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.
On Wednesday 5 July 2015 the IICSA held a second day of seminars focusing first on the presentation and discussion of what can be gleaned from academic literature in respect of effective support services for child victims. This was by reference to a Rapid Evidence Assessment (“REA”) completed by Professor Lorraine Radford and her team at the University of Central Lancashire titled “What can be learnt from other jurisdictions about preventing and responding to child sexual abuse”.
Yesterday, the Scottish Football Association confirmed that it is to set up an Independent Review of child abuse allegations in football. The SFA Chief Executive pointed out, though, that “Police Scotland has reaffirmed that it is the investigatory authority regarding reports of child sexual abuse in football.” NSPCC Scotland, which has set up a specialist hotline to support and advise survivors of football abuse, has welcomed the SFA’s announcement of an Independent Review, with its National Head of Service noting that “The number of cases highlighted so far reveal the deeply disturbing extent of abuse that has been going on within football.”
The SFA’s Independent Review is to focus on “processes and procedures” in place both currently and historically in Scottish Football. The “initial scoping phase” of the review will run into 2017, with the SFA committed to commenting further on it thereafter.
Last week in the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister had been urged to extend the remit of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry to deal also with non-recent abuse in football. The First Minister declined, noting that “To widen the remit of (the) Inquiry would mean that it would perhaps take many years longer to conclude its investigations and would risk it becoming completely unwieldy. We would be at risk, I think, of breaking our word to survivors of in-care abuse. My view is that we should allow that Inquiry to get on with its job and allow the police to get on with investigating allegations of abuse in football.”
It is worth noting the differences between the ongoing Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and the SFA Independent Review which is to be set up.
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is a statutory one, set up by the Scottish Government under the Inquiries Act 2005. It is charged, amongst other things, with: creating a national public record and commentary on abuse of children in care in Scotland for the period within living memory to no later than 17 December 2014; considering the extent to which failures to protect children in care have been addressed; and to consider whether further changes in practice, policy or legislation are necessary to protect children in care from abuse in future. Within four years of the establishment of the Inquiry (by October 2019), it is to report to Scottish Ministers and to make recommendations.
The SFA Independent Review, on the other hand, will not be set up under a public Act of Parliament so its scope and power, as well as how it is conducted, will not be governed by the Inquiries Act 2005. However, whilst its constitution and scope is yet to be defined, the SFA Chief Executive has given an indication of its purpose, referring to “what lessons football can learn from (abuse) allegations” so that “Scottish football is a safe and enjoyable environment for children.”
Written by Frank Hughes, Partner
As football clubs across the UK face looking in to past behaviours and failures the Royal Commission has today published its report in to case study 39 which considered incidents of sexual abuse in football, tennis and cricket.
Football clubs across England and Scotland have been in the headlines not just in the sports sections of the press for the past few days. However abuse in sport has sadly but not unexpectedly just been in football. Just this week as a result of all of the publicity other sportsmen and women have spoken out about being abused.
Sexual abuse in the world of professional football has hit the headlines over the last few days.
Last week former professional footballer, Andy Woodward, bravely spoke publicly to The Guardian about having been seriously sexually abused by football coach and scout Barry Bennell whilst a youth player at Crewe Alexandra. Woodward, now 43, did make a career in professional football but believes that this ended prematurely at the age of 29 because of depression, anxiety and panic attacks caused as a result of the abuse. He believes there are many more victims of Bennell.
The BBC aired “Abuse: The Untold Story” this week. It followed various victims of abuse, including those abused by Jimmy Savile, Ray Teret and Chris Denning. The documentary focused on the victims and the effect coming forward has had on their families. It was a refreshing outlook focusing on the victims rather than their high profile abusers.
The programme also included:
- first-hand accounts of why victims had not come forward at the time of the abuse, or earlier than they had. The main reason given was because they often thought they were the only one to have been abused and they did not think they would be believed;
- one of the first victims to use the CPS Scheme ‘Victims Right to Review’. This was set up so any victim of abuse could ask for their case to be reviewed again if it had not been pursued when they first made a complaint. This particular victim’s case was then taken to trial;
- criticism of the CPS and its failure to properly investigate four allegations of abuse against Savile whilst he was alive. The BBC was also criticised for its failure to air an interview with one of Savile’s victims for over a year;
- representatives from the Police speaking of their experiences of investigating historical abuse claims and advising that reports of sexual abuse had risen by 60% in the last four years;
- representatives from the NSPCC and their insight on abuse victims.
The programme will remain available on BBC iPlayer for the next month.
Written by Nicola Aspinwall, Solicitor