Release decision for ‘Baby P’s mother to be appealed

Back in 2007 the tragic case of ‘Baby P’, later named as 17-month-old Peter Connolly, was brought to the attention of the media.

17-month-old Peter was subject to months of abuse at the hands of his mother Tracey Connolly and her partner. Connolly was jailed in 2009 after admitting causing and/or allowing the death of her son in Tottenham, London.

During the investigation, it was discovered that Connolly, her partner Steven Barker and their lodger (Steven’s brother) had all contributed to the injuries suffered by Peter.

Peter was sadly found with over 50 injuries at the time of his death.

A review following the death of Peter found that there had been missed opportunities from social services and other professionals involved with his case.

Connolly was previously released on licence in 2013 but was shortly recalled to prison in 2015 for breach of her licence conditions. When her case was reviewed in 2019, the Parole Board refused her release, they also declined the option of moving her to an open prison.

On this occasion, the fourth time before the Parole Board, they have decided she is suitable for release.

The Parole Board report suggests Connolly has taken part in a ‘very intensive’ treatment programme developed by the Ministry of Justice and have deemed her at low risk of committing further offences.

If released Connelly would be subject to strict licence conditions which include living at a specified address, being supervised by probation, wearing an electronic tag, adhering to a curfew, and having to disclose her relationships.

When Connolly was last released in 2013, she breached her licence conditions by inciting one of the residents in her living accommodation to engage in inappropriate sexualised behaviour.

The Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has now stood up in the House of Commons and demanded the Parole Board reconsider their decision to release Connelly – the decision is awaited.

This is a stern message to those who have committed similar offences who are currently serving prison sentences with a possibility for parole.

Only this week, the mother of 3-year-old Kemarni Watson Darby was convicted of causing or allowing her son’s death at her West Bromwich flat, the same offence as Tracey Connolly. The mother’s partner was found guilty of murder of Kemarni.

The strict licence conditions placed on such individuals are there for a reason; to prevent further offending.

In the Connolly case, the first set of parole restrictions were clearly not strict enough. It is likely given the high-profile nature of this case it will be taken into consideration when other offender’s releases are being considered. It is also likely the terms of the individuals licence conditions will be scrutinised in more detail to consider the risk of re-offending.

IICSA residential schools report

Conclusions and recommendations

The Inquiry’s Residential Schools Report has concluded that schools are not as safe for children as they should be and that children’s interests still do not always come first when allegations of sexual abuse are made.  The report states that in spite of increased awareness of the risk some children continue to experience sexual abuse and sexual harassment in schools and highlighted the particular safeguarding challenges prevalent in music schools, boarding schools and residential special schools.

The report states that schools need to alter their mind set and accept that ‘it could happen here’ and in the case of harmful sexual behaviour between pupils that ‘it probably is happening here’. The Inquiry heard evidence about ineffective safeguarding in schools during the past 20 years and the testimonies on the Everyone’s Invited website demonstrate that currently, for children in some schools, sexual abuse and harassment between peers remain endemic. 

The report adds that many of the schools examined by the Inquiry responded inadequately to allegations against their staff and in some cases there was a culture which discouraged reporting. Too often, the Inquiry saw examples of head teachers who found it inconceivable that staff might abuse their positions of authority to sexually abuse children, were unaware of current statutory guidance or did not understand their role in responding to allegations against staff. It was clear that some staff were more focused on protecting the reputation of the school than protecting the interests of the children.

The report also highlights that for many victims and survivors, the impact of abuse has been profound and lifelong. In addition, it mentions that many of those in positions of authority and responsibility have not been held to account for their failures of leadership and governance and that many perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

The recommendations made in the report can be summarised as follows :

  • Specific recommendations for residential schools to include inspection, reporting duties and a system of licensing and registration of educational guardians for international students
  • The introduction of national standards for LADOs to promote consistency and statutory guidance confirming that LADOs can provide informal advice
  • Amendments to Independent School Standards to include the requirement to have an effective system of governance
  • The establishment of nationally accredited standards and levels of safeguarding training in schools, with the highest level of training being mandatory for head teachers and DSLs
  • Schools to be required to inform the relevant inspectorate when a member of staff has been referred to the DBS, the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) or the Education Workforce Council
  • Regulations to be amended to bring all teaching assistants, learning support staff and cover supervisors within the misconduct jurisdiction of the TRA

The potential impacts of the report

We share a number of thoughts as to the potential impact as follows:

  • This report may well encourage previously reluctant victims of historical abuse in schools to come forward and/or be encouraged to do so.
  • The number of schools investigated by IICSA was only a very small sample. There will be other school in England and Wales which could have had similar historical CSA issues. Victims from those schools may well now feel empowered to raise complaints and claims.
  • Renewal audits, especially with Independent Specialist schools, should ensure that the schools safeguarding policy reflects good practice and takes account of the recent recommendations.  Particular focus should be given to the schools ability to review, monitor and respond to Specialist Tutors performance or concerns about their behaviour.
  • The Everyone’s Invited (“EI”) movement is referenced a number of times in the report. EI focusses on more contemporary, peer on peer abuse and harassment behaviours. EI has a significant and very active media profile and the types of claims that could arise from EI scenarios are much wider than conventional CSA injury claims. Potential arguments around systemic failings in an institution’s safeguarding practice, and the impact these failings had on the claimant’s mental health are likely to be referenced in claims. The combination of all these factors and the additional profile raising of EI by IICSA may well have a significant impact on the claims numbers and the way they are presented.
  • EI is referenced in complaints raised directly with schools.  Complaints of harassment are raised alongside systemic failure allegations;  accounts from fellow pupils are referenced to support complaints about a schools failures to adequately respond to inappropriate behaviour/harassment/assault. 
  • Limitation and mandatory reporting are going to be the subject of IICSA’s final report expected “later in 2022”. The nature of the recommendations made by IICSA may impact on future civil claims for damages.

Written by Sarah Murray-Smith at BLM

Historic Abuse and Statute of Limitations

Limitation in historic abuse claims has been a controversial concern for some time as strict application of the statute on Limitation can result in unfair outcomes.

As a consequence there is a groundswell of support for review and revision of limitation periods in such cases.

There is a current lack of uniformity.

In England and Wales primary limitation periods remain subject to a three year period from when a claimant reaches majority (age 21), albeit subject to discretion to extend the period in certain circumstances.

However in other jurisdictions change is already afoot and embedded.

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Abuse within swimming – independent investigation into Ellesmere College Titans

Ellesmere College Titans, an elite swimming club based at Ellesmere College, an independent boarding school in Shropshire, is to close following an independent investigation which found widespread failures to protect children, leading to eating disorders, bullying and significant mental health issues.

The investigation began in 2020 when parents contacted the club’s governing body, Swim England, concerned about children’s welfare.  The investigation (commissioned by Swim England) uncovered more than 70 separate complaints concerning some coaches’ behaviour and the club management’s failure to deal with multiple serious issues concerning the children.

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How much is contact child sexual abuse really costing England and Wales?

The Home Office has published its report about the economic and social cost of contact child sexual abuse (CSA). The report considers both the financial and non-financial costs relating to all children who began to experience contact sexual abuse, or who continued to experience contact sexual abuse, in England and Wales, in the year ending 31 March 2019. The total costs is estimated to be at least £10.1 billion (in 2018/19 prices). Furthermore, for each individual who experiences CSA, the cost is estimated to be £89,240.

Previous estimates of the cost of CSA put this cost at £3.2 billion in 2014. The Home Office previously considered that the cost for child sexual exploitation (CSE), a subset of CSA was estimated to be at £2.3 billion in the financial year 2015/16.

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Sexual touching: criteria and penalties

Sexual touching, known as ‘sexual assault by touching’ under UK law, can be a complex offence split into two categories dependent upon whether the victim was over or under the age of 13 at the time of the offence. Offences of this nature were in the past referred to as indecent assault or sexual assault.

In order to prove sexual assault by touching, the following four criteria must apply:-

  1. The touching of another person was intentional
  2. The touching of that person was sexual in nature
  3. The person touched did not consent to being touched
  4. There was no reasonable belief that person consented to being touched    
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The rising tide of survivors: NAPAC’s latest report shows large increase in childhood abuse survivors seeking support

The following blog is authored by the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC). Click here to find out more.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) has published its 2020/21 impact report, providing vital insight into the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK survivors. Statistics show huge increases in the provision of support for survivors, the number of survivors using NAPAC’s resources and the volume of young people interacting with its website.

The report is compiled using anonymised data from tens of thousands of survivors who have interacted with NAPAC’s services between March 2020 and April 2021.

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Islington Council voted to create Non Recent Child Abuse Support Payment Scheme for survivors of abuse in children’s homes

On 14 October 2021 Islington Council voted to establish a support payment scheme (SPS) for people who suffered abuse while placed in the council’s children’s homes from 1966-1995.

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Horseracing bullying allegations

A report by a British Horseracing Authority (BHA) investigator into a complaint of bullying lodged by Bryony Frost against fellow jockey Robbie Dunne was recently leaked to the Sunday Times.  The report contains allegations that there is an apparent culture of bullying and intimidation in National Hunt racing’s weighing rooms.

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Justice report raises significant concerns about Windrush Compensation Scheme

  • The UK based human rights charity Justice which works to reform the UK justice system with a focus on the most vulnerable and marginalised in society issued a report on 15 November 2021 on the Windrush Compensation Scheme for victims of the Windrush Scandal.
  • The Scheme has come in for serious criticism since it was first launched in 2019, readers of this blog will be aware that we previously wrote about these difficulties in our blog on 12 July 2021.

The report make 27 recommendations to improve administrative and procedural aspects of the Scheme to ensure that it is properly accessible, fair and efficient for those who it was intended would benefit from it.

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