The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, recently wrote to the largest social media companies following up on a meeting he had with them before Christmas 2017. He indicated his discontent with the slow progress they were making in areas such as age verification, screen time limits and cyber bullying. He gave them until 30 April to respond with details of the steps they have taken in relation to those points and their intentions in relation to ‘healthy screen time’ for young users. Possible legislation was threatened if the voluntary joint approach continued to prove unsatisfactory. The details of their responses have yet to be made public.
The Supreme Court in Dublin recently gave judgment in three connected cases relating to abuse by Fr. Brendan Smyth. Three plaintiffs had made allegations of abuse (with the various periods of abuse covering 1969-1988) and issued court proceedings in Northern Ireland in 1996.
Initially, two of the claims were against Cardinal Daly (as Primate of All Ireland), the then Provincial for the Norbertine Order (of which Fr. Smyth was a member), the local Abbot of the Norbertine Abbey in Kilnacrott (where Brendan Smyth was based) and Brendan Smyth himself. One of the plaintiffs claimed only against the Abbot and Brendan Smyth.
Recent developments across the jurisdictions have highlighted the difficulties faced by all those involved in dealing with abuse allegations. The number and expectations of the different people involved presents significant problems in handling these matters in a professional yet sensitive way.
As Operation Hydrant suggests there will be 30000 new reports of child sexual abuse during the life of the IICSA and the Truth Project opens in Manchester consideration can be made of experiences of other jurisdictions and the impact for England & Wales.
Recent blogs have looked at limitation in Scotland and the wider approach to limitation and redress. Whilst the preferred route in all jurisdictions seems to be for the removal of limitation periods in abuse claims, whether civil claims or redress, it is not always a straightforward process. This can be seen from the history of redress and limitation which occurred in Ireland and which is summarised below. Continue reading
The issue of Redress is an important consideration for any abuse Inquiry. Ireland has had direct experience via the Irish Redress Board and the Royal Commission in Australia has made its recommendations already on this subject. A report published this month by the University of Ulster titled “What survivors want from Redress” considers the views of survivors of institutional care establishments as to their expectations of a Redress Scheme. While this is presented from a former resident perspective only it does present a window into the representations which will be made to the HIAI in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and the IICSA.
Recent coverage in Ireland of the trial of Bill Kenneally, an accountant who was also a sports coach, for the sexual abuse of boys between 1984 and 1987, has brought to the fore many common themes which the current abuse related inquiries will be interested in. Mr Kenneally pleaded guilty to sample counts of abuse. His victim described how he had been warned not to speak of the abuse as his abuser was from a powerful political family. The use of a position of authority (here as a local businessman) to engineer access to victims and enforce their silence by threats and power is something which the IICSA has already said it will consider in its inquiry in England & Wales.