Universities, sexual misconduct and confidentiality

Sexual abuse on campus – an update on the UK perspective

We previously mentioned a rise in reported incidents of sexual assaults and misconducts made by students in the UK, here.

The BBC reports that universities are using non-disclosure agreements (‘NDA’) – commonly known as ‘gagging clauses’ – to prevent students from publicising complaints about sexual assault on campus. BBC News asked UK universities how many students had signed NDAs since 2016 and how much, if any, money had been paid out to them.  Almost all the UK universities replied.  45 universities said they had used NDAs and 300 students had signed NDAs.  However these figures are thought to underestimate the true picture, as some universities provided limited information in answer to the BBC’s queries.  In the article two students say they reported sexual assault by fellow students to their university.  They criticise their respective universities for offering insufficient support and using NDAs.  Another student is critical of her college for offering financial settlement and a NDA after she reported safeguarding concerns.

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Cost of caring for children creates significant pressure for local authorities

The cost of providing safe and secure care for children over the last 5 years has far exceeded the budget available.  As Westminster Grants are cut back the costs continue to rise.

It is estimated that there has been an over spend of around £3bn in the budgets of local authorities for children’s safety.  The Local Government Association (LGA) called on the Government to make use of the coming review of children’s social care as an opportunity to look at why the needs for care have increased and take the chance of addressing this problem.

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Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy due to sexual abuse claims

On Tuesday this week the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was forced to file for bankruptcy as it faces legal challenges over thousands of allegations of sexual abuse. It lodged papers in Delaware Court as it attempts to negotiate a compensation plan for abuse victims.

The BSA which has been in existence for 110 years was founded in 1910 and it has kept confidential files since the 1920s listing staff and volunteers accused of sexual abuse, for the purposes of keeping predators away from children.

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Non-Disclosure Agreements in Scotland

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.

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NI to follow rest of UK with Domestic Violence Bill

The restoration of the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland has had a spectacular impact on its legal sector.  We have already reported on how the much anticipated Redress Board was up and running with High Court Judge, A Colton appointed as president.  Last week also saw the first call of new QC’s to the Bar of Northern Ireland; a move held up by the lack of the Executive.

The new Justice Minister has now confirmed that she is to implement legislation to mirror the domestic abuse legislation activated in England & Wales in 2015 and in Scotland in 2019. The proposed Domestic Abuse Bill is currently with the legislative drafters and it is hoped that the final document could be brought forward within the next few months and with the co-operation of the parties and full Executive it is hoped that the Bill could be introduced by April or May 2020.

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Safer Internet Day

Today – 11 February 2020 – marks  Safer Internet Day which is annual celebration of the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.

Safer Internet Day is a global event which is coordinated in the UK by the Safer Internet Centre. The Safer Internet Centre is a partnership of three leading organisations: Childnet InternationalInternet Watch Foundation and SWGfL with a shared mission to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people

The aim of Safer Internet Day is to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore ways in which to create a better and safer online community. It also seeks to enable young people to feel more confident about what to do if they are worried about something online.

The global theme for Safer Internet Day is “Together for a better internet”, with this year’s UK campaign entitled “Free to be me.” This will look at how young people manage their online identity, experiment and express themselves.

Safer Internet Day aims to see millions of young people, schools, and organisations across the UK explore online safety and the theme of ‘free to be me’.

It is supported by the Government, schools, charities, the police, football clubs and celebrities some of whom are hosting events to promote discussion on the safe, responsible and positive use of technology. There are also a number of online quizzes and top tips designed to ensure young people are well equipped to keep themselves safe and report any online concerns that they might have.

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Irish Jury awards €1 million in damages to woman raped by her former boyfriend

In July, 2015 Magnus Meyer Hustveit pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court in Ireland to one count of rape and one count of sexual assault committed against his 28-year-old girlfriend between 2011 and 2012.

Hustveit who is Norwegian had sent an email to his former partner, Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill where he admitted to using Ms Ní Dhomhnaill body for his sexual gratification while she was asleep. At the time Ms Ní Dhomhnaill was taking medication that made her sleep heavily.

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