The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is due to be formally introduced in Parliament today. One of the measures is a law expanding the prevention of adults in ‘positions of trust’ from engaging in sexual relationships with young people under the age of 18.
Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (‘SOA’) it is at present illegal for certain professionals, including teachers, social workers and doctors, to engage in sexual activity with a 16 or 17 year old because they are considered to be in a position of trust in relation to the young person. Sports coaches and religious leaders, for example, have not however previously been included within this category of professionals. This will change under the new legislation.
The Government has set out a new, three-point strategy to tackle sexual abuse whether it is committed in person or online, in families or communities, here in this country or overseas. The strategy aims to fulfil the Government’s goal to prevent, tackle and respond to child sexual abuse using a robust framework which seeks to encourage action amongst different sectors and agencies.
The strategy sets out the following three objectives:
- To tackle all forms of child sexual abuse and bring offenders to justice;
- To prevent offending and re-offending;
- To protect and safeguard children and young people, and provide support to all victims and survivors.
The Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale investigation exposed how child sexual abuse targeting the most vulnerable of children was allowed to persist for a disturbing length of time. During three weeks of public hearings in 2017, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard of the vulnerability of the children at the council-run Knowl View School and of child sexual abuse spanning a period of 25 years. It found staff complacent and arguably complicit.
Lady Smith, Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has announced that evidential hearings for phase 6 of SCAI’s work will start on Tuesday 16 March 2021. This phase will examine the abuse of children in boarding schools. This phase was originally scheduled to start in the second half of January 2021 but was postponed because of the renewed COVID-19 lockdown. For the phase 6 hearings, SCAI will be based at its headquarters at Rosebery House in Edinburgh and will hear from witnesses both in person and remotely by video link.
Ravi Zacharias was an Indian-born Canadian-American Christian apologist who founded the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM). He was involved in Christian apologetics for a period spanning more than 40 years. He died on the 19 May 2020 aged 74.
Zacharias met Lori Anne Thompson and her husband in October 2014 at a businessman’s lunch in Kingston, Ontario. Over the following 14 months Lori Anne has described how Zacharias groomed her and how their relationship changed and under the pretext of “love” she and Zacharias began communicating in a sexually explicit manner, which culminated in Lori Anne sending Zacharias intimate photos.
In the UK, the revelations about Jimmy Saville led to profound changes in of the public perception of child sexual abuse, and to the creation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The impact of these revelations was later magnified by the #MeToo movement.
In France, the #MeToo movement was more of a starting point. Since then, a number of sports stars have revealed past sexual abuse by their coaches (as depicted in the movie ‘Slalom’. Sarah Abitbol, a champion figure skater, accused her former coach of raping her over many years. The head of the French Ice Sports Federation was forced to resign after his internal investigation was found to be a cover-up. Similar stories are coming from the worlds of tennis and athletics. A number of TV and film stars have made similar revelations. Adèle Haenel (who starred in ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’) accused director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her when she was only 12.
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) has published a report into the impact of abuse on survivors. The report follows on from the results disclosed in the Crime Survey for England and Wales which estimated that 20% of adults experience some form of abuse, before they reached the age of 16.
It also follows the Home Office’s first ‘Tackling Child Abuse Strategy’, which estimated that the cost to those have been abused, is £10billion , when the cost of the direct physical and mental health impacts, loss of education and employment opportunities, and breakdowns in relationships, is taken into account.
It has been announced that the BBC is to air a three-part series on football’s child sexual abuse scandal, directed by Daniel Gordon, the director of the acclaimed 2014 documentary, ‘Hillsborough’.
Titled ‘Football’s Darkest Secret’, the series will examine the abuse in youth football which took place across the UK in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
On 24 February 2021, after hearing competing legal arguments in A v XY Limited, Lord Woolman issued the first judicial decision on the substantial prejudice defence in non-recent Scottish childhood abuse claims (link here).
What will become of failure to remove cases?
Claims in negligence for failure to remove became increasingly common after the case of D v East Berkshire (CA, 31 July 2003). Courts were asked to scrutinise the actions of social services when investigating child protection concerns or deciding whether to start care proceedings. This run of cases stalled after the Supreme Court decision on CN & GN v Poole BC (SC, 6 June 2019). In CN, Lord Reed ruled that local authorities could not avoid liability on public policy grounds, but he distinguished between cases where they made things worse (‘positive acts’) and cases where they failed to make things better (‘pure omissions’). A duty of care existed for positive acts, but not for pure omissions usually.