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.
After a need to delay the publication of the final report earlier this year, this inquiry in to abuse in care environments in Jersey will publish its final report on 3 July.
On 31 May the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) began its first phase of preliminary hearings. During this phase the intention is to consider the following:
- The nature, extent and development of the State’s role in and responsibility for residential and foster care.
- The history and governance of the various organisations that have over the years provided and arranged for the residential care of children, including faith-based and charitable organisations.
- The background to and reason for formation of survivor groups.
During this phase 16 organisations are represented and participating in the provision of evidence. They include the In-Care Abuse Survivors Group, Quarriers, the Bishop’s Conference of Scotland, various religious orders and charities. Evidence has been presented by various expert witnesses. The organisations participating had been asked to complete a questionnaire in advance of the hearing in which as well as explaining their structure and governance they had been asked to acknowledge whether there were children in their care who had or may have been abused. This phase of hearings is continuing until 12 July and transcripts from each day’s hearing are available on the inquiry website.
The SCAI has also published further details of costs incurred. Up to 31 March the cost of the SCAI was £5,724,468.
England & Wales
The IICSA announced 13 initial investigations and they are progressing at different speeds. The latest position is as follows
|Children Overseas||Following the phase 1 hearings in February and a further preliminary hearing in May the Child Migration Case Study is progressing with disclosure of evidence to core participants and preparing for the second phase of hearings which will proceed from 10 – 21 July 2017.|
|Rochdale etc||This will be the second investigation to hold full evidential hearings. These are due to commence on 9th October 2017. At the third preliminary hearing consideration was also made about the scope of this investigation and the approach to sensitive documents.|
|Roman Catholic||Full evidential hearings will proceed in connection with the English Benedictine Congregation from 27 November – 15 December 2017, subject to consideration of the impact of a criminal trial related to Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School due to proceed in October.|
|Nottinghamshire||The first preliminary hearing considered amendments to the scope of this investigation and noted that a decision about specific case studies and a substantive timetable will be made later this year.|
|Accountability & Reparation||Since the preliminary hearing at the end of March this investigation has made a public request for core participants in connection with its case study in to St Aidan’s children’s home in Widnes.|
|Anglican||There have been no formal developments|
|Lord Janner||There have been no formal developments|
|Westminster||There have been no formal developments|
|Children in Custody||There have been no formal developments|
|Lambeth||There have been no formal developments|
|Residential Schools||There have been no formal developments|
|Child Sexual Exploitation||There have been no formal developments|
|The Internet||There have been no formal developments|
The research project continues to progress papers and seminars. These include
- The commissioning of a rapid evidence assessment to quantify the scale of online-facilitated child sexual abuse. The over-arching question this research is endeavouring to answer is “What is known about the scale of online-facilitated child sexual abuse?” In answering this question regard is to be had to any circumstance where either the victim or the perpetrator is resident in England or Wales.
- Two days of seminars to consider victims and survivors experiences including the impact of abuse, support available and redress. These will proceed on 4th & 5th
- A seminar on issues relating to abuse in the health sector to proceed in September.
- In November there will be a seminar in connection with abuse and criminal justice.
- February 2018 will see a seminar on the topic of social and political narratives about sexual abuse.
The truth project is also active and panel members have been attending regular meetings with a wide variety of organisations around the country to promote the work of the IICSA and encourage participation in the truth project.
As the Royal Commission (RC) works towards its conclusion it has published the following:
- Research comparing the recruitment and support of carers in out-of-home-care across Australia
- Submissions from the public hearing into the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle
- A research which report that found that Australian oversight bodies have inconsistent scope and powers in protecting children from sexual abuse in institutions
- A report that concludes that children with problem or harmful sexual behaviours should have access to effective therapeutic services
In a speech in May this year Justice McClelland summarised the work undertaken
- The total number of public hearings – 57. The public hearing program concluded in March this year with a discussion of the nature, cause and impact of child sexual abuse.
- As part of the public hearing program the RC examined more than 1.2 million documents, heard evidence from more than 1,200 witnesses and the Commissioners sat for more than 440 days.
- 33 case study reports have been published. The remaining case study reports will be published in the coming months.
- The Commissioners have held more than 6,700 private sessions with survivors. 32% of survivors reported abuse in a government institution, 10% reported abuse in a secular institution, 59% reported abuse in a religious institution.
- 44 research reports have been published.
- The RC has referred 2,025 matters to authorities, almost always the police, with a view to the possible prosecution of an offender. There have been 127 prosecutions commenced as a result of these referrals.
The final report of the RC is due in December 2017 but in the interim the RC has concluded that the following are the 10 key essential elements of a child safe organisation
- Child safety is embedded in institutional leadership, governance and culture
- Children participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously
- Families and communities are informed and involved
- Equity is promoted and diversity respected
- People working with children are suitable and supported
- Processes to respond to complaints of child sexual abuse are child focused
- Staff are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children safe through continual education and training
- Physical and online environments minimize the opportunity for abuse to occur
- Implementation of child safe standards is continually reviewed and improved
- Policies and procedures document how the organisation is child safe.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner at BLM