A decade of child abuse investigation - detective jails 'the most horrible sex offenders' for 300 years
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Over a decade working in the child abuse investigation unit, Det Con Kim Taylor has tallied up 300 years in prison for some of "the most horrible sex offenders walking the planet".
She will sit with children as young as three or four and coax them to reveal horrific abuse they have suffered.
Often she will then confront their abuser, taking on an entirely different persona to coerce them to come clean.
And as workloads increase, the pressures and stresses of the job have become too heavy to bear for many tasked to investigate sex crimes against children.
Each investigation can take up to 18 months, and detectives have between 12 and 15 live investigations at any one time.
One former detective from the unit, who asked not to be named, has warned of “burn out” among officers and “haunting” cases that erode their mental health.
After counselling sessions for investigators were scrapped by the force in 2016, Norfolk Police said they are now tendering for a clinical psychologist.
But DC Taylor says her job satisfaction comes from locking up abusers who deserve to be put away.
“Those people who come to us and tell us the most horrendous things - this is their one and only opportunity and we have got to get it right for them,” she said.
DC Taylor was the officer investigating one of the most harrowing sex abuse cases Norfolk has ever seen - Marie Black in Operation Moccasin.
It was the case which had the “biggest impact” on her, she said.
Black was given a life sentence in 2015 for sexual abuse of “the worst kind” after being found guilty of 23 offences including rape, conspiracy to rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
It involved multiple victims aged under 13.
“I had the victims of that case in my life for two and a half years,” said DC Taylor.
“I do not think I will ever forget that. It made me ill.
“I got a stomach ulcer through the job and the amount of stress and pressure was unbelievable. It was at a time we were really busy so we couldn’t dedicate a whole team to the case. We had to beg, borrow and steal from other units to give us a hand, but it mainly sat with me.
“I knew I had to see it through to the end for the victims.”
By the time the case got to trial, DC Taylor was sitting in court with tears in her eyes.
“I just felt myself filling up with tears out of nowhere,” she said. “I had this connection with the victims and I had helped them tell their story to everybody.
“It was amazing we had got to that point. It was a lot of hard work and upset along the way.”
“I have to be different people”
With very young victims, DC Taylor, now based in Great Yarmouth, tries to build a rapport to encourage them to talk to her.
“I will get on my hands and knees and play with them and chat with them,” she said. “It doesn’t take that long to start breaking down those barriers.”
Sometimes it involves thinking outside the box. In one interview the victim shut down and wouldn’t engage.
“We had a ball in the suite and I got him to give me a full account just by throwing that ball back and forward,” said DC Taylor. “Every time he caught the ball he had to answer one of my questions.”
Dealing with suspects involves a similar approach, but DC Taylor says she has “no sympathy” for them. She has to pretend to empathise.
“Some of them are the most horrible sex offenders walking the planet, and I know they are going to get some sort of pleasure out of having to talk to you in interview,” she said.
“I have to get them to tell me what I need to get the evidence against them. It can be really emotionally draining.”
While she has to listen to terrible stories from the victims, it can be the most innocent details that resonate the deepest.
“There will be an aspect of any one of our jobs that knocks you off your feet without you realising,” she said.
“It can be something really trivial, not the really horrific abuse they are telling you about, but if they just had crisps for breakfast.
“When I first joined the unit there were a couple of children who I just wanted to take home. I just wanted to look after them.
“You do not leave any stone unturned because you can’t risk putting someone in a courtroom only for it to fall at the last hurdle. When victims know they are going to court they have so much hope they are going to get justice.”
There is an inevitable impact on her mental health, but DC Taylor stresses the victims she deals with have been through much worse.
“Sometimes I will have days where I won’t leave the house because I don’t want to be out in the big, bad world,” she said. “Sometimes I just want to shut myself away and not hear any bad stuff.
“There is a part of me that does feel happy when they have been locked up because justice has been served, but there is a tint of sadness that it even happened in the first place.”
“The cases are haunting”
One former detective who asked not to be named, but left the unit recently after a number of years there, said many officers are getting “burnt out”.
He first chose to join the unit because the work was so rewarding.
“You are putting people away who have committed the most heinous crimes,” he said. “People’s lives can be blighted throughout and there is a reason behind it - that ever since a young age they were abused.”
He said the work had become all-consuming, and many cases he investigated will stay with him forever.
“At night I will think about certain cases,” he said. “It will never leave you. The cases are haunting.”
He added detectives no longer have the opportunity to process the crimes they are dealing with.
“You have to try to rationalise why these things happen to young children,” he said. “It might be an irrational thought but you have to put it into a compartment in your brain and try to move on.
“Staff aren’t having an opportunity to do that now because everything has been stripped back and once you finish one job you quickly move onto the next one.
“The responsibility is huge. People with years of experience are getting up and leaving because of the conditions.
“It got to a point for me where I just had to leave.”
Counselling sessions scrapped
A Norfolk Police spokeswoman said mandatory counselling sessions for investigators were scrapped following “feedback from staff” which identified the sessions “were not productive or effective for people in those roles”.
“We are currently tendering for a clinical psychologist to provide ongoing resilience monitoring for those in specialist roles,” the spokeswoman said.
“All officers and staff have access to our Employee Assistance Programme which provides 24/7 access to a counsellor and face to face counselling sessions. We also work with a provider who support officers and staff with complex mental health needs following traumatic incidents.”
They added “significant investment” is being made in two new investigation centres which will “enhance support for staff” by bringing detectives into hubs.
“Any officers applying for a role within the unit are required to undertake specialist training, which is provided by the College of Policing,” said the spokeswoman. “The Specialist Child Abuse Investigation Development Programme (SCAIDP) is a training programme for officers working within the child protection arena. College of Policing are also developing best practice guidance for forces to ensure officers working within these specialist roles are supported.”