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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Child sexual abusers use similar tactics to groom children in institutions, Inquiry report finds

On the 13 July, IICSA published the following press release:

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has published new research which finds that tactics exploited by perpetrators working in institutions enable child sexual abuse to continue even today.

Based on analysis of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) case files between 2017 – 2020, the research examines the offending strategies of alleged perpetrators across a wide range of contemporary institutional contexts, such as schools, sport and foster care, as well as the nature of abuse and responses of professionals.

 Across the 43 cases examined, alleged perpetrators used similar methodical grooming strategies, including: 

  • targeting and isolating children
  • building friendships which developed into sexually abusive ‘relationships’, based on trust and codependency with children
  • befriending children’s friends and families over time. 

The research revealed that alleged perpetrators, such as teachers and sports coaches, harnessed their professional reputations and authority to manipulate other adults, and perpetrate child sexual abuse undetected.

Creating cultures of fear, they threatened, blackmailed or intimidated children to deter them from reporting the child sexual abuse and with limited opportunities for disclosure, children often had noone to turn to. 

Informal social relationships, social gatherings and contact between adults and children was normalised within institutions, whilst technology, in particular social media, was found to provide new opportunities for adults working in institutions to access and sexually abuse children. 

The research report reveals that in many cases, individuals denied the allegations or constructed a mitigation narrative to justify, explain or minimise the child sexual abuse. This included framing sexually abusive relationships as consensual and romantic, or putting the blame on the child. Some alleged perpetrators claimed that they had made “mistakes” or “poor judgements” whilst others disputed that they held ‘positions of trust’, therefore safeguarding policies did not apply to them, and had therefore not been breached.

There were also a number of examples where the institutions did not believe children’s disclosures, in particular in cases where alleged perpetrators denied the allegations against them. In some cases, it was clear that institutions chose to preserve the alleged perpetrator’s reputation and their own, above protecting children who reported child sexual abuse.

The research also found that there were numerous missed opportunities to safeguard children because concerns were not escalated and institutions and staff did not always share, record and respond appropriately. A lack of coordination with agencies, weak vetting processes and poor record keeping allowed individuals to offend multiple times within institutions, or to continue offending across institutional contexts and over long periods of time. There were also instances where the onus was placed on the alleged perpetrators to declare their own criminal histories.

Despite significant safeguarding policies being in place, these were not upheld and inaction or institutional complacency enabled alleged perpetrators to operate without being detected and continue to sexually abuse children. 

Principal researcher Julienne Zammit said:

“This groundbreaking research provides new insight into the behaviour of perpetrators across contemporary institutional contexts, finding the use of similar tactics to groom and sexually abuse children. Alleged perpetrators denied or minimised the sexual abuse, in some cases even blaming the victim. 

“Sexually abusive relationships were often framed as consensual and social media was frequently exploited to groom and perpetrate child sexual abuse, providing access to children in unsupervised and unmonitored online spaces.

“Where reports were made, opportunities to safeguard children were missed or actively blocked because concerns were not escalated and disclosures were not always believed. In some cases, it was clear that institutions chose to put their reputation above protecting children who reported child sexual abuse.”

Survivors of child sexual abuse can share their experiences with the Inquiry’s Truth Project over the phone, via video call or in writing. Visit www.truthproject.org.uk for more information.

This research is the first of its kind involving both men and women added to the DBS Children’s Barred List.

For many readers of this blog, the information set out above will just sadly confirm much of what they know already to be the case when considering this topic.

However, there are simple lessons to be learned in terms of future safeguarding, children of any age, background, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation and/or vulnerability can be abused, there is no typical victim. Equally abusers can be from any background, socio-economic status, gender and/or sexual orientation they can be men, women or young people. The single most important thing for abusers is to create an opportunity to access children that they can abuse. If we are to safeguard children effectively in the future in the real and the virtual world, it is these opportunities that we must identify and regulate. We must ensure all the necessary safeguards are in place in the first instance and are fully utilised by all the relevant personnel when abuse of children is suspected and/or reported.


Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com