointment to those who made the complaints which is why I have offered to meet them to explain my decision to them face to face.''
Assistant Chief Constable Laura Nicholson said:
"Hampshire Constabulary committed more than 6,000 hours of police time to investigating these allegations. This resulted in us submitting 50 files of evidence to the CPS, which has enabled them to now form an independent view on these matters.
"Operation Flamborough is therefore now complete. If anyone has new substantive allegations, we would encourage them to contact us and we will investigate them separately.''
A police spokeswoman said the investigation, which ran from February to December 2013, saw 6,300 hours of officers' time, inquiries across 10 counties,1,225 documents received, 20,000 pages reviewed, 79 statements taken from witnesses, 172 officer reports submitted and 50 files of documents submitted to the CPS.