DEVON NURSERY CLOSES AMID CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE INVESTIGATION. Male worker bailed as police identify several children aged two and over as potential victims
November 5, 2019
A nursery in Devon has closed as part of a major police investigation into the alleged sexual assault of children as young as two at the centre.
Police have spoken to more than 100 families whose children attended Jack and Jill Childcare in Torquay and it is understood up to a dozen children may be suspected victims.
A male worker in his teens has been arrested on suspicion of carrying out sexual offences and is on police bail. He has moved out of the Devon and Cornwall police force area while the investigation takes place. The nursery’s licence was suspended last month and it is currently closed.
Devon and Cornwall police said that on 29 July they received information relating to allegations of sexual assault at the nursery and launched Operation Lofting.
Later that day, one male was arrested. He is on police bail until 22 November under conditions including that he must not go to the area of the nursery.
Acting DCI James Stock, of Devon and Cornwall’s public protection unit, said more than 250 hours of CCTV footage within Jack and Jill Childcare had since been reviewed.
“As a result of CCTV inquiries a number of children aged two and over have been identified as potential victims of contact offences,” he said.
All parents and guardians of children who attended the nursery had been contacted. “Specialist officers from the public protection unit and our colleagues from social services have visited the parents and guardians of those children we believe may have been victims,” Stock said. “They will continue to receive multi-agency support in the coming days, weeks and months.
“The contact appears to have been limited within the nursery setting and we do not believe that any other member of staff had knowledge of these matters.”
He said the alleged offences did not involve the taking or distributing of any images.
Stock refused to confirm the number of possible victims or the timescale of the alleged offences. He also refused to give the gender of alleged victims.
Following further investigations Ofsted suspended the licence of the nursery at the end of last month. The nursery had remained open during the summer.
The police investigation has taken time because officers have had to painstakingly plough through hours of CCTV footage. It is understood, however, that the cameras do not cover every part of the nursery. Speaking to children and families involved has also taken time because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
One young mother, whose two young children attended the nursery, said that the investigation had led to anger and distress in the neighbourhood.
She said police rang her over the weekend but did not believe her children were potential victims.
“Some parents are obviously really, really angry,” she said. “I have seen one of the owners and they are devastated. She fell apart when I saw her, she was a mess and crying. She was saying sorry and I said it was not your fault.
“I find it hard to believe that with everyone knowing there was CCTV there that anyone could get away with anything.
“My kids prospered there, they were really happy. I had no inkling there was anything wrong.
“The owners and staff are great. They treated the children like their own. But now a lot of parents are angry and frustrated. It seems like there is a six-week window the police are looking at.”
A notice from Ofsted on the door of the nursery explains that the nursery’s registration has been suspended “to allow time to investigate our belief that a child may be exposed to a risk of harm”. It adds: “We will regularly review the situation and will stop the suspension within this period if we believe children are no longer at risk.”
On its website, Jack and Jill Childcare says it is situated in a “quiet residential area in Shiphay, on the outskirts of Torquay, close to local schools and Torbay hospital.”
It adds: “The nursery is privately owned and family run and we provide quality care in a homely setting for babies and children from birth to school age. We care for up to 52 children per session from birth to five years. The children are cared for in bright and airy playrooms according to their age and developmental stage.
“Jack and Jill Childcare offers a safe, caring and stimulating environment for children to learn through play and to develop an awareness of the world around them. We believe in encouraging a child’s natural inherent curiosity as they discover new experiences.”
After an inspection in 2016, Ofsted concluded: “Staff have a good understanding of safeguarding. The management team ensures they are clear about what they need to do if they have any concerns about a child’s welfare. It regularly checks staff suitability and reviews the quality of their practice. Safeguarding is effective.” It said there were 19 members of staff, 14 of whom held early years qualifications.
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