Abused USA gymnasts give evidence to the Senate Judiciary Committee

Members of the US gymnastics team, Simone Biles, Maggie Nichols, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney have appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about abuse suffered from former team doctor, Larry Nassar.  Nassar, who is serving an effective life sentence, was accused of sexual abuse by more than 330 women and girls at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.

The four women told the Committee they had ‘suffered and continue to suffer’ from the abuse they experienced and the subsequent failed handling by the FBI.

Simone Biles told the hearing, that Team USA and US Gymnastics both “failed to do their jobs” to stop Nassar sexually abusing her and almost 150 women and called for the agents involved to be prosecuted.  Former captain of the US Olympic Gymnastics teams, Aly Raisman said she was “still fighting for the most basic answers and accountability” more than six years after first reporting her abuse.  McKayla Maroney described the “silence and disregard for my trauma’ and that ‘not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.”

The hearing follows the July 2021 report from the US Justice Department which criticised the FBI for its investigation into Nassar and found delays and cover-ups by FBI agents. Nassar was able to abuse up to 70 athletes between the time the FBI first learned of the allegations, and September 2016 when he was fired by Michigan State University, after a police report was filed against him. The FBI initially interviewed only McKayla Maroney while declining to interview other women who had come forward. Two FBI officials subsequently attempted to cover up their errors.  W. Jay Abbott, the FBI agent in charge of the initial investigation, retired in 2018 and was not disciplined over his handling of the case. 

FBI director Christopher Wray also appeared at this week’s hearing and apologised to those present for the ‘reprehensible conduct’ and ‘fundamental errors’ detailed in the report.  He also admitted his agency had failed the survivors of Nassar’s abuse and pledged to prevent a repeat of the mishandling under his leadership.

Written by Michael Lee at Solicitor at BLM michael.lee@blmlaw.com

J v A South Wales Local Authority

The Court of Appeal upheld a High Court decision to refuse to allow a Local Authority to withdraw an admission of liability in a failure to remove case.

The claimant, J, was born in 2000 and had a difficult early childhood. There were concerns about his mother’s behaviour and parenting ability even prior to his birth. Despite this he was allowed to remain in her care until May 2006 when the Local Authority initiated care proceedings.

In August 2012 J began proceedings, with a litigation friend, against the Local Authority on the basis of a breach of both statutory duty and a common law duty of care. It is alleged that he ought to have been removed from the care of his mother in the first month of his life and placed for adoption.

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Vicarious liability: applying the brakes?

During the last 20 years, claims arising from non-recent sexual abuse have generated numerous judicial decisions. These claims often explore the concepts of limitation and vicarious liability and – on occasion – have almost redefined these concepts. The latest case is Blackpool FC Ltd v DSN [2021] EWCA Civ 1352, in which Lord Justice Stuart-Smith reviewed the authorities afresh.

DSN was 13 years old in 1987 when – along with a group of young teenage boys – he went on a footballing tour of New Zealand under the supervision of Frank Roper.  He was sexually abused by Frank Roper, a ‘terrifying experience with lasting consequences’ according to the judge at first instance.  Roper was not employed by Blackpool FC but he was closely associated with it: running an unofficial feeder club and directing promising teenagers towards Blackpool FC.  This was important to Blackpool FC whose dire financial situation was dependent on attracting and later selling valuable young players.

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Further detail on the waiver for Scottish in-care redress payments

Further detail on the waiver for Scottish in-care redress payments has emerged with the publication of draft regulations on the form and content of the waiver here and an accompanying policy note here. The draft regulations refer to a 1 December 2021 implementation date, in keeping with an earlier Scottish Government commitment that the redress scheme will be open for applications by the end of this year.

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Apple to scan iPhones for child sexual abuse images in USA

Apple has announced that the new versions of its operating system (iOS 15) due to be released later this year will have new applications to help restrict the spread of child sexual abuse material for customers in the USA.

Before an image is stored onto iCloud (Apple’s storage service that allows users to store documents/photos/videos on remote servers), the technology will search for that image against other images flagged as a child sexual abuse image and if a match is found, a human reviewer will assess the results and will report the user to law enforcement.

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IICSA launches dashboard based on accounts given to the Truth Project

IICSA has prepared a dashboard as part of its research programme, which provides information about the 5,440 victims and survivors who attended at the Truth Project from June 2016 to June 2021.

The dashboard provides information about:

  • the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse
  • the nature of the abuse that they experienced
  • where the sexual abuse took place and who the perpetrators were
  • the impacts of child sexual abuse, and
  • whether those victims and survivors told anyone about the abuse.
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The Children’s Society project established to offer abuse victims rapid support

The Children’s Society has set up a programme, funded by the Home Office, where children who are victims of sexual abuse will be offered one to one support within six weeks of reporting the abuse. 

Many children and young people are currently left without help immediately after reporting abuse, which can be a particularly difficult time. They may face a lengthy wait of 6-12 months before they can access long-term support from children’s mental health services to address the trauma they have faced.

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Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry publishes fifth set of case study findings

On 11 August 2021, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its fifth set of case study findings, link here. These findings arise from evidence heard from 43 witnesses at public hearings between 18 July and 1 October, both 2019, on the provision of residential care in boarding schools run by the Benedictine monks of Fort Augustus Abbey between 1948 and 1991 at Carlekemp Priory School, North Berwick, and Fort Augustus Abbey School, Inverness-shire. Fort Augustus Abbey was a member of the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) for much of its existence.

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British Nationals are now the most trafficked people within the UK

An investigation  by The Fuller Project and VICE World News has identified that whilst the UK was once known as a destination country for victims of trafficking, it is evident that an increasing number of British Nationals are being trafficked within the borders of the UK.  Statistics from the UK Government and charitable organisations show the UK is becoming an origin country for trafficking; rather than a destination country.

British people are trafficked in a number of ways including homeless people being offered jobs that then come with threats and no pay, teenagers being groomed by gangs into criminal acts, people coerced or manipulated to act as drug couriers or dealers, and girls and women forced into prostitution.

Despite recent pledges by the British  Government to tackle modern slavery, advocacy groups note that criminal networks are finding it easier to target the most vulnerable Britons rather than bringing people into the country.  Whilst the reason for this is not yet known, drastic government cuts to youth and family services of almost £1 billion is believed to have made a big impact. 

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Samaritans review procedures after claims that volunteers had sex with vulnerable callers

Yesterday, I published a press release on behalf of IICSA setting out new research which found that tactics exploited by perpetrators working in institutions enable child sexual abuse to continue even today.

In our comments on that press release we drew attention to the fact that one of the single most important thing for abusers is to create an opportunity to access children that they can abuse and the same can be said of vulnerable adults.

In a story published in the Daily Telegraph on the 1 August, 2021 it was reported that the Samaritans will in future listen in on calls to the service after having to report 44 serious safeguarding issues that have occurred since 2017 to the Charity Commission.

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