Simon Wood was a Captain working for British Airways (BA). He was also a fundraiser for charities in Kenya and Uganda. In 2013 he was accused of child abuse in those countries. He was interviewed by the police. He was charged with one count of indecent assault of a girl under 16, two counts of making indecent photographs of a child and one count of possessing indecent images of a child. In August 2013 he took his own life. He had denied the abuse he was accused of but the loss of life meant that no criminal court would be able to consider the matter further.
A group of those who reported abuse, represented by Leigh Day, pursued civil claims against British Airways arguing that responsibility for the alleged abuse lay at least in part with Wood’s employer, notwithstanding that it was not clear where his employment ended and independent charity work began. Leigh Day alleged “that British Airways had a duty of care toward these children in the schools and orphanages, that Wood was involved in through the airline’s charitable work, and through his respected position as a British Airways pilot.” It has now been reported that without any admissions of liability BA has paid compensation to the 38 claimants.
The IICSA has announced an investigation in connection with organisations which send employees/representatives overseas to work with children or which send children overseas as part of their activities. It is called the “Protection of Children Overseas Investigation.” Leigh Day who has also represented other groups of claimants pursuing claims for abuse committed overseas has also noted “Sadly we are seeing more and more of these cases of British child abusers travelling overseas where, by virtue of their sex, race, age and job title, they are able to exploit some of the most vulnerable children in the world in the most awful ways. This settlement should send a message to organisations which send their employees to work or volunteer with children. They need to ensure proper safeguards are in place to prevent such horrific acts.”
Any organisation which has done in the past or continues to send employees/volunteers or children overseas or which might find itself potentially liable for the activities of those who may have some connection to it, should be considering whether it has in place suitable safeguarding policies and procedures and that they are implemented even if the local expectations are different to those of the UK. Consideration should also be being made now of the information which exists whether in the form of documents or witness recall about previous overseas activities so that it can be provided when required by the IICSA.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner