#MeToo Movement: The Gundecha Brothers allegations

Allegations of sexual assault have been made against the late Ramakant Gundecha by former pupils of the Dhrupad Sansthan Music School in central India. The two brothers, Umakant and Akhilesh have also faced allegations by female students of the school, which was owned by Ramakant; allegations have been denied by the brothers.

Students have been drawn from all over the world to study at Dhrupad Sansthan as a prestigious and accredited music school, made all the more desirable due to the found fame of owner Ramakant and brother Umakant within the Hindustani music world. The news of the allegations has therefore shaken the community with the brothers previously being known inspirations for many aspiring young musicians.

Initially one female former pupil of Ramakant came forward but has continued to use a false name to protect her identity. It was alleged that whilst she was a pupil at the school, Ramakant sent inappropriate Whatsapp messages during her first week and later drove her to a dark car park where he molested her, and months later she was raped. The distress caused was exacerbated by the victim’s commitment to her music studies – she had left her job and invested all of her money into the school.

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Vatican abuse trial: Update

We first reported on the start of the trial of two priests accused of abusing an altar boy and of covering the abuse up, respectively, in November 2020.  The alleged abuse is said to have taken place at a seminary in the Vatican (technically a ‘pre-seminary’ preparatory school). Since our initial report, the Court has only sat for nine days in total. Now, four former students at the seminary  where the alleged abuse took place, have given evidence. One of the former students asked the journalists at the trial to refer to him by his initials, MB, because he soon will be ordained as a priest.

The abuse is said to have occurred between 2007 and 2012. Both the accuser and the accused (Rev. Gabriele Martinelli) were under the age of 18 when the alleged abuse started.  However, Martinelli is accused of continuing to abuse the younger student, until the former was 20. 

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Amendments to Spain’s abuse laws

Spain’s Congreso de los Diputados recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of a comprehensive bill “El Proyecto de Ley Orgánica de protección integral a la infancia y la adolescencia frente a la violencia” in hopes of better protecting children from violence and abuse.

The proposed law covers a number of different matters, including homicide, human trafficking, sexual abuse, assault, crimes online, and various incitement offences (including incitement to commit suicide). The definition of what previously constituted “violence” has been expanded to include any type of physical or emotional abuse, including neglect. It also prohibits child migrants from being forced to strip and have their genitals examined in order for their age to be assessed.

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ECHR holds that re-victimised rape complainant suffered violation of Article 8 rights

In a judgment issued on the 27 May 2021 the European Court of Human Rights found that a rape complainant in Italy suffered a violation of her ECHR rights after she was re-victimised in court.

In its judgment in the matter of  J.L. v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights held, by six votes to one, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life and personal integrity) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned criminal proceedings against seven men who were charged with the gang rape of the applicant.

The applicant complained about the conditions in which she had been questioned throughout the criminal proceedings and challenged the arguments on which the courts had based their decisions in this case. The court held that several passages in the Italian Court of Appeal’s judgment had breached the applicant’s rights under Article 8.

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Roman Catholic Church in Germany in crisis – leading Cardinal tenders his resignation to the Pope

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising and one of the most well-known and influential leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany has written to Pope Francis tendering his resignation due to his part in dealing with sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany.

In his letter to Pope Francis Cardinal Marx stated that “I feel that through remaining silent, neglecting to act and over-focusing on the reputation of the Church I have made myself personally guilty and responsible,”

Cardinal Marx went on to say that the Roman Catholic Church in Germany is in crisis and he had formed the view that there must be personal consequences for what he described as “systemic” failure in dealing with abuse, he said that “It is also not right to simply link these problems largely on past times and former Church officials.”

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Ballet dancer faces lengthy jail sentence for sexually assaulting students

A former English National Ballet (ENB) principal dancer has been found guilty of sexually assaulting four of his students in the ballet company.  He had been a dancer with the ENB between 1993 and 2011, but now lives in Germany.

Yat-Sen Chang assaulted the young female students (then aged  between 16 and 18) at the English National Ballet and Young Dancers Academy in London, between December 2009 and March 2016. 

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The Truth Project

The Truth Project was set up in 2015 (as part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) to offer victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the chance to share their experiences and be heard in a respectful way. The aim was to provide recommendations to the government and institutions for changes in how to protect children in the future. 

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Can encryption of messages and the Online Safety Bill live harmoniously in an online world?

2020 may have seen the start of the  pandemic but the UK has been facing an epidemic of its own – online abuse.

According to an analysis by the NSPCC, more than 10,000 offences of online child sexual abuse were logged by police between April 2019 and March 2020, a 16% increase on the previous year. Parliamentary intervention has come at a crucial time. The Online Safety Bill is the result of two years’ work seeking to provide a safer virtual environment for all. The Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden,  has hailed the “ground-breaking laws” that the UK government have committed to introducing to ensure social media platforms protect their users and “safeguard our liberties”.  

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‘Failure to remove’ claims against social services – DXF v Coventry CC [2021]

Ever since CN & GN v Poole BC [2019] UKSC 25 (‘Poole’) we have been waiting for decisions applying the principles identified by Lord Reed. We have reported on some of these decisions, but now have the first authoritative decision applying these principles to a ‘standard’ claim for failure to remove: DXF v Coventry CC [2021] EWHC 1328 (QB).

The claimants are four children, who were removed and taken into care in 2010, after 15 years of social services involvement.  They alleged that Coventry City Council failed to remove them into care, and pointed to known concerns in 2002, 2003 and 2009 about the risk of sexual abuse by a third party known to the family, a report that one child had been sexually abused by that person, and later reports that other claimants were indecently assaulted by their father.  Criticism focussed on the investigation of child protection concerns and the instigation of care proceedings.

The trial in the High Court was heard in late 2020 and early 2021.  Judgment was handed down on 24 May 2021.  Mrs Justice Lambert found that the long period of social services involvement was a failure to provide a benefit (para. 195), and that no assumption of responsibility arose on the facts (para. 209). She also found for the council both on breach (para. 243 & 246) and causation (para. 251).  The carefully argued judgment is likely to have an impact on how future ‘failure to remove’ claims are decided and formulated. Adam Weitzman QC and Caroline Lody of 7 Bedford Row appeared for Coventry City Council. You can find their helpful note here.


Written by Geneviève Rich at BLM genevieve.rich@blmlaw.com