Sammy Woodhouse has campaigned tirelessly over the years for awareness following her brave disclosure of the abuse she suffered as a teenager.

The bestselling author of ‘Just a Child’ contacted The Times newspaper in 2013 and handed over evidence that proved she was abused and failed by authorities.

Her story was published and this triggered the Alexis Jay report, which exposed 1,400 children being abused and failed in Rotherham.

A police investigation, Operation Clover & Operation Stovewood was also launched into all non-recent child abuse cases in South Yorkshire, becoming the biggest investigation in the UK.

The investigations which followed exposed Rotherham grooming gangs who committed serious child sexual exploitation crimes over an extensive period which spanned from approximately 1987 until 2003.

In February 2016, Sammy’s abuser Arshid Hussain was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison alongside 5 others, for a total of 102 years. There were four trials in total under Operation Clover & Thunder, 21 survivors, 20 criminals and a total sentencing of 290 years 6 months.

When Sammy was 15, the police raided the property of now-convicted serial rapist Hussain. Sammy was half-naked and hiding under his bed. Hussain was not detained, but Sammy was arrested and charged. Sammy had been coerced into committing assault and possessing an offensive weapon, by the notorious gang leader.

Just like Sammy and others like her, those convictions are still required to be disclosed to any prospective employer. For anyone in this position it means, that to explain such convictions and criminal records they will need to disclose their abuse.

The aim of implementing Sammy’s Law would be to ensure children are not charged for committing crimes whilst being groomed or coerced. Further, the Government must consider putting something in place for children that have already gained a criminal record due to being abused, as this is preventing them from moving forward.

John Boutcher, the Former Police Chief Constable supported Sammy’s campaign to stop victims of abuse being criminalised. He said “It cannot be right that victims are fearful of coming forward to the police or other organisations because to do so they are potentially placing themselves in jeopardy of prosecution. We must provide reassurances to those victims that are placed into a world of crime by their torturers and provide victims with an exit from their abuse. This pathway out of abuse should avoid victims being criminalised where they support a prosecution against their abusers, by so doing it is far more likely that we will put their tormentors where they belong, behind bars. Abusers will deliberately manipulate their victims into crime so that they can then further control them through both a fear of the criminal justice system as well as the more traditional methods of violence and intimidation to subdue resistance to their will".

MP Louise Haige also supports the implementation of Sammy’s Law. She said Judges in the High Court have already ruled that forcing victims of CSE to disclose past convictions linked to CSE is unjust. They argued that, any link between the past offending and the assessment of present risk in a particular employment, is either non-existent or at best extremely tenuous. I’m calling on the Government to bring forward what is known as Sammy’s law, which would give CSE victims the right to have their criminal records automatically reviewed, and crimes associated with their grooming removed. At present, anyone has the right to apply to the chief constable of their force area to have their records reviewed, but it is little known. Sammy and victims like her, have been repeatedly failed by the state. They were failed by our legal system, by the police, by the Crown Prosecution Service, by local authorities and by Government at every level. The Government must now ensure that the state no longer fails CSE survivors. Sammy’s law would help to achieve that.

You can find out more about the campaign Sammy’s Law here. The website also provides guidance for any parent who has concerns their child may be being groomed.

If you are concerned about abuse you may be suffering or wish to discuss this and are under 18 your can contact Childline on 0800 1111.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

Over the years, again and again allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse have surfaced from individuals who have spent time in institutional care. This can include many forms of institution including but not restricted to; schools, care homes, hospitals, religious organisations and detention centres.

In 2017, an investigation was commenced into the allegations of beatings, mistreatment and sexual abuse, including rape suffered at the Hill End Hospital Adolescent Unit in St Albans between 1969 and 1995 by former staff members. Over 100 victims provided evidence to the investigation and over 70 members of staff were investigated.

Hill End was supposed to treat teenagers with psychiatric illnesses but became known as a “dumping ground” for children for whom the NHS and local authorities had run out of other ideas for.

Survivors told how they were sexually abused and filmed during strip searches, while children were also beaten. Survivors accounts disclosed being kept in police type cells and sedated for days at a time without reason or justification. As well as the sedation and physical abuse that accompanied it, survivors have reported being raped and sexually abused by hospital staff while being sedated or during strip searches under the pretence of checking for items they could harm themselves with.

Survivors said that few children had been diagnosed with mental health issues, and cast doubt on the effectiveness of treatment. Survivors found medication did not appear on any records given to their GPs and the hospital’s own documents were destroyed in an arson attack at an undisclosed off-site facility.

In November 2020 following a three year investigation known as Operation Meadow, Hertfordshire Constabulary confirmed there was “insufficient evidence to support any arrest or prosecution”. Hertfordshire Constabulary said its investigation established that sedation at Hill End “did not meet the standards of the day and medical records show that in some cases children were given adult doses and were repeatedly sedated”.

A statement added: “As well as the use of sedation, officers have also investigated allegations of sexual assault at Hill End. These have all been fully investigated; however, again there is insufficient evidence to support any arrest or prosecution”.

The report can be found here.

One survivor accused police of failing to follow up a report he attempted to make 12 years ago. Survivors have vowed however to continue their fight for justice and proceed with civil claims which have a lower burden of proof than a criminal trial.

The ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is continuing to take evidence on “the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse” in councils, the police, armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, charities, religious groups and other public services.

The Truth Project offers victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the chance to share their experiences and be heard with respect. You can find information about this here.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

This summer the BBC released the drama ‘I May Destroy You’ exploring sexual assault and consent issues. It plays out issues rarely discussed in mainstream media.

Early into the drama, the main character, Arabella is drugged and sexually assaulted. The series follows her journey of flashbacks, piecing together her memories of what has happened to her. The series also focuses on her coping mechanisms and shows her struggle to accept she was a victim.

Throughout the drama stereotypical comments are used such as “you should watch your drink, you wouldn’t be raped”. It is both frustrating and upsetting for victims, but the drama shows the impact this thoughtless comment has on the character and hopefully will raise awareness that a victim is not to blame. However, as a warning for any future watchers of the drama, it may be triggering for anyone who has suffered similar incidents.

Further into the series, a male character has consensual protected sex with a man after meeting on Grindr, a dating app. He is then raped by the same person without a condom when he tries to leave. The scenes highlights the particular risk that dating apps pose. The character reports the crime to the police but sadly he is not taken seriously, he is questioned how someone can be raped if they have consented previously to the same sexual act. It is estimated that 70,000 men are raped every year in the UK so these scenes help to raise awareness of the risks to both men and women.

The series also raises awareness of Stealthing, the term that describes when a man deliberately removes a condom during sex despite agreeing to wear one without consent of the other party. A study published by Alexandra Brodsky at the Yale School of Law brought Stealthing into the press in 2017

The series watches Arabella consent to sexual intercourse with a condom but this is removed without her knowledge during the act. She is then told by the partner “I thought you knew, I thought you would feel it” which is deemed typical gaslighting behaviour in such situation. Arabella struggles with feelings of confusion and violation after she discovers this has happened. It is only further on into the series she finds out this is a popular occurrence and invalidates the consent for the sexual act she gave.

Websites have been set up to advise men on how to remove a condom without knowledge or consent, almost like a challenge.

Not only is there the concern of consent but also sexual transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancies.

Victims' charities say stealthing must be treated as rape and that it's a hugely under-reported problem.

Law

Under Scottish Law there is no specific reference to “stealthing” or condom removal as a criminal offence, but it is legally recognised as a serious sexual offence in England and Wales under the term “conditional consent”.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (SOA 2003) outlines the sexual offences which are illegal under the laws of England and Wales. These include: rape (s 1); assault by penetration (s 2); sexual assault (s 3); causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent (s 4).

Section 74 defines consent as 'if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice'. This is two staged:

  • capacity to make a choice about whether or not to take part in the sexual activity at the time in question.
  • whether he or she was in a position to make that choice freely, and was not constrained in any way.

Section 74 and conditional consent has been considered by the High Court and the Court of Appeal in a series of cases where ostensible consent in relation to sexual offences was considered not to be true consent, either because a condition upon which consent was given was not complied with or because of a material deception (other than one which falls within section 76 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 [SOA]).

In Julian Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority [2011] EWHC 2849 (Admin), an extradition case, the President of the Queens Bench Division considered the situation in which Mr Assange knew that AA would only consent to sexual intercourse if he used a condom. Rejecting the view that the conclusive presumption in section 76 of the SOA would apply in these circumstances the President concluded that the "issue of materiality ...can be determined under section 74 rather than section 76".

On the specific facts the President said:

"It would plainly be open to a jury to hold that if AA had made clear that she would only consent to sexual intercourse if Mr Assange used a condom, then there would be no consent if, without her consent, he did not use a condom, or removed or tore the condom ..... His conduct in having sexual intercourse without a condom in circumstances where she had made clear she would only have sexual intercourse if he used a condom would therefore amount to an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003...."

Currently, when someone consents to have intercourse with a condom and the condom is removed without their permission this consent disappears.

A report by the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) published in December 2018, found that 40 per cent of people incorrectly believe that removing a condom without a partner’s consent is never or not usually sexual assault. https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/

Katie Russell, spokesperson for Rape Crisis, explains: “You may consent to sex with a condom but not without one. You have provided your consent on a condition, and if someone breaks that condition they are breaking the law.” https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/what-is-stealthing

There have been few cases that have dealt with the issue of stealthing to date. Of those reported, in 2017 a man was charged in Switzerland with rape which was a landmark case. A policeman was subsequently found guilty of sexual assault in Germany for the same crime. 

In 2019, a man from Bournemouth was sentenced to 12 years in prison after raping a women in a hotel room when he chose to remove the condom being used during sex. The female, a sex worker, had provided conditions of intercourse to where a condom which were agreed beforehand and advertised on her website.

Support for anyone who thinks they may have been affected by anything in this blog can be found here https://www.thesurvivorstrust.org/news/i-may-destroy-you.

 

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

Zara McDermott star of Love Island and Made in Chelsea has recently confirmed that she is working closely with Refuge Charity  to raise awareness of the Naked Threat Campaign which is calling for the Government to make threatening to share intimate images a crime. https://www.refuge.org.uk/refuge-launches-the-naked-threat-campaign/

Zara herself experienced image based abuse during her time filming Love Island when intimate images of her were shared online without her permission. She has since used her social media platform to disclose the devastating impact this act of revenge porn had on her and to voice the need for change. Zara will also feature in an upcoming BBC documentary to discuss her experience of revenge porn.

The Naked Threat Campaign is backed by the Victims Commissioner and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to urge the Government to use the Domestic Abuse Bill to make a simple legal change that would make a huge difference to the everyday lives.

With ever changing technology, images can be uploaded and shared within seconds. Media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp are most popular in such quests with the ability to share images with millions of users in seconds. Disturbingly, these images are sometimes sent to the victim’s children, parents or employer and frequently also posted on pornographic sites which are then difficult to remove. We have seen many instances over the years in the media where celebrities’ phones have been hacked and storylines of such revenge porn have played out in British soap Coronation Street, dramas and films.

At this time, only the physical sharing of such images or films without consent in order to cause distress is a crime.  This is described as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress”.  The offence covers images or videos showing people engaged in sexual activity which would not usually be done in public or with their genitals, buttocks or breasts exposed or covered only with underwear.  It is an offence to share the material as well as posting it online.  In England and Wales, the maximum punishment is two years in prison, but in Scotland, it is five years

 

 

The Naked Threat Campaign seeks to change the law so that threatening to share intimate images is made a crime by extending Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to criminalise threats to share sexual images or films in England and Wales without consent with the intent to cause distress.

The hope is by explicitly outlawing threats to share sexual images or films, this  will send the clear message to the abusers.

A survey commissioned by Refuge found that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced threats to share intimate images or videos, this is equivalent to 4.4 million.

Those impacted by threats to share images, include controlling partners and ex-partners, leaving some victims afraid to leave abusive relationships. 72% of women who have received threats to share were threatened by a current or ex-partner and 83% of women who experienced the threat from a current or former partner also experienced other forms of abuse. This confirms Refuge’s assertion that threatening to share intimate images must be treated as a domestic abuse issue. 

Threats to share intimate images are most prevalent amongst young people (aged 18-34), with 1 in 7 young women experiencing such threats.

Such threats have significant impact on mental health and social wellbeing and will act as a way of control. Of those impacted, 1 in 7 confirmed they felt risk of physical abuse and 1 in 10 felt suicidal.https://www.refuge.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/The-Naked-Threat-Report.pdf

If you would like further information you can go to:

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com

This week the popular BBC soap opera EastEnders will tackle male sexual abuse, a storyline expected to play out over the coming weeks.

Actor Danny Dyer's character Mick discovers a new character is his biological daughter, Frankie Lewis. Viewers of the soap will establish the girl's mother was once Mick’s care worker during his time in social care and secondly, Mick would have only been 12 years old at the time of sexual intercourse with his carer.

The storyline will focus on Mick’s realisation he was abused as a child despite having tried to avoid these emotions for many years. The storyline is set to explore Mick’s ongoing struggles with disclosure and feelings of abandonment. The long-term effects that will play out on screen for the character will be panic attacks, emotional difficulties, and mental health decline.

EastEnders have worked very closely with Survivors UK and NSPCC in the hope that the storyline will challenge the perceptions and stigma experienced by male survivors of sexual abuse. It is hoped the storyline will encourage people to come forward in similar positions to seek the help they may require.

Alex Feis-Bryce, CEO of Survivors UK, commented: “Research suggests that it takes male survivors an average of 26 years to speak out and seek support and the impact of sexual violence can be devastating.

The following organisations are available to contact for support:

Rape Crisis: services for women and girls who have been raped or have experienced sexual violence - 0808 802 9999

Survivors UK: offers support for men and boys - 0203 598 3898

NSPCC: help@nspcc.org.uk. 0808 800 5000

Childline:  0800 1111

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at  Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com

October 23, 2020

Safeguarding In UK Wrestling

In recent years the popularity of UK Wresting has soared. With shows every weekend around the country drawing in big crowds of both young and old, the activity which is a mixture of both acting and sport is now highly popular in the UK just as it is in America and Japan.

NXT UK is a professional wrestling television programme produced by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) arguably the biggest entertainment giants for wrestling.  The show airs in the United Kingdom on BT Sport, Channel 5 and Paramount Network making overnight successes of some of the show’s stars.

Films like Fighting With My Family based on the true-life success story of Saraya-Jade Bevis (Paige) who was signed to WWE and was the youngest ever Diva Champion at the age of 21 have been hugely successful.

In recent months, however, wrestling has repeatedly hit the headlines for the wrong reasons; abuse by leading wrestlers and secondly safeguarding issues.

Wrestlers, promoters, and other people in the industry were accused of sexual misconduct, with people using the hashtag #SpeakingOut as they shared their stories on social media. A wave of suspensions and sackings followed in the UK and the US, including big names from WWE.

BBC journalist Jonathan Savage reported that West Yorkshire Police were "carrying out initial enquiries" into allegations of a number of cases of abuse reported by female wrestlers.

Following this, many big names in the wrestling world from different organisations such as WWE and Elite Wrestling, both victims and the accused have been disclosed in recent publications

Kelly Klein a professional female American wrestler wrote on Twitter: “I was raped by a now well-known wrestler when I was 18. I didn’t feel like I had support or sufficient proof. I believed my career would be over before it started."

Impact Wrestling released Joey Ryan, Dave Crist and Michael Elgin following multiple sexual misconduct allegations shared on social media

WWE recently released Former British champion Gentleman Jack Gallagher over allegations of menacing advances at a New Years Eve party in 2014.

The former cruiserweight wrote, "In 2014, at a New Year's Eve party, I met a young woman and my behaviour towards her was inappropriate. As this party was nearly six years ago and I had drunk quite a large amount of alcohol that night, unfortunately, I do not recollect what happened. I wish to make it clear that drinking is not an excuse for my behaviour that night. I want to express my deepest regrets, and I am genuinely sorry for the upset that I have caused." He continued. "This isolated incident is not reflective of my behaviour and attitude towards women. As a man, I know I can do better, and with the support of my wife, I have taken the time over the last few months to understand what I can do. But this is not about me, but about the women that come forward as part of the #SpeakingOut movement. I will continue to support women and this movement to the best of my ability." 

WWE released a statement on the allegations against the performers in the wrestling company. It said: "Individuals are responsible for their own personal actions. WWE has zero-tolerance for matters involving domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. Upon arrest for such misconduct, a WWE talent will be immediately suspended. Upon conviction for such misconduct, a WWE talent will be immediately terminated." 

UK wrestling star Matt Riddle is alleged to have abused Candy Cartwright, also a wrestler, in 2018, who claimed on Twitter that Riddle forced her to give him oral sex after choking her.

Another UK wrestling star Jordan Devlin (WWE NXT UK Superstar) has also been named after allegations were made by Hannah Francesca.  Francesca posted a series of tweets in which she alleged she was physically abused by someone in the industry and when she went to the promotion, she was told “One of my boys wouldn’t do that.” She included photos of her bruised body.

WWE executives are reportedly getting together to discuss the influx of abuse allegations levied against NXT UK talent. Tom Colohue reports that WWE officials have called an emergency meeting to discuss the allegations against stars from the brand who have been accused of sexual, physical or mental/verbal abuse: https://411mania.com/wrestling/sexual-misconduct-allegations-el-ligero-mikey-whiplash-uk-wrestlers/

Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones raised the Speaking Out movement in Parliament during a debate on misogyny in sport and stated "The disturbing reality and lived experience for many female wrestlers is, more often than not, entrenched in misogyny," she said.

"I have heard horrific tales from female wrestlers who were faced with threats of rape or sexual assault, all in the name of 'friendly banter', "I have also heard from women as young as 13 or 14 who, at the start of their careers, were the targets of vile behaviours that saw male wrestlers competing to be the one to take their virginity." Davies-Jones said the #SpeakingOut movement had left the wrestling industry "tainted with its harrowing stories of emotional and sexual abuse" and questioned what was being done when there was "no governing body to hold to account" and "Who should these young women turn to?" the MP asked, telling BBC Sport: "Wrestling has fallen through the gaps because it's not necessarily a sport."

In September 2020 it was announced a group of cross-party MPs will launch the first ever inquiry into British Professional wrestling to consider how best to promote, support and improve the wrestling industry in Britain. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling, co-chaired by Davies-Jones and Mark Fletcher MP will start taking evidence, written and oral, to inform a report due to be released in early 2021. Other MPs involved in the inquiry include Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Paul Bristow MP, Ruth Jones MP and Connor McGinn. Guidance on how to provide evidence to the inquiry can be found here.

NXT UK’s Pete Dunne has posted about the situation, noting that he is “disgusted by what I’m reading. Well done to those speaking out. I really hope we can make British wrestling a better place and keep everyone safe. This is a huge eye opener and let’s hope it will force a big change.”

Coach Relationships And Minors

Another reg flag that came from the exposure in wrestling was relationships formed with younger athletes. As with recent exposures in the sport industry, with regard to British Gymnastics, Ballet and Swimming, coaching falls within a problematic loophole. It is illegal for teachers, care workers, doctors and youth justice workers to have sexual intercourse with 16 or 17-year-olds in their care. However due to a loophole, adults who hold a position of power over a young person such as coaches can legally have sex with someone of the age of 16 even in a position of trust such as this.

Such position of trust formed with a coach prevents many young people speaking out for fear this will not only damage their career but that they may not be believed. It provides a dangerous shift in the balance of power. Coaches may have worked with individuals for years having formed close bonds not only with the trainee themselves but also family and friends of the individual.

The NSPCC have been campaigning to change the law to be extended to include any adult who holds a position of power over 16 or 17-year-olds for many years. https://www.nspcc.org.uk/support-us/campaigns/close-the-loophole/ #CloseTheLoophole

Wrestler Banks, whose real name is Travis Bligh, has been accused of emotional and psychological abuse during a relationship with a 17-year-old trainee, Millie McKenzie. Millie accused the then 30 year old coach Banks of being emotionally manipulative of her during a “secret one year relationship” when she was training under him. Banks, who was also released by the WWE's NXT UK promotion, gave BBC Sport a statement in response, saying: "I apologise again for the pain that was caused. This was an entirely consensual relationship but I recognise that what happened should not have happened. "I support the efforts being made by the Speaking Out movement to enable everyone in wrestling, and other sports also, to feel safe and never have to face a similar situation."

Lucia Lee, 18, was another wrestler who came forward. In June 2020 she claimed young women were "slut shamed" and referred to as "ring rats", accused by male colleagues of having "slept their way on to shows". Speaking to BBC Sport, Lee said: "After my first match - I was 16 - there was a 30-something-year-old man backstage. Everyone congratulated me and he just sort of gave me a massive hug and whispered into my ear, 'your arse looked amazing during that match'. "If you speak up against someone that's on big shows, they can start going around to each individual promotion and saying 'don't book her, she's a troublemaker; don't book her she's a ring rat'."

Many of the alleged victims blamed a 'locker room' culture in wrestling that allowed misconduct to happen with a lack of rules no one to check on you.

Again due to the loophole, this will be another sport/activity which will allow young people to remain vulnerable.

What happens next?

It will be of interest to see in the coming months, what safeguarding measures are proposed to protect individuals going forward.

In addition to the Biritsh Inqury, Equity, a trade union for entertainers, has suggested five pledges to regulate British wrestling, including safeguarding and 'dignity at work' policies, separate dressing rooms at shows and agreed transport and accommodation arrangements.

Progress Wrestling told BBC Sport: "We've all got to be great for this industry to work and to prevent another Speaking Out movement happening. Because if we're on the same level, we're on the same page, it's going to be safer for everyone."

Revolution Pro Wrestling CEO Andy Quildan said it wants "an independent body and we want to be held accountable".

British Wrestling have confirmed they are working closely with the NSPCC. The link to this is here.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact us by emailing aboutabuse@hjtalks.co.uk

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Danielle Vincent explore the Church of England’s proposed compensation scheme for victims of abuse.

An interim pilot scheme has been drawn up to initially compensate 10 survivors. A statement read ‘The pilot scheme is designed to enable the Church to respond in particular to those survivors’ cases which are already known to the Church, where the survivor is known to be in seriously distressed circumstances, and the Church has a heightened responsibility because of the way the survivor was responded to following disclosure”.

Compensation funds have now been approved by the Church’s Cabinet, the Archbishops Council.  Initial estimates suggest compensation will amount to potentially £200 million.

The scheme will look to compensate these 10 individuals as a ‘pilot’ before finalising the full Redress Scheme which will then be opened up to the masses. At this time, it is unclear what the time scale will be for this.

The Church of England compensation scheme follows the ongoing investigation and criticism by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The IICSA has held several hearings into abuse in the Church of England and the Catholic Church The finalised report is still awaited, such hearing being delayed by the current covid pandemic. The inquiry’s report is expected to heavily criticise the Church of England for its failure to act on disclosures of abuse and to treat survivors with compassion by protecting clergy at the expense of children and vulnerable adults

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Church of England, and Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster and most senior Catholic cleric in England and Wales, have previously both given evidence in person to the IISCA, apologising for abuse and its cover-up. The Archbishop of Canterbury told it that he was ashamed of the church and abusers should go to prison. ‘These decisions feel like a turning point. We continue to pray for survivors and all those the Church has failed

A separate 2017 investigation by the IICSA into abuse by former bishop Peter Ball found the church failed to protect boys and then concealed evidence of Ball’s crime and prioritised its own reputation above the needs of victims. Ball was jailed for 32 months in 2015 for sexual abuse against boys carried out over three decades.  Ball was allowed to remain in the Church after accepting a reprimand for his behaviour in 1993.

The redress scheme has been publicised as the turning point in the Church’s treatment of survivors abused by bishops, clergy, churchwardens, employees, volunteers, congregation members and people with church connections. The Archbishops’ Council also committed the Church of England to greater independence and transparency in the way it deals with abuse. The scheme has been a long time coming for many victims whose complaints were never investigated or dismissed.

Reporting of both current and historical abuse in the dioceses have risen experientially based on the initial data disclosed in the last few years. In 2017 there were 3,287 complaints, compared with 2,195 in 2015. It is understood the increase is from vulnerable category victims.

It is predicted thousands of individuals will come forward to apply to the scheme who may not have already disclosed their experiences The criteria an applicant will be required to meet to be eligible to apply to the scheme and the finer details of the compensation awards tariff available has yet to be disclosed at this time. It is thought the scheme with cover sexual abuse, physical and psychological abuse.

The history behind the scheme is outlined by the Church’s lead bishop for safeguarding, the Rt. Rev’d Jonathan Gibbs in a BBC interview on 4th October 2o20: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000n4vy

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) runs The Truth Project offering victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the chance to share their experiences and be heard with respect. 5000 people have spoken out. The link to this is here  https://www.truthproject.org.uk/help-and-support#233150507

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at  Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry investigated abuse of children under the age of 18 who were living in institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. The investigation reviewed 22 institutions but noted there were further organisations identified. The report was published on 20 January 2017. The Inquiry found that abuse was ‘widespread’ within various institutions.

The link to the findings of the report can be found here.

An institution was deemed any body, society or organisation with responsibility for the care, health or welfare of children in Northern Ireland, other than a school which, during the relevant period, provided residential accommodation and took decisions about and made provision for the day to day care of children. This included organisations run by the state, churches and charities such as children’s homes, training schools, juvenile justice centres (borstals), and orphanages.

Some of the institutions named include:-

Local Authority Homes

  • Lissue Hospital, Lisburn
  • Kincora Boys’ Home, Belfast
  • Bawnmore Children’s Home, Newtownabbey
  • Fort James and Harberton House, Londonderry

Juvenile Justice Institutions

  • St Patrick’s Training School, Belfast
  • Lisnevin Training School, County Down
  • Rathgael Training School, Bangor
  • Hydebank Young Offenders’ Centre
  • Millisle Borstal

Secular Voluntary Homes

  • Barnardo’s Sharonmore Project, Newtownabbey
  • Barnardo’s Macedon, Newtownabbey

Roman Catholic Voluntary Homes

  • St Joseph’s Home, Termonbacca, Londonderry
  • Nazareth House Children’s Home, Londonderry
  • Nazareth House Children’s Home, Belfast
  • Nazareth Lodge Children’s Home, Belfast
  • De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House, Kircubbin
  • St Joseph’s Training School for Girls, Middletown, Co Armagh
  • Institutions run by Good Shepherd Sisters in Derry/Londonderry, Belfast and Newry

Church of Ireland

  • Manor House, a children’s home near Lisburn (added November 2015)

In November 2019, almost three years after the release of the report findings, The Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act 2019 received Royal Assent. The Act provides the legal framework for the establishment of the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board.

The scheme has been set up following the findings of the report, to compensate those who experienced abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland between the years 1922 and 1995. The scheme goes further to offer an additional compensation sum if the applicant was sent to Australia under the Child Migrant Programme.

It is estimated there will be thousands of individuals who are applicable to apply to the scheme. The scheme became live in March 2020 and is now welcoming applications. The scheme application deadline is March 2025.

An application can be made on behalf of someone who died on, or after, 28 April 1953 if they are the deceased persons:

  • surviving spouse;
  • civil partner;
  • cohabiting partner;
  • surviving child.

The compensation award payment starts at £10,000 if the applicant was a resident in one of the institutions. The Redress Board will obtain a copy of the applicant’s evidence from the Public Records Office Northern Ireland (PRONI) on their behalf to confirm they were a resident.

An enhanced award payment of between £10,001 and £80,000 will be made based on the applicant’s statement provided, including the nature and extent of the abuse that that person was subjected to and the ongoing impact to the applicant’s life.

A further amount of £20,000 will be awarded if the application is made by or in respect of a person who was sent to Australia under the Child Migrant Programme if the applicant has not already been awarded compensation under the Government scheme established in the wake of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

If an applicant provided evidence to the Hart Inquiry they are not required to provide any further evidence in the form of a witness statement unless such individual wishes to do so.

The scheme will also provide assistance to people with queries about:

  • benefits and housing
  • debt and personal finance
  • education and further education, jobs and training
  • searching for personal records
  • help to report abuse incidents to the Police Service of Northern Ireland

Applications will be considered by paper determination by a three-person panel consisting of a judicial member and two non-judicial members from a health and social care background. The judicial member will chair the panel.

An offer of settlement would, in theory, be made within 21 days. If the applicant does not want to accept the award amount, they have the right to appeal the determination. A single judicial member will determine the appeal. The judicial member can uphold the original decision, reverse the decision, or increase or reduce the award of the panel. A decision on the appeal is final.

We encourage anyone who wishes to discuss the scheme or has concerns about sexual abuse to visit the sexual abuse page on the Hugh James website. We can advise and assist you with an application to the Northern Ireland Redress Scheme at no cost to you. 

If you would like to suggest a topic for a future episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, you can email aboutabuse@hjtalks.co.uk.

In this episode of HJ Talks About Abuse, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor pay tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg was a US Supreme Court Justice and she died on the 18th of September 2020, aged 87.

She was only the second women ever to serve as a justice at the US Supreme Court, a well-known advocate for gender equality and an outspoken advocate of LGBTQ rights.

She was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and has heard a number of landmark cases.

One of the most significant cases Justice Ginsburg heard was Obergefell v Hodges. This was a case heard at the Supreme Court on 26 June 2015 and it related to two main questions; firstly whether states were required to license marriages between same-sex individuals and secondly if they were required to recognise same-sex marriages licensed out-of-state.

Justice Ginsburg sided with the majority which asserted that the right to marry is a fundamental right “inherent in the liberty of the person” and is therefore protected by the due process clause, which prohibits the states from depriving any person of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Ultimately, the close connection between liberty and equality meant that the states could not deny any person the equal protection of the laws.

The 5-4 majority, including Justice Ginsburg, legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

It is an unfortunate reality that over history, and even in the present day, that those who have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual can be targeted and abused and/or discriminated against for this reason. This case and the comments made of the Supreme Court were monumental and one of the many occasions where Justice Ginsburg showed her support for the LGBTQ community.

Another significant case, and one of the most controversial that Justice Ginsburg heard, was Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt. This case was heard in 2016 and related to Texas’ Omnibus Abortion Bill (known widely as H.B.2) which imposed strict restrictions and requirements on abortion providers. The bill was argued to have the purpose of making the clinics harder to run in an affordable and accessible way.

The justices struck down the bill by a majority of 5-3 because H.B.2 had forced abortion care facilities to close which resulted in fewer available facilities which then resulted in women facing undue burdens such as travel time and cost when seeking abortions. This restriction of access to abortion care was found to be unconstitutional.

Justice Ginsburg was a part of the majority and although she did not write the official majority option, she made clear her views on the subject should it be raised in future. She made a powerful statement as follows:

“it is beyond rational belief that H.B.2 could genuinely protect the health of woman and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions… When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners… at a great risk to their health and safety…. Laws like H.B.2 that do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion, cannot survive judicial inspection.”

The HJ Talks About Abuse podcast is produced by the Sexual Abuse Team at Hugh James. If you have any questions about this episode of the podcast or would like to suggest a topic for a future episode, please email aboutabuse@hjtalks.co.uk 

The existence of child soldiers has not been reported on much of late, but has been raised by the US State Department in its 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, and by the UN in its report on human rights violations in Yemen (the UN report”).[1]

The use of children as soldiers is commonplace. The UN in 2016 reported that: An upsurge in global conflicts and brutal war tactics continues to make children extremely vulnerable to recruitment and use by armed groups to work as porters, messengers, and cooks, and also in armed conflict as combatants and in sexual slavery, causing the children lifelong trauma.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court classifies the recruitment of children into fighting forces as a war crime and a crime against humanity. The International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 182 defines child soldiering as one of the worst forms of child labour. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child outlaws child soldiering, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child established 18 as the minimum age for children’s participation in hostilities.

In the UK You must be at least 16 years old to join the Army as a soldier. You can start your application when you're 15 years and 7 months.

In Australia, you can join the Army at 17 but can start your application earlier if you wish.

As mentioned in the UK sixteen-year-olds are allowed to join the Army, but under the terms of the UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, known as the ‘child soldiers treaty’, the UK does not send under-18s to warzones although there have been incidences where it has happened.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as being every human being below the age of 18 years. This, arguably, begs the question is the west in some cases sending mixed messages by recruiting 16 and 17 year olds to their armed forces?

The argument is that the armed forces offer young people exemplary career opportunities and that may be so in the UK and Australia. The reality in the likes of Somalia is very different.

In those parts of the world where the UN conventions and protocols are not so readily respected, children can be illegally abducted and forced to join up. Or, it may be that due to the impact of conflict on their communities, children join 'voluntarily' (often under pressure from family or members of the group) in order to secure food, to escape an abusive relationship, for revenge if many of their family members have been killed or for safety and money.

As well as live combat, the role of a child soldier can include working as a spy, planting landmines, performing domestic duties and delivering messages. Child soldiers are highly vulnerable to abuse with reports of sexual exploitation, and being used as human shields on the front line of fighting. If they manage to escape, former child soldiers often live in fear of retaliation against themselves or their families.

Turning to the UN report, it calls on the Security Council to refer alleged actions by all parties in the conflict, including the Houthis rebels and Saudi Arabia, to the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes prosecutions.

The UN report also urges the Security Council to expand sanctions against individuals involved in the conflict and to establish a criminal investigations body.

The UN report authors said there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that the Yemeni government and the Iran-backed Houthis, along with the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were responsible for a range of rights violations, including unlawful deaths, disappearances and imprisonment, along with sexual violence and the use of child soldiers.[2]

If the UK and Australia for argument’s sake lifted the minimum age for joining the armed forces to 18 it would unlikely make any difference to the plight of child soldiers in countries where conventions and protocols are not respected.

The UN report calls for:

[the parties to the conflict to] Cease and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict; further, ensure the demobilization and effective disarmament of boys and girls recruited or used in hostilities, and the release of those captured; implement effective programmes for their rehabilitation, physical and psychological recovery, and reintegration into society.

All decent and same people would agree with that call, but is it worth the paper it is written on?

The tragic reality is that the child soldiers have rights written on paper but no means to enforce them. The UN report recognises that “No right exists without a remedy” yet calls on the warring parties who recruit child soldiers and exploit them in the worst possible way to do the decent thing.

The challenge for the UN and the international community is to enable the child soldiers to have the means of access to the remedy. There can be no means of access to justice if the child is dependent on the warring parties viz his/her abuser.

In relation to Yemen, the UN report calls for “the creation of a special tribunal such as a “hybrid tribunal” to prosecute cases of those most responsible” for the various atrocities. That may be right and proper but how does that look from a child soldier’s perspective?

Maybe, the UN and the international community when asking itself what should be done when children’s rights are abused should ask children? If they do, maybe, answers and solutions will be found that do provide a remedy…

If you would like to learn more about sexual abuse claims, be sure to visit the sexual abuse page on hughjames.com. 

 

[1] Situation of human rights in Yemen, including violations and abuses since September 2014 https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/GEE-Yemen/2020-09-09-report.pdf

[2] “Whether and how a Yemeni boy or girl was recruited depended on which

party to the conflict controlled a child’s home territory and on his/her age, gender and

economic status. Across all verified cases, poverty and hunger were powerful push factors,

rendering children vulnerable to monetary incentives and manipulation by recruiters and

peers.”

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