Chief Constable sparks internal investigation over allegations of 33 years of neglect and failure to investigate historical child abuse.
West Yorkshire’s top police officer, Chief Constable Dee Collins, sent a local author’s book to her services own Professional Standards department after reading author Carol Higgins’ memoir of abuse suffered at the hands of her own father.
The Professional Standards department assess and coordinates any complaints made about the conduct of West Yorkshire Police officers and staff.
Chief Constable Collins also received a 12-page chronological summary from the Ackworth-based author, aged 48, in which she documents a history of failures by West Yorkshire Child and Public Protection Unit officers, going back to 1984 until the present day. She says they repeatedly failed to investigate the abuse which she details in her book, Conquering the Impossible:Making the Dream Come True.
In the book, Higgins names her father, Elliot Appleyard, 69, of Denby Dale, as the man who abused her sexually, violently and emotionally over many years from the age of 12.
Chief Constable Collins received Carol Higgins’ book and summary of events in the post in March 2017, after Ms Higgins met with Police Commissioner Mark Burns-Williams and MP John Trickett, complaining of a lack of support from West Yorkshire Police since 1984 through to 2015.
Ms Higgins, a youth and community volunteer and motivational speaker, attempted five times over three decades to bring her father, Elliot Appleyard, to justice for a string of physical and sexual abuses. But to no avail, because she believes there was an attempt to protect her father from any police charges.
“My fight for justice feels like it is going on forever, as if it will last my entire life and that is not acceptable,” Carol told us.
In a letter to Carol Higgins, Dee Collins said she was “horrified to read of the abuse” and that she found the content of Ms Higgins’ book and summary “deeply upsetting.” “I can’t start to comprehend how these incidents have impacted on your life since your childhood years,” the Chief Constable added.
Furthermore, Collins stated that the book was passed by her to the Professional Standards department, who immediately began to investigate Higgins’ claim that West Yorkshire Police had failed to properly conduct any investigation into her accounts of child abuse against her since she first reported them to the police when she was 15.
Higgins went on to say, “Mark Burns-Williams and Dee Collins sent me a life-line when they passed my case on to officers that I can trust, knowing that now at least Professional Standards have told me on record that they agree there have been systematic failures since 1984 right up until the present day.”
Officer Penny Morley of West Yorkshire Professional Standards department assured Ms Higgins, in a recorded conversation, that as soon as the legal case against her father had been resolved, her department would continue to analyse West Yorkshire Police officers’ conduct since 1984 in order to find, highlight and possibly discipline any officer involved in any purposeful or accidental misconduct.
Since taking on the case, Officer Morley and Higgins have drawn up a list of 54 questions regarding the conduct of officers over 33 years in relation to repeated rape and other abuses at the hands of her father. Penny Morley then voluntarily referred West Yorkshire Police to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The IPCC, which is independent of the police, have told Ms Higgins “we consider the West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards department is in a suitable position to investigate…… at this stage.”
The Professional Standard’s list of questions, derived from meeting with Carol Higgins and covering her own attempts over the years, include:
Was Elliot Appleyard arrested in 1984 following the initial allegations made by Carol when she was 15?
Why were statements not collected from Carol’s mother, Jean Appleyard, brother, Paul Appleyard and other witnesses during the course of any investigation in 1984?
Where have the forensic DNA evidence and 17-page statement obtained from the 15 year old Carol gone?
Why did it take so long for all the evidence gathered by Carol and West Yorkshire police officers to be delivered to the CPS?
Higgins says, “because Dee Collins listened and because she has championed gender equality and other civil rights, I know that writing to her and getting her involved has breathed new life into this case, which has literally made me suffer post-traumatic stress since I was a child.”
She added “So far, this man has never been arrested over 33 years. I just want answers and ultimately to see my father in court for what he did to me. In an open court, all the facts and opinions can be debated under the law and every side can have their say. That’s all I want.”