THE INVESTIGATION into the sexual abuse of young children at a Worcestershire nursery has ended after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided there was insufficient evidence to realistically get a conviction.
In May 2013, a mother contacted police after her child revealed they had been assaulted at a Bright Eyes Nursery.
The investigation saw six men arrested and properties, including the three nurseries the company ran in Bromsgrove, Droitwich and Redditch, searched.
Then, in July, a complaint was made that another child had been incited to engage in sexual activity.
Five of the six men were released without charge.
Officers have now said the one, who remained on bail, will have no further action and he has been released without charge.
But, following the discovery of four immature cannabis plants at the Droitwich Bright Eyes in May 2013, he has been charged with possession of a class B drug.
One of the other men, initially arrested, was held on suspicion of sexual assault and harassment of a staff member. He has now been released without charge after the complaint against him was withdrawn.
Head of the West Midlands CPS’ public prosecution unit Sarah Hammond said having reviewed all of the available evidence, which included statements from all concerned parties, the CPS decided there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
She said she had, therefore, decided not to proceed with the prosecution and had written to the victims’ families to provide a full explanation.
She also offered to meet them to discuss the matter and answer any questions.
Det Ch Insp Damian Barratt, who led the police investigation, said now it had been completed, he could reveal the offences were thought to have happened at the Droitwich nursery, within the Forest School setting.
“We still believe the sexual assaults took place but the investigation was extremely challenging due to the ages of the young children as both victims and witnesses.
“From the outset, our investigation team has worked closely with Children Services at Worcestershire County Council, Ofsted and the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board to ensure the ongoing safety and protection of all children who have been affected.”
He added that, while no prosecutions relating to sexual offences would result, a number of poor practices across the nursery sites were identified.
The nurseries were closed and the directors, who have withdrawn their Ofsted registration, will no longer offer early years provision.
He said: “We were concerned about the way data was being controlled, managed and stored – a clear lack of control within the nursery setting, specifically at Droitwich, of unauthorised people having access to the childcare environment and even cannabis being found on site.”
He added as well as one man being charged with cannabis offences, another employee was prosecuted last year after cannabis plants were found at his home.
He concluded by saying issues regarding the standard of care being offered had been shared with Ofsted and the Information Commissioner’s office and the
complete findings, across a range of safeguarding issues, were being shared with the Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board. That will conduct a review to deal with the wider implications.
And, he said, all the parents and carers whose children used to attend Bright Eyes, had been informed of what had happened and officers were available to speak to them about any concerns they had.