4 December 2016
This weekend, Police Scotland said it would investigate the Falkirk “cluster” after Open Secret, a charity that supports abuse victims, revealed hundreds of residents — most now in their forties — had come forward saying that they had been raped and molested by multiple abusers.
Many of the victims were in sports clubs, including football and swimming groups, when they say the abuse occurred. Dozens more were in care when the abuse is alleged to have happened.
“Our information indicates a high level of reported multiple abusers in Falkirk, in one area of the town in particular,” said Janine Rennie, chief executive of Open Secret. The number of people in Falkirk who have come forward is shocking.”
The disclosure comes as police forces across the UK, including Police Scotland, probe allegations of historical child sex abuse in football. About 350 victims have come forward, according to the National Police Chiefs Council in London.
The Falkirk cluster emerged two years ago, when Rennie carried out an internal review of Open Secret’s database, which then consisted of about 12,000 victims. It emerged that 367 people from the area had contacted the charity, which is based in Falkirk. The figure stood out because it was the largest concentration of victims of multiple abusers within a Scottish local authority area.
The findings were flagged to police in 2014 but they failed to spark a full investigation. Senior officials at Falkirk council were also warned last December.
Last week, following inquiries by this newspaper, a senior detective contacted the charity and is to meet Rennie and board officials this week. A police spokesman said all allegations of child abuse will be “thoroughly investigated”. Rennie pointed out that while the alleged victims lived in Falkirk at the time of contacting Open Secret, it did not mean that all of them were abused in the area.
However, the charity believes it has strong evidence of at least one large paedophile network that operated in and around Falkirk, including the names of abusers.
Police investigations into Jimmy Savile and other celebrities charged with historical child abuse are believed to have emboldened victims to come forward.
Rennie revealed that the number of people in Scotland contacting the charity has risen sharply since the Savile scandal broke four years ago, from 300 to 1,800 a year. Open Secret, which was set up in 1994, now has about 15,000 people on its database.
Dave Sharp, 58, a campaigner against child abuse who was abused in Scotland and Ireland in the 1970s, said he had faith that police would investigate historical child abuse allegations.
“The police have made mistakes in the past, but things have changed. I believe the police can be trusted to investigate and that’s why I’m encouraging victims to come forward. The net is closing in on the abusers.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, Police Scotland’s lead for public protection, said: “Tackling sexual crime and the sexual abuse of children is a priority for Police Scotland, as is identifying perpetrators and bringing them to justice. We will do everything in our power to prevent these activities and with our partners protect children,” said Boal.
A spokeswoman for Falkirk council, said: “Open Secret advised the council that they had raised the issue with the police, who are the appropriate organisation to investigate.”
is a large town in the Central Lowlands of Scotland, historically within the county of Stirlingshire. It lies in the Forth Valley, 23.3 miles (37.5 km) north-west of Edinburgh and 20.5 miles (33.0 km) north-east of Glasgow.
Falkirk had a resident population of 32,422 at the 2001 census. The population of the town had risen to 34,570 according to a 2008 estimate, making it the 20th most populous settlement in Scotland. Falkirk is the main town and administrative centre of the Falkirk council area, which has an overall population of 156,800  and inholds the nearby towns of Grangemouth, Bo’ness, Denny, Larbert and Stenhousemuir.