On 9 June 2020 the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) released a spring / summer 2020 newsletter. This is the seventh SCAI newsletter (link here). This newsletter gives reassurance that SCAI has not stopped working during the COVID-19 (C-19) crisis albeit public hearings – including on child migration and, separately, boarding schools – are postponed until further notice.
Around 60 children were subjected to footage of child sex abuse, while they were taking part in a fitness class on Zoom, on Tuesday 5 May. The Zoom call had been hacked by someone who streamed the video of the abuse into the session, in a practice known as ‘Zoombombing’. The class had been organised by a sports club in Plymouth and it is believe the hacker gained access as a result of the group’s login details having been published on public internet forums.
Devon and Cornwall police officers are working with Plymouth City Council’s social care team to identify all those who saw the footage, and may have been affected by seeing the images, so as to provide them with any advice or support, as required.
In a YouTube video released on 26 March 2020, Lady Smith, chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI), emphasised that the ‘vital work of SCAI continues’ with all staff working remotely with access to ‘excellent IT and infrastructure’. SCAI’s phone lines are presently operating Monday to Friday 10am-4pm to ‘support applicants and witnesses’. Investigative and preparatory work for announced case studies continues. Work also continues in reviewing and analysing evidence heard during previous case study hearings. Further case study findings will be published ‘as soon as possible’. To date, SCAI has published three sets of findings but has not yet made any recommendations.
It has been reported that ten survivors of child sexual abuse, whilst football players at Scottish clubs in the 1970s and 1980s, have joined forces to progress a civil claim/claims against the Scottish Football Association (‘SFA’).
The claimants state that the SFA was the governing body at the time of the abuse and that they should be held to a duty of care. The claimants call for redress.
To inform the design and delivery of the proposed statutory financial redress scheme in Scotland, the Scottish Government launched a pre-legislative public consultation last year which ran for 12 weeks, closing on 25 November 2019.
In total, 280 responses to the consultation were received. Of these, 82% were from individuals, while the remainder 18% were from organisations.
Of the individuals who responded, around 91% identified as a survivor of abuse in care and some individuals drew on their own experience of abuse in care to illustrate or explain their answers.
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has added a further ten institutions to the list of establishments under investigation, taking the total number under investigation to 96.
Four young offenders institutions are among the ten now added along with three local authority establishments, a religious school, an independent school and an industrial school, which became an “Approved” and then a “List D” school.
Very few cases of awards of personal injuries damages for abuse have been reported in recent years in Scotland. It is clear this is now changing with the effects of the retrospective abolition of limitation now being seen. What is noteworthy too are substantial damage awards now being made and the significant impact on such awards from judicial interest being added for many years.
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) were originally used to keep commercial business information and trade secrets confidential.
In more recent years, the use of NDAs to try to silence allegations of abuse and harassment has generated significant publicity. There is no sign of that controversy abating.
Earlier this month, the Arbitration service Acas published guidance to firms and workers about NDAs, including how to avoid misuse. The point is made that NDAs cannot prevent an individual from reporting wrongdoing in the public interest, known as making a protected disclosure or ‘whistleblowing’. This could include disclosing a criminal offence, dangers to health and safety, or failure to comply with a legal obligation. NDAs also cannot prevent an individual from taking a matter to an employment tribunal. The advice given by Acas to employees is to consult a trade union or lawyer when considering signing an NDA.
In recent blogs, we have considered the Scottish Government’s plan for a statutory redress scheme. One of the evolving issues is whether engagement with the statutory scheme should be to the exclusion of a claimant’s ability to issue civil court proceedings. Scottish Government is committed to establishing the legislative framework for a redress scheme before the end of March 2021.
On 16 January 2020, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) published its costs from its inception in October 2015 to the end of 2019. Cost in that period was £30,049,590.
SCAI’s work continues. Phase 5 public hearings, on investigations into the abuse of children whose departure from Scotland to countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand was part of child migration programmes, are due to resume in February 2020. This phase started on 3 December 2019 with evidence being heard that month by video-link from witnesses who were unable to travel to the inquiry.