In this episode of HJ Talks About Abuse, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss the proposed new criminal offence of “non-fatal strangulation”.

The offence was campaigned to be added to the Domestic Abuse Bill, as campaigned heavily by Baroness Newlove, but it appears instead it will be made a new offence under a police and sentencing bill in February 2021. Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland has been vocal regarding the Government support for this proposal.

Studies indicate that around 3% to 10% of the adult population have been subjected to strangulation, but the figure rises to 50-68% for victims of recurring abuse. Two studies of intimate partner violence and sexual assaults found that strangulation was involved in 20% and 23% of cases.

It is frequently used by domestic abuse perpetrators to control their partner with people who are subjected to it being seven times likelier to be killed by their partner. It is also the second most common cause of death for women as a result of domestic violence, after stabbing.

The Crown Prosecution Service currently charge perpetrators of strangulation under common assault. It may also be considered as an offence under the 2015 Serious Crime Act as coercive or controlling behaviour. The Government’s has, therefore, had the view that the proposed new offence is unnecessary.

However, significant campaigning has led to a change in the government stance. The Victim’s Commissioner and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, for example, have voiced their support for the proposal.

It is argued that using the existing legislation of common assault minimises the seriousness of the crime and allows for perpetrators to receive a light sentence if charged at all. Common assault is a summary only offence that can be charged by police, whereas when domestic abuse is involved the matter should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. The new offence is proposed to have a sentencing range of up to seven years in prison.

Furthermore, having an appropriately named offence will also raise awareness of the risk and suffering that strangulation involves.

References:

In this episode of The HJ Talks About Abuse Podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss Pakistan’s new anti-rape measure.

At the end of 2020, a terrible crime was committed in Pakistan. A woman was gang-raped in front of her children after her car broke down on a motorway in Lahore. The woman had called the police when she ran out of fuel, but the incident occurred before she received any assistance. This occurred just days after a kidnapping, rape and murder of a five-year-old girl in Karachi.

These crimes prompted outrage and protests in Pakistan, but this was fuelled further by the police appearing to victim blame by criticising the woman for travelling alone, late at night, without enough fuel and not on a safer highway.

Legislation was proposed by the Prime Minister, Imran Khan and his cabinet, and in December 2020 the President signed it into law. Within the next couple of months, the Government will get the measure approved by Parliament and have it permanently passed into law.

The legislation provides far tougher anti-rape rules than previously seen in Pakistan. It includes the establishment of special courts that must conclude trials of alleged rapists and issue verdicts within four months. It also prohibits the disclosure of the identity of rape victims and will create a national sex offenders’ register. Rape crisis cells will also be established to ensure victims undergo a specialist medical examination within six hours of reporting the incident. Officers who are found to be negligent in investigating rape cases could face a three-year prison sentence.

One key criticism of the legislation, however, is that it allows for the chemical castration of serial rapists. Amnesty International have stated that “forced chemical castrations would violate Pakistan’s international and constitutional obligations to prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Punishments like this will do nothing to fix a flawed criminal justice system.”

The legislation importantly reflects the protests and outcries of the citizens in Pakistan and is an important step forward to improving the amount of sexual violence that occurs in Pakistan.

More information can be found in the articles below:

We encourage anyone who has concerns relating to this subject, or about abuse in general, to get in touch with Alan Collins or Feleena Grosvenor.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor explore the recent coverage regarding the statistics relating to sexual abuse and harassment taking place in Universities in England and Wales every year.

It is estimated that there are 50,000 incidents of sexual abuse or harassment in universities every year. The figure, however, could be much higher as there has not been appropriate research and surveys into this subject in the UK.

A recent book has been published called “Unsafe Spaces: Ending Sexual Abuse in Universities”. It addresses the extent of abuse and is critical of universities for failing their students and staff. The book states that the majority of universities seek to conceal the extent of the sexual misconduct instead of focusing on care and prevention.

It appears that university policies are not well created or well implemented. Often there is no specialist person to develop these policies or to advise how to best support victims. Many universities actually use volunteers in this area.

Some changes are starting to be made. For example, St Andrews University have in the last month launched a new website to report abuse and discrimination. Universities UK (UUK) which speaks for 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said it would be publishing guidance and recommendations on managing staff on student misconduct later this year.

We will eagerly wait to see what proposals are made, and trust that openness and the safety and welfare of everyone on campus will be the top priority for university management.

We encourage anyone who has concerns relating to this subject, or about abuse in general, to get in touch with Alan Collins or Feleena Grosvenor.

Sexual abuse at English and Welsh universities 'a public scandal' – study | Universities | The Guardian

In this episode of HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor explore the misconceptions surrounding male sexual abuse.

An article was recently posted by the BBC regarding Willie Armstrong from the 'Red Hot Chilli Pipers', where he described treatment of men wearing kilts and it addressed some of the misconceptions.

The article refers to incidents of “upskirting” which was made an offence in the UK last year after campaigning by Gina Martin. The article focused on women committing this crime and the perception that men are not sexually abused by women – that the acts are somehow not criminal because it is a female against a male rather than a male against a male or male against a female.

This is something that has been seen over the years in films and television, such when a female teacher sexually assaults a male student. This, for example, is the premise to 2012 film “That’s My Boy” staring Adam Sandler.

Survivors UK is a male rape and sexual abuse charity and it often attempts to dispel the common myths surrounding male sexual assault. The reality is that these myths can make it more difficult for a survivor. It increases their isolation and maintains the stigma which could belittle the trauma of their experience.

A particularly harmful myth is that “erection or ejaculation during a sexual abuse means you wanted it or consented to it”.

This is something which we have seen on many occasions in our work. The response does not indicate anything about your sexual orientation or imply the survivor wanted or enjoyed the assault. Some perpetrators use erection and ejaculation to increase their feeling or control over the survivor and to discourage them from disclosing the abuse. They use the myth to their benefit.

For more information on this subject we direct you to the Survivors UK website.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch with Alan Collins or Feleena Grosvenor.

 

In recent weeks we discussed the Church of England failings to protect individuals against abuse as established by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). We further discussed failures of the Church of England in respect of the abuse perpetrated by Bishop Hurbert Victor Whitsey.

Today we turn to the Roman Catholic Church. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published their findings report after 7 weeks of public hearings. The full report can be found here.

The report confirms between the period of 1970 and 2015, the Catholic Church received more than 900 complaints involving over 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse in England and Wales. Since 2016, there have been more than 100 reported allegations each year. However, as with all abuse figures, the true scale of abuse is likely to have been significantly higher.

The report noted the changes brought about by Nolan and Cumberlege inquiries resulted in improvements over the years including more formal handling of reports of child sexual abuse, better training and greater cooperation with the statutory authorities. However, the report found this was in contrast, with slower progress in other areas.

The report found leading Catholic Cardinal, Vincent Nichols, prioritised the reputation of the church' above his duty to sex assault victims. At the time of writing, Cardinal Nichols has refused to resign despite the report findings that he demonstrated 'no acknowledgement of any personal responsibility to lead or influence change'. This follows IICSA’s 2018 report in which he apologised for failing starting “We humbly ask forgiveness … for our slowness and defensiveness and for our neglect of both preventative and restorative actions”.

The report has found that the Catholic Church repeatedly failed to support victims and survivors, while taking positive action to protect alleged perpetrators, including moving them to different parishes.

The report highlighted the case of Father James Robinson, who was moved to another parish within the Archdiocese of Birmingham after complaints were first made against him. Robinson abused children between 1959 and 1983 before fleeing to the US. He was later jailed in 2010 for 21 years. At the time of his imprisonment, the church still refused to defrock him.

The inquiry criticised that the Holy See and the Apostolic Nuncio because its ambassador to the UK, did not provide witness statements to the Inquiry despite repeated requests.  The lack of cooperation stands in direct contrast with Pope Francis’ statement in 2019, calling for “concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church”.

The report makes 7 recommendations:

  1. Leadership - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Conference of Religious in England and Wales should each nominate a lead member of the clergy for safeguarding to provide leadership and oversight on safeguarding matters to their respective Conferences and the wider Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.
  2. Training - Ensure that safeguarding training is mandatory for all staff and volunteers in roles where they work with children or victims and survivors of abuse.
  3. Compliance - Publish a clear framework for dealing with cases of non-compliance with safeguarding policies and procedures. That framework should identify who is responsible for dealing with issues of non-compliance at all levels of the Church, and include the measures or sanctions for non-compliance.
  4. External auditing - These independent reports should be published.
  5. Canon 1395 - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales should request that the Holy See redraft the canonical crimes relating to child sexual abuse as crimes against the child.
  6. Having a Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service website and policies and procedures manual
  7. Having a National Complaints policy and escalation process assessed by an independent adjudicator

The final report is due to be put before Parliament in 2022.  

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch with Alan Collins or Danielle Vincent.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor explore the face mask exemption in relation to survivors of abuse.

Although a vaccine is in sight, it is likely that face masks and coverings will be required for some time to come and it is important to raise awareness on this subject.

Over several months’ rape survivor, Georgina Fallow, has been calling for the government to “educate” the public about face-covering exemptions and for guidance to be clearer in relation to why individuals may not be wearing a face covering.

Ms Fallow wrote a letter to the government, which was co-signed by MP Bambos Charalambous and by charities including Mind, Mencap, Sense and Disability Rights UK, which asked the government to promote the Hidden Disabilities charity's Face Covering Exemption Card, and to launch an awareness campaign to publicise the exemptions.

Ms Fallow explains that there are a number of people who simply cannot wear a mask due to the psychological harm it causes. She, for example, experiences traumatic flashbacks that are akin to hallucinations. She describes them as “so real as to effectively plunge me back into the worst of the experience”. The flashbacks can be so severe that police officers and paramedics have had to hold her down, sedate her and take her to hospital.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch with Alan Collins or Feleena Grosvenor.

A 13-year-old girl’s death hit the headlines in November of last year after she was raped and murdered by her family’s 25-year-old house lodger, Stephen Nicholson.

Lucy McHugh was lured to local woodlands in Southampton in 2018. She was then raped and stabbed 27 times resulting in her death.

The police inquiry into Lucy's death became one of the largest murder inquiries in criminal history with over 200 officers involved, spending over 1500 hours trawling through CCTV footage in the search for her killer.

At trial, jurors heard Nicholson murdered Lucy after she threatened to reveal he had been sexually abusing her.

Nicholson is now serving a 33-year prison sentence following his conviction for murdering Lucy and three counts of raping her when she was just 12 years old. He was also found guilty of one count of sexual activity with another girl, who was 14 years old.

Following Lucy’s death, an independent report was commissioned by the Southampton Safeguarding Children Partnership. The report is heavily critical of both social services and the police for missing several chances to help Lucy. 

Nicholson had past convictions for both battery and domestic violence. He then stole £1,000 while holding a blade to a female resident's throat and made off in a staff member's car, before being caught by police. While serving two years in a youth detention centre for that incident, he and two fellow inmates barricaded themselves in a canteen before he again armed himself with a knife and tried to stab a prison guard.

The report found social services did not do enough to act on concerns raised by Lucy's school that she was being sexually exploited by an older boyfriend. Lead reviewer Moira Murray said social workers considered the concerns had “no foundation” because they were given “assurances” by Lucy’s mother.

Ms Murray said a lack of information sharing between the council's Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (police, school and children's social care) was a "missed opportunity" and meant Lucy's case was not treated as one of child protection.

The service, which is intended to 'protect the most vulnerable children from harm, neglect and abuse', upon receipt of a referral should identify 'the needs, and the child or family will be referred or signposted to the relevant contact or information'. However, the report says this did not happen and schools concerns, which were raised by teachers, did not pass the first stages of the referral.

It was also revealed that the city council's Children's Social Care team was aware of Nicholson's convictions, but this information was neither acted upon, nor shared.

Sadly, if the safeguarding processes were followed, they may have unearthed details of Nicholson's relationship with Lucy and potentially prevented her death.

Hampshire Police's Supt Kelly Whiting, district commander for Southampton, said the force was 'identifying improvements following this tragic death'. He added: 'The training of officers reflects the need to understand the complex impact of adverse childhood experiences. As part of this, we are already developing a trauma informed approach to dealing with all incidents involving children. 'We will continue to work with our safeguarding partners to further improve the way we protect vulnerable children.'

The city council's executive director of children's wellbeing, Rob Henderson, said the authority 'remains deeply saddened by this tragic case'. He added: 'On behalf of the council I would like to apologise to the victim's family, friends, and all who knew her, for the council's shortcomings identified in the report. We accept the findings and its recommendations. We have already made changes in a number of the areas highlighted. ‘Independent reviews of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and the Public Law Outline process have already taken place and their recommendations have been implemented'. 'We are determined to keep improving, with the new senior leadership team overseeing the delivery of a comprehensive Improvement Plan for our Children and Learning service'.

It is disappointing that once again due to failures in communications with multi agencies and following of processes, concerns were not followed up in this case which could have prevented Lucy’s death. It is clear the report has highlighted the need for change and it is hoped that this will be implemented not just in Southampton but further reaching to other local authorities and multi agency bodies to prevent this tragedy happening again.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a minor there are a number of organisations you can talk to in addition to the police, social services and agencies that you may contact:

  • Victim Support Line - Offering emotional and practical support for anyone who has been a victim of crime. Telephone: 0808 1689 111
  • NSPCC - 0808 800 5000
  • Child Line
  • Respond - Support for people with learning disabilities and/or autism who have experienced trauma and abuse. Telephone: 0207 3830 700 /admin@respond.org.uk

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 recent years we have seen the #metoo movement make waves in the media, triggering much discussion on the topic of sexual abuse and harassment. It is fair to say that, previously this behaviour would have gone undiscussed and sadly, largely ignored.

Numerous household names have disclosed abuse in the film industry when the Harvey Weinstein cases became public following a 2017 publication. Models, actresses, personal assistances, the list goes on, all came forward disclosing abuse which spanned decades. Some of those who were brave enough to disclose information about their abuse can be found here.

We saw the release of film “Bombshell” at the end of 2019 which told the true-life accounts of three women at Fox News who set out to expose CEO Roger Alies for sexual harassment. Once again this film raised awareness and kick started conversations regarding this inappropriate behaviour many have faced. The film “The Assistant” was also released in 2019 written by Kitty Green exploring sexual harassment faced by a female junior assistant.

Of course, sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace is not limited to the film industry and affects both men and women.

An American study found that 1 in every 4 women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. A similar poll found 1 in 10 men experience sexual harassment. The study found a fourth of men are concerned of becoming falsely accused of sexual harassment.

The study found the Top 5 Industries with Highest Sexual Harassment Incidents:

1. Business, Trade, Banking, and Finance
2. Sales and Marketing
3. Hospitality
4. Civil Service
5. Education, Lecturing, and Teaching

A UK investigation called “Still just a bit of banter?” conducted by the workers’ union, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), in association with feminist activist Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project, found that 63% of young women between the ages of 18 and 24 had experienced sexual harassment compared to 52% of women of all ages. 

There is not a strict definition of what constitutes sexual abuse or harassment in the workplace, it is based on how the victim feels about the behaviour.

Harassment can include physical, verbal and nonverbal harassment. This can include for example; inappropriate jokes or comments, lewd emails, pornographic images or images of a sexual nature in the workplace. Sexual abuse may include comments about clothing or appearance, physical touching or staring at a person’s body. This in not an exhaustive list.

The Equality Act 2010 explains that sexual harassment can often have the impact of affecting someone’s dignity, creating an intimidating, humiliating or hostile environment for them.

Regarding liability for such behaviour, anyone who sexually harasses someone in the workplace is responsible for their own actions. However, in addition, employers can be responsible too under the term 'vicarious liability' and could be liable for civil claims for failings if they have failed to implement procedures and safeguarding.

Employers must do everything they reasonably can to make sure their employees and workers are protected from sexual harassment. Employers must adopt a clear policy for sexual harassment which must also set out the steps to be taken if someone feels they are being harassed. Training should be implemented, and regular refreshers completed by employees to ensure everyone is acting appropriately in the workplace and employees are protected.

In September 2020, Tory MP Charlie Elphicke was found guilty of three sex attacks after groping the breasts of two younger women and handed a two-year prison sentence. He had been Dover MP from 2010-2019. The former MP was also ordered to pay £35,000 in costs. This case is mentioned here to highlight that this individual was a trusted person with a successful career and was at one point a partner of a law firm. Such abuse takes place in Britain today, an abuser can take any shape and this should not prevent a victim coming forward.

The Law Gazette reported how law firm Reed Smith has apologised for its handling of sexual harassment allegations against Elphicke, the former partner at the international firm. Reed Smith have confirmed they have opened a review last month into allegations made by a former colleague’s of Elphicke in 2005. The review came after the former staff member told the Guardian newspaper that she left Reed Smith’s London office because of Elphicke's behaviour.

Safeline provides guidance and support if you have been affected by this article.

It is important to highlight that anyone of any gender, in any role, and in any industry can be subject to sexual abuse and harassment.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. Please get in contact with Alan Collins or Danielle Vincent.

Recently on our podcasts we discussed abuse in sport and more specifically in Wrestling. This week we turn to Ballet.

Ballet students, as with many sports, start at a young age. Those focussing on such a career may attend specialist schools and spend hours alone with coaches forming strong bonds in the hope of progressing their career.

We previously discussed the risks of coach - student relationships and the NSPCC campaign ‘Close the Loophole’ (#CloseTheLoophole) which aims to change the law regarding positions of trust to be extended to include any adult (in this scenario coaches) who holds a position of power over sixteen or seventeen year-olds.

In the summer of 2020 a ballet school in Scotland became the centre of a probe into claims of ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour’ by staff member, Jonathan Barton, towards students.

Victims stated how the teacher targeted the quiet vulnerable girls. One victim confirmed how Barton would message her, which slowly increased to asking her to attend his room at night. Barton and the student entered a sexual relationship when she was just sixteen.

ITV News investigated and heard from more than sixty women alleging abuse going back as far as 2004 and as recently as 2018. This resulted in the resignation of Barton.

Such reports again highlights safeguarding issues for children in the sports world and further areas where children spend significant time unsupervised with adults.

These allegations in the Ballet world quickly follow the 2019 news headlines that former Royal Ballet star, Stephen Beagley, sexually abused girls he taught in private lessons. This resulted in him being jailed for ten years. Beagley was convicted of abusing three girls aged nine, ten and twelve during private ballet lessons between 1997 and 2010. He pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual assault, two charges of indecent assault and one of causing a child to engage in sexual activity. Beagley was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court.

Beagley was a well known talented dancer and had held lead roles in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Cats and performed with Freddie Mercury.

For many years Beagley was a guest teacher and the head of the adult ballet programme for the English National Ballet. He had taught around the world including Italy, America, Australia and Hong Kong.

With such experience and skill he would have been held in high regard to his students and placed in a position of trust. As with many abusers, he would have used his position to manipulate his victims. A victim states "Beagley targeted the young girls he came into contact with and abused them while they were at their most vulnerable over many years."

Again abuse in sport or these types of institutions require exposure and sufficient safeguarding measures to stop predators.

At the time of writing, further media articles have disclosed abuse by coaches in cycling and tennis, once again highlighting the lack of safety in sporting industries.

If you are in distress or need some support, the following charities can also help:

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.

 

In this week's episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, our Partner, Alan Collins, talks to Nicole, a sexual abuse survivor about her experience of going to court when her abuser was prosecuted.

Nicole’s case is interesting not just because of her story and the experiences she shares with us, but for two particular reasons:

  1. There was a “Goodyear” hearing; and
  2. The judge made a Criminal Compensation Order

What is a “Goodyear” hearing?

This is the procedure by which a defendant can obtain an indication as to the sentence to be imposed upon a plea of guilty “and  is governed by the decision in R v Goodyear[2005] EWCA Crim 888). At the defendant’s request, the court can indicate the maximum sentence it would impose were the defendant to plead guilty at that stage of the proceedings. Proceedings should be held in open court.

In Nicole’s case, the defendant’s lawyer asked the judge what would the sentence be? Having been advised a suspended prison sentence, the defendant pleaded guilty and was duly sentenced.

In the podcast Nicole explains how she felt at the time, and offers her reflections.

Criminal Compensation orders

The criminal courts on sentencing offenders are required to consider making a compensation order which is defined in the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (PCC(S)A 2000), to mean an order which requires the offender to pay compensation for any personal injury, loss or damage resulting from the offence.

Unfortunately, many, if not most victims of sexual abuse are not awarded compensation.

Nicole is something of a rarity because as she explains, she was awarded compensation.

We have raised with both IICSA and the UK Parliament the fact that so few orders are made, when clearly in many cases they should be.

The APPG Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse in its report said:

“Survivors’ experiences of court and applying for compensation” wrote:

The inquiry also heard how judges are not using their powers to issue Criminal Compensation Orders at the conclusion of a trial, with only 26 issued in 2017. Of those awarded, some were as low as £20 for the ‘rape of a male child under 13’.

We will be asking Westminster to tell us what progress has been made to remedy this glaring defect in the justice system.

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