Psychological abuse to be criminalised in Scotland

After emotional abuse entered the Scottish statutory legal landscape when the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act came into force on 4 October 2017, psychological abuse is now entering the Scottish statutory legal landscape but, this time, in the criminal context.

On 1 February 2018, Scottish Parliament passed the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. When brought into force, psychological abuse of a partner or ex-partner may be prosecuted in the Scottish criminal courts. Psychological abuse is behaviour which:

  • causes the victim to be dependent on or subordinate to the perpetrator
  • isolates the victim from friends, family or support
  • involves regulating, controlling or monitoring day to day activities
  • deprives or restricts freedom of action, or
  • is frightening, humiliating, degrading or punishing.

Involving a child in psychological abuse of a partner or ex-partner is seen as an aggravation of the crime.

The new law is designed to protect not only spouses, civil partners and cohabitants living together (as spouses) but also people in intimate personal relationships whether living together or not. The definition of “Ex-partner” is to be interpreted on the same criteria.

Certain predictions have been made that the annual number of domestic abuse prosecutions will rise in Scotland by around 10% on account of the new law. That, of course, remains to be seen, as does the rate of conviction of those prosecuted for psychological abuse.


BLM
Pic Peter Devlin Written by Claire Thomas, solicitor at BLM

Organisational impact of sexual harassment – regulatory oversight and the perils of non-disclosure agreements

In the wake of allegations of sexual harassment again Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others there have been multiple further allegations arising across a wide breadth of organisations and individuals. Two stories in recent weeks highlight the interest regulatory bodies increasingly take when such incidents occur.

The charity ‘The President’s Club’ closed after a string of allegations were made following an event in the Dorchester Hotel. Women only were hired as ‘hostesses’ and were asked to wear black high heels and black underwear and were given a black short dress to wear on arrival. Hostesses were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they started working and their phones were locked away on the night. It was alleged they were plied with free alcohol.

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IICSA update

As IICSA continues to progress, we summarise recent and forthcoming developments in relation to its investigations.

Investigations Key Updates from the Inquiry
Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale
  • Public hearings were held from 9-27 October 2017. Evidence from the hearings is available online.
Child Sexual Exploitation by Organised Networks
  • The Inquiry is not accepting applications for Core Participant (CP) status or requesting evidence currently.
  • The Inquiry is encouraging all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experience.
Accountability and Reparations
  • Public hearings will be taking place 26 November – 13 December 2018.
Children in Custodial Institutions
  • The first preliminary hearing took place on 1 February 2018.
  • Key issues for this investigation include: prevalence and culture issues, response issues, safeguarding systems and recommendations.
  • The Inquiry received 4 applications for designation as a CP. The Chair granted applications to the MoJ, the SoS for Education and Metropolitan Police. One reapplication was heard during the preliminary hearing.
  • Public hearings to be held 9 July 2018 for approximately 2 weeks.
The Internet
  • A week of public hearings was held from 22-26 January 2018.
  • Applications will be requested for more CPs in due course.
Investigation into the Institutional Responses to Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC
  • April 2017 the Inquiry published a Notice of Determination and revised the scope of this investigation. No preliminary hearing for oral submissions to be held.
  • No other significant updates.
Children in the Care of Nottinghamshire Councils
  • Second preliminary hearing held on 31 January 2018.
  • There are 90 CPs including 83 of whom are individuals who allege that they were sexually abused whilst in the care of Nottinghamshire Councils.
  • Public hearings to be held in October 2018.
  • From the list of 31 homes/thematic case studies, the 4 proposed are:
  1. Beechwood – institutional responses to disclosures of non-recent child sexual abuse or to contemporaneous and recent disclosures of allegations of sexual abuse by Andris Logins care workers at Beechwood in the 1980s;
  2. Foster care – institutional responses to disclosure of allegations by children placed in foster care in Nottinghamshire;
  3. Peer on peer abuse – institutional responses to disclosures of allegations of peer on peer abuse in residential children’s homes;
  4. Wollaton House – institutional responses to disclosures of allegations of child sexual abuse in the home.
  • The Chair re-emphasised that this investigation along with those into Lambeth Council and Rochdale institutions focuses on the experiences of children in institutions operated or overseen by local authorities.
Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church
  • A further preliminary hearing was held on 30 January 2018
  • The first public hearing in relation to the Chichester Dicoese case study will commence for 3 weeks on 5 March 2018. There are twenty themes and issues being considered.
  • Further public hearings relating to Peter Ball will be heard commencing 23 July 2018 and in to the wider Anglican Church in 2019.
Child Sexual Abuse in Residential Schools
  • Currently no CPs designated.
  • No significant updates.
Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse Linked to Westminster
  • A preliminary hearing was held on 31 January 2018. A number of individuals, including Daniel Janner QC, reapplied for CP status.
  • This investigation will focus on the way Westminster institutions dealt with and responded to allegations. The Inquiry will not review recent high-profile police investigations but simply attempt to bring together as many of the basic facts related to these issues as possible.
  • The Inquiry have confirmed they do not anticipate this investigation will make any findings as to whether high profile politicians such as Edward Heath or Cyril Smith did or did not commit acts of child sexual abuse of which they have been accused.
  • The possible scope of this investigation could include the following areas:
  1. Interference;
  2. Improper influence on prosecutors;
  3. Inappropriate reactions from party leaders to warnings;
  4. What did various Whips Offices do;
  5. How did the ‘honours system’ secretariat react to allegations;
  6. What was the Paedophile Information Exchange and did it have influence in Westminster.
  • Further preliminary hearings will be held before the public hearings. Dates will be announced on the Inquiry’s website.
  • 3 weeks of public hearings will take place on 4 March 2019.
Protection of Children Outside the UK
  • The Panel’s report into the Child Migration Case Study is expected to be published shortly.
  • Public hearings for other aspects of this investigation will commence on 11 February 2019.
Children in the Care of Lambeth Council
  • No significant updates.
Child Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church
  • Initial hearings which focused on the Benedictine Order, in particular at Ampleforth and Downside were held in November.
  • Further public hearings relating to the Archdiocese of Birmingham case study will take place from 12-16 November 2018.
  • Public hearings relating to the Ealing Abbey case study will commence on 4 February 2019.

MIRIAM Written by Miriam Rahamim, solicitor at BLM

The internet and child sexual abuse

On 3 April 2017, it became a criminal offence for an adult (18 or over) to conduct sexual communications with a child under 16 years old.  This was with the intention of stopping sexual grooming at an early stage, particularly via social media and mobile messaging.

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Sexual abuse in sport  – Nassar and Volume 14 of the Royal Commission report– sports, recreational, arts, culture, community and hobby groups

In the week that saw Dr Larry Nassar, the Michigan State University and Olympic sports doctor sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing female gymnasts in the USA, it is timely to reflect on Volume 14 of the report of the Royal Commission (RC) which focuses on sports and recreational institutions.

The RC identified that there is a real challenge in ensuring child safety in sports and recreational institutions and this is due to the diverse nature of the sector – ranging from affiliated, grant maintained and well-funded, co-ordinated, well-regulated and managed institutions with compliance obligations to small informal not for profit voluntary and community groups and activities where there is a patent lack of policy, procedure, regulation and information.

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Inquiry into sexual harassment of women and girls in public places.

In December 2017 The Women and Equalities Committee held a one-off evidence session on women’s experiences of everyday sexism and sexual harassment.  MPs now want to focus on women and girls’ experiences of sexual harassment in public places: on the street; on public transport; in shopping areas; in bars and clubs; and other public areas.

  • A national survey published by YouGov in 2016 revealed that 85% of women aged 18-24 had experienced unwanted sexual touching.
  • Reported sexual offences on trains have more than doubled in the past five years.

The Committee wants to understand why sexual harassment happens in public places, what effect it has on women and girls, and how to prevent it and support victims.  The Committee is interested in how age, ethnicity, sexuality and other characteristics affect women’s experiences.

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IICSA & the internet

The IICSA begins today a public hearing in connection with its investigation into child sexual abuse and the internet. This is a huge task and clearly differs from the majority of other investigations which are considering events which occurred many decades ago, something which is of much less relevance when focusing on the part played by the internet.

This first public hearing which is due to last five days, focuses on the part played by the police and the National Crime Agency in responding to abuse facilitated by the internet as well as considering the current scale of online facilitated child sexual abuse and how the police nationally and regionally respond to it.

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