In the UK, the revelations about Jimmy Saville led to profound changes in of the public perception of child sexual abuse, and to the creation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The impact of these revelations was later magnified by the #MeToo movement.
In France, the #MeToo movement was more of a starting point. Since then, a number of sports stars have revealed past sexual abuse by their coaches (as depicted in the movie ‘Slalom’. Sarah Abitbol, a champion figure skater, accused her former coach of raping her over many years. The head of the French Ice Sports Federation was forced to resign after his internal investigation was found to be a cover-up. Similar stories are coming from the worlds of tennis and athletics. A number of TV and film stars have made similar revelations. Adèle Haenel (who starred in ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’) accused director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her when she was only 12.
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) has published a report into the impact of abuse on survivors. The report follows on from the results disclosed in the Crime Survey for England and Wales which estimated that 20% of adults experience some form of abuse, before they reached the age of 16.
It also follows the Home Office’s first ‘Tackling Child Abuse Strategy’, which estimated that the cost to those have been abused, is £10billion , when the cost of the direct physical and mental health impacts, loss of education and employment opportunities, and breakdowns in relationships, is taken into account.
It has been announced that the BBC is to air a three-part series on football’s child sexual abuse scandal, directed by Daniel Gordon, the director of the acclaimed 2014 documentary, ‘Hillsborough’.
Titled ‘Football’s Darkest Secret’, the series will examine the abuse in youth football which took place across the UK in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
On 24 February 2021, after hearing competing legal arguments in A v XY Limited, Lord Woolman issued the first judicial decision on the substantial prejudice defence in non-recent Scottish childhood abuse claims (link here).
What will become of failure to remove cases?
Claims in negligence for failure to remove became increasingly common after the case of D v East Berkshire (CA, 31 July 2003). Courts were asked to scrutinise the actions of social services when investigating child protection concerns or deciding whether to start care proceedings. This run of cases stalled after the Supreme Court decision on CN & GN v Poole BC (SC, 6 June 2019). In CN, Lord Reed ruled that local authorities could not avoid liability on public policy grounds, but he distinguished between cases where they made things worse (‘positive acts’) and cases where they failed to make things better (‘pure omissions’). A duty of care existed for positive acts, but not for pure omissions usually.
On 17 February 2021, the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill passed stage 2 of the three stage Scottish legislative process. This stage was carried out by the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament. Over two meetings, the committee considered 139 proposed amendments to the bill. The bill as amended at stage 2 is here. No date has yet been set for stage 3 consideration of possible further amendments by the Scottish Parliament, sitting as a whole in chamber, or for the final debate and vote at stage 3 on whether to pass the bill. There does, however, appear to be considerable cross-party political will for this to happen on or before Thursday 25 March 2021 when the parliament will enter recess ahead of the 6 May 2021 Scottish Parliamentary election.
On 17 February 2021, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its fourth set of case study findings.
The latest findings follow evidence heard at Phase 4 of SCAI’s public hearings between 4 June and 16 July, both 2019 on a residential care home, St Ninian’s in Fife, run by The Christian Brothers, a male, Catholic, religious order. The findings cover the period between 1953 and 1983. A link to the findings is here.
On 11 February 2021, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) published a final, independent report on sexual abuse in Scottish football. This report – link here – is dated July 2020. The reasons, if any, for the delay in publication are unclear.
The report comprises three sections, broadly covering:
- Individual accounts of the events and incidents of non-recent child sexual abuse in Scottish football mainly occurring in the 1970s, 80s and 90s;
- The safeguarding “journey” within Scottish football from the 1990s until recent years; and
- The current arrangements and issues in Scottish football related to the wellbeing and protection of young people from sexual abuse and exploitation.
On Wednesday 10 February 2021 the Education and Skills committee at the Scottish Parliament will start to consider proposed amendments to the Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill.
In total, 107 amendments have so far been proposed. Further amendments could be proposed both during the current Stage 2 of the Scottish legislative process and also during the final third stage. Amendments made during Stage 2 could even be overturned by amendments at Stage 3. As is often the case, Stage 2 is being undertaken at committee level rather than by the Scottish Parliament sitting as a whole in chamber. Assuming that the bill proceeds to Stage 3, the parliament as a whole would consider and vote on any further proposed amendments before debating and deciding whether to pass the bill.
Recent figures obtained by the BBC’s File on 4 show has brought to light the significant stigma and shame felt by of victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by female abusers. It has been suggested that there is a lack of understanding about this type of abuse even though statistics confirm that there is a significant rise in such abuse being reported. Between 2015 and 2019 there was an increase in victims of sexual abuse by female abusers of 84%.
File on 4 obtained data from 36 UK Police forces which showed a rise of 1,249 cases to 2,297 cases during the period 2015 to 2019.