“You will be listened to, you will be supported” - meet the team getting justice for victims of non-recent sexual abuse
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DC Jane Egerton, DS Shirley Cole, DC Tracy Schofield and Caroline Horden of the Quest team
The impact of sexual abuse can live with victims for decades.
Long-term effects can include mental health issues, problems with addiction and struggles with relationships and parenting.
Our Quest team are a specialist unit set up in 2019 to investigate non-recent child sexual abuse cases. They supplement the work of our Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT).
The team’s biggest recent success was the prosecution of Simon Jacobs. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison for rape and sexual assaults committed 20 years previously.
Detective Sergeant Shirley Cole leads the team of six detective constables and a civilian investigating officer. She explained the team’s remit.
“We deal with non-recent child sexual abuse where the victim is now an adult. The abuser was an adult who was a family member or was in a position of responsibility over the victim at the time of the abuse.
“Quest was established to balance the competing demands of historic and recent abuse investigations. Rightly, the investigations where children are currently at risk are the priorities but that meant non-recent matters were less of a priority and their progress was slowed.
“Now we’re able to give the victims the service they deserve and the investigations the time they require.”
Quest are currently working on more than 35 separate investigations that involve allegations of hundreds of offences.
The length of time that has passed can be challenging – the team’s oldest case dated back 60 years – but DS Cole said victims should be confident that there is lot that can be done to investigate any allegations, no matter how long ago they happened.
She said: “People think it’s word against word and we’ll never be able to find proof, but we know what the CPS want in terms of getting these cases charged. There’s lots we can do.
“It can take time to bring these investigations to court but we are now beginning to see a lot of our cases coming to trial.”
DC Jane Egerton worked closely with the victim in the Simon Jacobs case and said she understood why people may feel reluctant to speak out.
“People worry that they’re not going to be believed. They worry that because it happened such a long time ago that they won’t be taken seriously, or it won’t be looked at.
“People worry about the impact it will have on other family members, and some people bury it and think that’s the best way to deal with it. Often it’s been buried for such a long time that they don’t know how to get it out into the open.
“And others feel embarrassed or ashamed when clearly they’re not to blame. They were children with a lack of understanding about what was happening to them at the time.
“If you report a crime to us, you will be listened to, you will be supported and there will be a thorough investigation.”
Quest contact all victims in ongoing cases at least once every 28 days but increase the frequency when they think more support is required.
The team also work very closely with independent sexual violence advisors (ISVAs) and encourage victims to engage with SynergyEssex – an umbrella organisation of specialist charities who provide support to victims of sexual violence and abuse all the way up to trial.
DC Egerton said that the team are all committed to getting justice for the victims they work with.
“If you can play a part in the successful prosecution of someone who has escaped justice for so long you can help the victim fine some peace and to move on in their life. Hopefully we take away the fear.”
DS Cole has a clear message to anyone who has been a victim of non-recent abuse who is thinking about contacting her team:
“Come forward and we will do our very best for you. All of us are very experienced in the world of sexual offence investigatons. There is a lot we can do to get cases charged.”
If you believe you, or someone else, are in immediate danger please call 999. We are here to help and keep you safe.