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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Fermanagh abuse victim speaks out publicly

In previous blogs we have highlighted the work of the Fermanagh newspaper, The Impartial Reporter, and their coverage of abuse reports in that area and the creation of a new police taskforce to re-examine older complaints and to investigate more recent reports of historic abuse in the area.

BBC Spotlight has spoken to one of those who came to the paper and Kevin Brown has waived his anonymity to speak publicly about the abuse he reported.  Mr Brown says that he was abused by at least 20 different men when he was around 12 years old and for at least another three years after that.  Other victims have confirmed some of the names given by Mr Brown but those victims have retained their anonymity.

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BBC Documentary – Abuse: The Untold Story

The BBC aired “Abuse: The Untold Story” this week. It followed various victims of abuse, including those abused by Jimmy Savile, Ray Teret and Chris Denning. The documentary focused on the victims and the effect coming forward has had on their families. It was a refreshing outlook focusing on the victims rather than their high profile abusers.

The programme also included:

  • first-hand accounts of why victims had not come forward at the time of the abuse, or earlier than they had. The main reason given was because they often thought they were the only one to have been abused and they did not think they would be believed;
  • one of the first victims to use the CPS Scheme ‘Victims Right to Review’. This was set up so any victim of abuse could ask for their case to be reviewed again if it had not been pursued when they first made a complaint. This particular victim’s case was then taken to trial;
  • criticism of the CPS and its failure to properly investigate four allegations of abuse against Savile whilst he was alive. The BBC was also criticised for its failure to air an interview with one of Savile’s victims for over a year;
  • representatives from the Police speaking of their experiences of investigating historical abuse claims and advising that reports of sexual abuse had risen by 60% in the last four years;
  • representatives from the NSPCC and their insight on abuse victims.

The programme will remain available on BBC iPlayer for the next month.


Author

Written by Nicola Aspinwall, Solicitor

The Dame Janet Smith Review – wider considerations than Savile, Hall and the BBC

With much news coverage yesterday the long awaited Dame Janet Smith report was published and it did not make easy reading for the BBC, the victims of Savile and Hall nor indeed anyone else. Its cost (stated to be £6-6.5m) understandably caught the headlines as did comments about the lack of ability for this Review to compel people to give evidence, unlike the statutory IICSA. Continue reading

Reviews and Inquiries

Dame Janet Smith’s completed Report in connection with matters relating to Jimmy Saville and the BBC has been delivered by her to Lord Hall, who received it on behalf of the BBC’s Executive Board. The Report is expected to be published by the BBC Trust on 25 February 2016.  The arrangements for publication will be announced by the BBC. Continue reading