The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Childhood Sexual Abuse has published its final report. Chapter 13 specifically considers Childhood sexual abuse in schools and makes a number of recommendations to prevent abuse from happening, and where it does to ensure an effective response.
As reported last week the Royal Commission has published its final and lengthy report. It covers many subjects, themes and organisations and in the next few weeks there will be further commentary on this blog about some of those topics and crucially the recommendations made.
One theme which has run through the work of the Royal Commission has been that of redress. Two years ago a redress scheme was recommended and it has now, in an amended version, been approved in principle to take effect from 1 July 2018. Redress means many different things to different people. As Lambeth Borough Council sought yesterday, amid some confrontation, to approve a scheme which seeks to make the path to redress simpler, it is clear that it is by no means straightforward to achieve. Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) retweeted a range of negative comments about the scheme which had taken over a year to draft and had had significant input into it from SOSA itself and its legal team. Yet it still remained the subject of damning criticism from some.
One issue which will always be a challenge is how to assess a monetary value in compensation for the abuse and its consequences. The Royal Commission recommended a scheme with maximum payments of A$200,000 (£114,760); the Australian Government Scheme implementing the Royal Commission recommendations will award up to a maximum of A$150,000 (£86,070); the Lambeth Scheme has a maximum payment of £125,000; the Northern Ireland recommendations which have made no progress since being published in January 2017 were for payments of up to £100,000. These are maximum payments for the most severe abuse. These may or may not be life changing sums of money, for some whatever the sum it is the recognition of the harm done which is what the money represents and for others no sum however big or small will compensate for what happened and what the consequences of the abuse have been. No matter what approach an organisation takes in assessing a monetary value for redress it is likely it will not be considered right by all victims and survivors. Making that assessment can be very difficult for all involved and a clear and easy formula for making a fair assessment which could be understood and applied by all is needed and remains elusive.
The Royal Commission’s 2015 report concluded that redress should include not just monetary payments but also a direct personal response as well as counselling and psychological care. The final report has expanded the response to victims and survivors to include the provision of a much wider, integrated and cohesive range of support services. Those recommendations include that there be a dedicated system of community-based support services which provides advocacy and support, including counselling and case management. The creation of a national service to assist victims and survivors understand the legal options and navigate the legal system is proposed, along with a national telephone helpline and website to provide information and assistance. The national service should, the Royal Commission concludes, be funded by the Australian Government and provide advice including about accessing, amending and annotating records and options for initiating police, civil litigation or redress processes. It will be interesting to see which of these recommendations are effected and which will be similarly recommended by the inquiries in England and Wales and Scotland when they in due course report on redress and support for survivors.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and head of abuse and neglect at BLM.
The four active national abuse inquiries are all at the moment running smoothly, a positive step for the inquiries in Scotland and England and Wales in particular. Recent progress and up-coming developments are summarised below.
The various inquiries connected with sexual abuse of children have now had a period of making progress. Recent and expected developments are summarised below.
Independent Jersey Care Inquiry
The final report from the Jersey inquiry was due to be available within the first quarter of 2017. However, it has recently been announced that publication will be delayed for a short period. This is due to some new information being made available to the panel in relation to Phase 3 of the enquiry dealing with recommendations for the future of childrens’ care in Jersey. A revised publication date has yet to be confirmed.
The first hearings in the Children Overseas – Child Migration investigation have been held. A number of child migrant witnesses gave oral evidence along with the Inquiry appointed experts. The organisations involved in child migration will give their evidence at a hearing starting on 10 July. A further preliminary hearing will be held on 9 May.
The Victims & Survivors Consultative Panel (VSCP) has published revised Terms of Reference. The Panel has seven members who will advise the Inquiry on its engagement with victims and survivors; its communication with the public; share their expertise and knowledge in developing the work of the Inquiry; and advice on the formulation of recommendations. The VSCP has published a report on its work to date.
A second preliminary hearing in the Accountability & Reparations Investigation will be held on 28 March. There are five case studies within that investigation and a timetable is anticipated for evidence and hearings in those five case studies.
The Department of Sociology at Lancaster University has been commissioned by the Research Project to prepare a rapid evidence assessment of what is known about the characteristics and vulnerabilities of victims of online-facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation. Anyone wishing to contribute material to this research is requested to provide materials by 28 April 2017.
Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry
The SCAI has now published a number of administrative guides to explain how it will operate. These include protocols for the provision of witness statements and other evidence and for anonymity and other restriction orders. Factsheets explaining what the SCAI will do when it is told about abuse and disclosure of allegations have also been produced.
Royal Commission, Australia
As noted in our earlier blog the RC is producing many publications as it moves to its final report. In the last two weeks it has published the following:
- A research report which considers the recruitment and support of carer in out-of-home care which includes foster care, kinship care and residential care settings
- A research report which looked at the current services and facilities focused on child sexual abuse prevention. This concluded that there was a lack of co-ordination between the various organisations working in this area.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and abuse claims expert at BLM
Earlier this month Barry Bennell, former coach with Crewe Alexander, was charged with 12 further counts of indecent assault and serious sexual assault on boys in the years between 1980 and 1987. This brings the outstanding charges against him to 20 since Andy Woodward and other players’ allegations about him were first made in November 2016. He has pleaded Not Guilty to all charges.
Since those initial disclosures there has been a succession of disclosures and developments within UK football and other sports.
As Australia is the news through the IICSA child migrant investigation, the work being undertaken by the Royal Commission (RC) in considering issues relating to abuse across many different organisations in Australia should not be forgotten. We summarise below its most recent work, much of which is of relevance irrespective of the jurisdiction in which an organisation finds itself.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia has issued its report following the examination of allegations of child sexual abuse of a number of former students at two performing arts institutions in Sydney:-
- the Australian Institute of Music (AIM)
- RG Dance Pty Limited (RG Dance)
Performing arts institutions such as AIM and RG Dance are not typical of the organisations that we commonly associate with allegations of child sexual abuse. What is most striking about this report is the reaction and/or inaction of some parents and other responsible adults in the face of these allegations, when the abuse was in plain sight.
In the case of AIM, Victor Makarov a renowned Ukrainian pianist, was appointed head of the piano department in 1998 and taught there until 2004. Between mid-February and May 2004 Makarov was charged with 30 child sexual offences. He continued to teach at AIM under supervision and with restriction, despite the fact that in April 2004, the NSW Department of Education advised AIM that Makarov was considered a ‘high level of risk’. Makarov was never suspended by AIM and remained in post until he sought leave from AIM in July, 2004, which was granted.
On the 30 March 2004 the New South Wales Ombudsman served an investigation notice on AIM notifying its intention to investigate AIM’s handling of and response to the allegations of child abuse. In the course of this investigation, it was discovered that despite having been charged with 30 child sexual offences Makarov was teaching students in his home, these students’ parents had taken their children out of AIM so that they could be taught by Makarov at home. Makarov was eventually convicted for child sex offences and subsequently jailed.
Grant Davies was a dance teacher and co-founder of RG Dance. Police began investigating him after his wife found child pornography material and messages on his laptop. In 2013 he was charged with 63 child sexual offences relating to various acts of child sexual abuse committed over a period of 13 years between 2001 and 2013. His victims were aged between nine and 14. Davies pleaded guilty to a large number of child sex abuse charges and in 2015 was sentenced to a maximum term of 24 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 18 years.
Davies used his position as a dance teacher to groom students and commit child sexual abuse offences. He talked with them online late into the night. He entered changing rooms unannounced, inappropriately touched students and made sexualised comments to them. In 2007 complaints of child sexual abuse offences were made against Davies to the police by a number of RG Dance students. Although NSW Police investigated the allegations, the matter did not proceed to a prosecution.
Many of these acts occurred in public places within RG Dance and were witnessed by parents, teachers, administrators and students. The parents of the children had a strong wish for their child to succeed at dance and many believed Davies when he promised he would turn their daughters into stars. Davies was also able to groom the parents to comply with his wishes. The students, who wanted to succeed, felt emotionally blackmailed and intimidated by Davies. Both parents and students feared that if they did not comply with Davies’ requests that this would negatively impact their dance careers and their opportunity to be a star. As a result abuse was not reported when it should have been, thus enabling Davies to abuse children over such a long period of time, which is particularly worrying when you consider that this abuse is not historical in nature, it is very recent having taken place as late as 2013.
However, with recent revelations of similar abuse in football in the last few months, what is now clear is how vigilant we as a society must be when it comes to the steps that must be taken to protect children in the very many circumstances where they come into regular contact with adults in their daily lives.
Today in the majority of situations where adults work and/or interact with children there are established child protection/safeguarding policies or codes of conduct in place and the necessary procedures and systems required to prevent, handle and receive complaints of allegations of child sexual abuse are embedded in those organisations.
Of course for those policies and procedures to be effective, people need to be aware of their existence, trained in how to apply them and know how and when to activate the procedures so that abuse in plain sight does not go unreported.
Written by Sharon Moohan, associate