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.

Continue reading

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

Sexual abuse in the classroom

In September 2020, the Department for Education introduced a compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum for both primary and secondary schools and also universities.  However, teachers said they struggled to deal with classroom sexual abuse as they were not given any external training and did not feel adequate procedures were in place to properly deal with peer-on-peer sexual abuse. 

Continue reading

Safeguarding Concerns – Everyone’s Invited and the NSPCC Helpline

Since its opening on 1 April 2021, an NSPCC run abuse helpline has received over 500 reports of abuse from students and parents and these numbers continue to increase. The service was set up by the Department of Education as a response to anonymous testimonies from school and university students alleging abuse on the website “Everyone’s Invited”.

Continue reading

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. 

Continue reading

Abuse in football – Clive Sheldon QC report published

Yesterday saw the release of the long awaited report of Clive Sheldon QC into allegations of child abuse within football between 1970 and 2005.  The report was commissioned by the Football Association (the FA).

Continue reading

Claims against social services

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.

Continue reading

IICSA, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches and Redress

In this our second blog comparing the recent reports published by IICSA into the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches we look at redress and accountability.

IICSA has reviewed the varying approaches taken with respect to redress across the Anglican Church and Roman Catholic Church, looking at how victims are compensated financially in addition to emotional support and apologies given.

Continue reading

IICSA publishes investigation report into the Roman Catholic Church

This week IICSA published its investigation report into the Roman Catholic Church (the Church). The report aims to examine the extent of institutional failings by the Church in England and Wales to protect children from child sexual abuse and examine the Church’s current safeguarding regime. The report draws on evidence from the Inquiry’s three case studies and the final public hearing held in October and November 2019.

Continue reading