IICSA have this week published the transcript of the first preliminary hearing of the Investigation into Child Protection in Religious Organisations and Settings.
The investigation will review the current child protection policies, practices and procedures in religious institutions in England and Wales. It is separate from IICSA’s investigations into the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. It will examine other religious organisations and settings, including, but not limited to, non-conformist Christian denominations, other Christian denominations, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Twenty core participant applications have been accepted, a further 13 declined. Core participants include the Home Office, the Charity Commission, Ofsted, the Pagan Federation, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, four separate Jewish organisations, a number of inter-faith organisations and groups representing victims and survivors.
IICSA have already started to make a series of formal requests for witness evidence and information. The Inquiry is focusing largely upon obtaining and receiving witness evidence with accompanying documents with less of an emphasis on the provision of swathes of documents as has been the case in other investigations as there is the risk of this investigation becoming overwhelmed.
The Inquiry has written to some, but not all, religious organisations with a presence within England and Wales and intends to write to others in the very near future. It is hoped that they will send out all requests for witness statements by the end of September 2019 and will have received all relevant material by December 2019. They acknowledge they are unlikely to be able to write to every single religious organisation but hope to have a spread from those with a significant number of adherents within England and Wales.
Rather than focusing on specific case studies this thematic investigation will look at a wide range of issues including the resources set aside for safeguarding, the training across all positions, the inter-organisational sharing of information, internal practices, procedures, culture and structure, governance, responses to disclosure, the definition of regulated activities under the DBS, the regulatory powers of the Charity Commission, the guidance provided by Government bodies and the provision of redress.
The Inquiry has already made requests to charities which represent children and have approached interfaith organisations. They will be writing to religious organisations who provide informal or formal networks of advice and assistance, organisations who work with religious organisations to provide advice in relation to child protection work, those places which train religious leaders, local authorities, the charity commission and statutory bodies.
They will also be writing to a number of survivor organisations who represent and provide advocacy services to those who have suffered sexual abuse in a religious context. They also wish to have some evidence from individual victims and survivors about their experience of institutional response to abuse, and their views as to the current process of reparations by religious organisations.
The Inquiry will hold a further preliminary hearing at 10.30am on 14 January 2020 to set out a more detailed outline for the hearing which is scheduled for 16-27 March 2020.
Written by Michael Lee at BLM