Over the last few weeks we have provided updates on the publication of the IICSA’s first two investigation reports – Rochdale and Child Migration. This week the IICSA published their Interim Report (“the Report”) as required by their Terms of Reference. The Report brings together the IICSA’s work to date following the five public hearings held, two investigation reports and a series of seminars discussing issues relevant to child sexual abuse.
Institutional responses to child sexual abuse
The Report provides updates in relation to the investigations already concluded and some background to those which are currently being considered:
- Case study into child migration programmes (forming part of the investigation into ‘Children outside the UK’) – the IICSA reiterated its overwhelming conclusion “that the UK Government was primarily to blame for the continued existence of the child migration programmes after the Second World War” and its recommendations: apologies to former child migrants; the Government establishing a financial redress scheme for former migrants and better management of records that include information about former child migrants
- Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale (the Rochdale investigation) – the Report provides a summary of the IICSA’s public hearing into Rochdale and its conclusion that although it did not find evidence that Cyril Smith used his position to influence or avoid prosecution, he was willing to persuade accusers to keep quiet and there was unwillingness to consider that such a public figure could be capable of perpetrating child sexual abuse. The IICSA made no recommendations within its most recent report regarding Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale, pending the conclusion of their investigations in respect of Nottinghamshire and Lambeth Councils and Child Sexual Abuse by Organised Networks.
(For further details about these investigations please refer to our blogs dated 27 March and 12 April 2018.)
- Case study into the English Benedictine Congregation (part of the ‘Roman Catholic Church’ investigation) – the IICSA’s first public hearing looked into two abbeys – Ampleforth and Downside, examining whether the schools took responsibility for safeguarding children and protecting them from sexual abuse. It is also looking into the Congregation’s efforts to investigate, learn lessons and implement change. The IICSA continue to consider its findings and will provide a specific investigation report sometime in 2018
- Case study into the Diocese of Chichester (part of the ‘Anglican Church’ investigation) – this investigation is examining how institutions have protected children from sexual abuse in the Church of England and the Church in Wales. The first public hearing, held in March 2018, examined the culture within the Diocese, the effect this had on safeguarding, how practices have changed, how the Church manages recruitment, promotion, resignation and disciplinary action and whether victims/survivors have received compensation. The IICSA’s findings in relation to this investigation are pending.
Current practice to tackle child sexual abuse
The IICSA have undertaken work gathering information, evidence and holding seminars about how institutions currently respond and prevent child sexual abuse. The IICSA have considered the internet, the criminal and civil justice systems and the health sector.
- The internet – the IICSA will assess what statutory authorities and the internet industry are doing to protect children online along with the industry’s responses to online child abuse.
The IICSA’s recommendations in relation to the other topics are:
- Criminal justice – the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Home Office and Attorney General commission a joint inspection of compliance with the Victims’ Code in relation to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. The IICSA also recommend the MoJ revises the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) rules so that awards are not automatically rejected in circumstances where an applicant’s criminal convictions are likely to be linked to their child sexual abuse. Further claims relating to child sexual abuse should be considered by specialist caseworkers and all those who previously applied for compensation into child sexual abuse but were refused solely due to the ‘same-roof’ rule should be entitled to reapply and have their claim approved by the CICA
- Civil justice – the Association of British Insurers (ABI) considers introducing a central register of public liability of insurers to assist claimants in child sexual abuse cases in locating the insurers relevant to their claim. The ABI are expected to set out their consideration of the issue and their conclusions in a written update within 12 months of the publication of the IICSA’s report. The IICSA also recommend the MoJ provides legislation to protect vulnerable witnesses in civil claims where they are claiming compensation for abuse suffered
- The health sector – in both England and Wales the relevant authorities should develop national policies for the training and use of chaperones in the treatment of children in healthcare services along with the Care Quality Commission/Healthcare Inspectorate in Wales developing a policy for the training and use of chaperones in the treatment of children in the health sector.
Cultural, professional and political, structural and financial are the four themes the IICSA has considered its work against. These themes remain a key consideration for the IICSA as they consider they enable the Panel to make conclusions about what needs to be done in the future to keep children safe.
- Cultural – the IICSA agrees there is a lack of open discussion about child sexual abuse and it has seen this first hand through its work. The IICSA considers children will be better protected if society is prepared to discuss the issue openly and frankly. Moving forward, the IICSA will consider how a change in culture can be supported whilst also recognising that institutions with responsibility to keep children safe from sexual abuse must play a key role
- Professional and political – the IICSA’s work to date has provided examples of institutions failing to have open and honest leadership. The IICSA use the Government as an example – stating it failed to take responsibility for its failures in relation to child migration, along with the example of senior leaders in Rochdale who denied any responsibility for the lack of effective response to the sexual abuse of vulnerable boys despite compelling evidence. These themes remain on-going issues that require consideration but in the interim the IICSA consider there are two areas of change that can be made now: 1) the Government should ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse which sets out measures that must be in place to protect children at an international level and 2) to support cultural change within the police service it recommends all those aspiring to senior leadership positions to demonstrate their understanding about child sexual abuse
- Structural – the IICSA has identified legislative and regulatory arrangements in place to help institutions keep children safe and how to respond when it does occur. To achieve this the IICSA recommend:
- Ensuring that all care staff working in children’s homes are professionally registered;
- Ensuring that registered professionals who pose a risk or harm to children are barred from working with children across all sectors; and
- Ensuring that complaints about the way the police have handled child sexual abuse cases are considered regardless of when the abuse took place
- Financial – the IICSA continue to hear about the difficulties survivors and victims face when seeking to access support or treatment. Therefore it recommends that the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Education, the MoJ and the Home Office work together to establish current levels of public expenditure and the effectiveness of such expenditure on services for child victims and adult survivors of child sexual abuse. The IICSA have made the same recommendation to the equivalent authorities in Wales.
The IICSA’s work programme for the next year remains heavy. Over the next few months the key events are:
- 8 May 2018 – Accountability and Reparations preliminary hearing
- 6 June 2018 – preliminary hearings for Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church and the Children Outside the UK (sexual harm prevention orders and sexual risk orders case study)
- 7 June 2018 – The Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions preliminary hearing
- 9 – 19 July 2018 – Children in custodial institutions public hearing
- 20 – 27 July 2018 – the Anglican Church (Peter Ball case study) public hearing
- September 2018 – Mandatory reporting seminar
- 1 – 12 and 22 – 26 October 2018 – Nottingham Councils public hearing
- 12 – 16 November 2018 – Roman Catholic Church (Archdiocese of Birmingham case study) public hearing
- 26 – 30 November 2018 – the Accountability and Reparations public hearings.
- 4 – 8 February 2019 – Roman Catholic Church (Ealing Abbey case study) public hearing
- 11 – 15 February 2019 – Children Outside the UK (sexual harm prevention orders and sexual risk orders case study) public hearing
- 4 – 15 and 25 – 29 March 2019 – Westminster public hearing.
As the IICSA’s work continues its recommendations will continue to evolve and a key focus in their agenda is redress. It seems highly likely that such a recommendation will be made for all victims and survivors but in what form, when and how only time will tell.
Finally Alexis Jay, Chair of the Panel has noted that it is still intended that the work of the IICSA will be concluded by December 2020.
Authored by Miriam Rahamim, a solicitor with BLM