August 7, 2020

Update: Abuse In Sport

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, host Alan Collins and colleague Feleena Grosvenor discuss the topic of abuse in sport.

We do so in the wake of the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) 2020 report which is published annually and measures countries’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” based on a tier ranking system.

The United States considers “trafficking in persons,” “human trafficking,” and “modern slavery” to be interchangeable umbrella terms that refer to both sex and labour trafficking. It encompasses involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labour.

The US’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”) defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:

sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harbouring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labour or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

There have been in recent years very high profile child sex abuse cases in sport, and in the UK football in particular. The 2020 report although a US government publication has world-wide reach and is thought-provoking because we do not necessarily equate sport with slavery.

The report paints in stark colours the reality and makes the obvious point that many people around the world dream of becoming professional athletes, drawn by the fame, multi-million-dollar contracts, lucrative brand sponsorships, and opportunities to travel around the world. The growing number of young players aspiring to become professional athletes and the potential to sign the next greatest deal inevitably draws human traffickers looking to profit from the exploitation of players’ dreams. Human traffickers feature in many walks of life and so why would sport be any different? The often insufficient oversight by sport governing bodies and lack of government enforcement further allows unscrupulous agents to operate.

According to the 2020 report, a common scenario is where sports agents approach poor families with an offer to arrange for a child to train at a street-side academy, sports club, or school, with the promise of signing the child with a professional team. Many of these families will do whatever it takes to meet the agent’s price. In cases where the agent does arrange for the children’s admittance and travel to a club or school, typically for a fee of thousands of dollars, the children often find themselves in situations that increase their vulnerability to predatory behaviours. And we know too well from the recent football cases in the UK how young boys became vulnerable to predatory coaches and the like.

The report shockingly reveals how some unscrupulous agents immediately abandon the children while in transit or after arrival at the destination. Other agents, who are actually traffickers, have a longer-term scheme, where they vie to establish themselves within young athletes’ circle of trust and instil a sense of dependency as early as possible. This is akin to what we know as grooming and in a previous podcast, we discuss the psychological damage this causes.

The report goes on to explain that if players fail to live up to expectations and advance to the next level in the sport, the agent abandons them without means to return home. If abandoned abroad, players often remain in the country undocumented not knowing how to contact family and friends or too afraid to do so because of a strong sense of shame and self-blame. This lack of resources, guidance, and social support increases their vulnerability to traffickers and may lead to dependency and further exploitation.

For players offered a position on a team, according to the report  the traffickers posing as agents have already established a relationship with the athlete and are well-positioned to control the course of the athlete’s career. In numerous cases, the traffickers have compelled or tricked athletes into signing exploitative contracts with major kickback schemes that bind the athletes to the agent. These agents often maintain control of athletes’ travel and identity documents to prevent them from leaving, or they exploit a debt amassed from previous fees or interest on loans to keep the athlete in a state of debt-based coercion. This is arguably akin to slavery if not, in fact, modern-day slavery. For the athletes who have dedicated their lives to sign a contract, the fear of losing the opportunity by questioning the terms of that contract or their so-called agent can be insurmountable. Once the contract is signed, the trafficker finally has the control needed to extort as much as possible from the athlete. Even after becoming more established, athletes may feel it is too risky to challenge the terms of a contract or seek other representation out of fear their situation would cause shame, ruin their reputation, or jeopardize their future.

While traffickers tend to target children and youth, they also approach young adults. In these instances, following the same plan of signing an exploitative contract if the player is selected or abandonment upon failure. In either scenario, the player is at heightened risk of human trafficking. When legal migration avenues to countries with premier leagues are difficult or do not exist, the draw of a trafficker’s promise of success is even more compelling.

To quote from the report: Within Europe’s soccer industry alone, it is estimated there are 15,000 human trafficking victims each year. The migration patterns vary by sport, but the exploitative scheme of recruiting, building trust and dependency, and taking control upon a job offer is universal. The confluence of athletes’ desire to play, their families’ hopes of escaping poverty, agents’ desire to profit, leagues’ interest in marketing competitive players and games, and teams’ eagerness to find young talent all create an environment that, if left unregulated, could be ripe for traffickers to exploit.

Yet neither governments nor international sports federations or national sports leagues have successfully addressed the growing incidence of human trafficking of athletes. As professional sports leagues have become increasingly globalized, multilateral and regional bodies have started incorporating protection of athletes in sports integrity and anti-corruption initiatives; however, government and industry efforts to regulate an expanding web of migration and recruitment routes have proven insufficient.

The 2020 report does report on preventative actions being taken by governments around the world and rates each country accordingly. Progress in detection and prevention does vary and it is apparent that much more needs to be done to address, if not eradicate this miserable trade in young people.

The report calls for a more systematic and standardized approach given the global nature of the sports industry and decentralized structure of many associations. Greater pressure on teams and their scouts is needed to conduct more due diligence on the agents they work with to ensure their talent acquisition is free of exploitation. It is also suggested that governments could do more for example by ensuring greater public awareness. Further that there should be greater oversight and regulation in this area, with a role to be played by governments and governing bodies.

If you are a victim of CSA in sport you can contact Alan Collins or Feleena Grosvenor at alan.collins@hughjames.com or feleena.grosvenor@hughjames.com for a private consultation.

For more information see https://www.theguardian.com/football/2020/may/18/former-football-coach-barry-bennell-charged-with-nine-sexual-offences and https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-52549032

In our latest episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Partner Alan Collins and colleague Feleena Grosvenor, discuss the perception that certain abusers are “out of reach” to claim against and aim to clarify the incorrect assumptions that may exist.

 

Recently, former football coach Barry Bennell was charged with nine offences against two people in relation to non-recent child sexual abuse. This is in addition to the 50 child sexual offences that he was convicted of, that he committed between 1979 and 1991, and was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for in 2018.

When we noticed this article we thought of the lay person who may be surprised that new charges have been brought even though the allegation is non-recent and he has already been convicted for a number of related crimes.

 

This is applicable to civil claims. There are misconceptions that if the crime was committed too long ago, or the conviction was secured too long ago, or there was no conviction at all, that you cannot claim. This is untrue. There are case-by-case facts that apply and you may still be able to pursue a case.

 

Another misconception may be that because the abuser is in prison that you cannot bring a civil claim against them. Again, this is untrue.

 

We have heard often that survivors do not pursue civil claims because they presume or know the person to be dead.  Firstly, the abuser may not be dead, and secondly, if they are but it was within 6 months you may be able to make a claim against the estate.

 

All of these scenarios can be discussed in-depth with Alan Collins or Feleena Grosvenor if you think they apply to you. Please get in touch at alan.collins@hughjames.com or feleena.grosvenor@hughjames.com for a consultation.

 

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/barry-bennell-news-child-sex-abuse-charge-latest-news-a9520086.html

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast we discuss Mental Health Week and how it applies to our clients.

18th to 24th May 2020 is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK.

This is unfortunately very applicable to the work we do as it is not unusual that those who have been sexually abused, especially as children, suffer from mental health illnesses.

Mental Health Awareness is being promoted across all platforms at the moment a lot more than we’ve noticed in recent years because of the COVID-19 impact and the concerns over isolation.

We would like to tie this into the frustrations currently faced by our clients.

We have noticed in our experience that the court process can exacerbate mental health symptoms. This may be because the process itself is traumatic (survivors facing their abuser or abusers) but it may also be a lengthy process which can be stressful.

Due to COVID-19, we are unable to attend court for the civil matters we are pursuing. This means that remote methods must be used, however, often the abuser is in prison for the abuse they have committed. Communication is difficult in the best of times, but currently, it is a frustrating circle of adjournments. We have been advised that prisoners do not have access to the usual video and telephone conference facilities to attend court hearings remotely. It is unfair to continue proceedings if they wish to attend and cannot for matters outside of their control. This is regardless of how long the matter has been ongoing, or the severity of their crimes. This is understandable for practitioners, but for survivors, it can be heartbreaking. 

Other practitioners will appreciate that hearings and trials are often booked well in advance and can be difficult to organise. We are frustrated, and can only imagine how our clients feel when they have been mentally preparing for a hearing or trial which is now likely to not be heard for months.

Hugh James would like to remind everyone to focus upon the positives where they can and if you or someone you know is struggling, seek help from friends, family or an appropriate organisation such as MIND (www.mind.org.uk).

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast host Alan Collins and colleague Feleena Grosvenor discuss “Zoombombing”; what it is and why it is so dangerous.

Individuals are abusing the necessity of remote working due to COVID-19 and the steep increase of the use of online platforms to communicate such as Zoom by “Zoombombing”. The National Crime Agency recently reported that more than 120 cases of Zoom video calls have been hijacked by those unknown displaying images of child abuse.

Taking, making, sharing and possessing indecent images and pseudo-photographs of people under 18 is illegal.

The term “making” could include:

  • opening an attachment to an email containing an image
  • downloading an image from a website onto a computer screen
  • storing an image in a directory on a computer
  • accessing a website in which images appeared by way of an automatic “pop up” mechanism

 These examples, taken from Government guidance, are possible to occur when “Zoombombing” is committed and it is the person viewing the images, not uploading them, that is at risk of breaking the law.

Some of you may recall late last year the police chief, Robyn Williams, who was convicted for having child sexual abuse images on her phone when they were sent to her via WhatsApp by her sister. (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/nov/19/police-chief-convicted-for-having-child-sex-abuse-video-on-phone-robyn-williams)

For those of you who would like to hear more about this topic we direct you to the BBC news story “my search for the boy in a child abuse video” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-51680410) or you can contact Alan Collins or Feleena Grosvenor at alan.collins@hughjames.com or feleena.grosvenor@hughjames.com.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan Collins discusses the importance of having strategies to maintain and improve our resilience and wellbeing, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown.

People have always had strategies to help them stay resilient, however, these strategies have been put under pressure over the last number of months during lockdown. Resilience and wellbeing affect your ability to cope and also bounce back after adverse events. This is especially true during COVID-19.

Resilience and wellbeing are also linked to job satisfaction and performance.

We know that lawyers need to continuously improve, rather than be perfectionists; be empathic, not over-involved; and get support and not take risks......how does resilience help this?

Hugh outlines a six-factor approach to resilience:

  • Positive thinking: Use positive words when you think or speak eg that was good; thank you;
  • Managing anxiety: Relax frequently using a deep breath;
  • Organising tasks: Have a tidy, organised desk;
  • Communicating well: Increase smiling and friendly behaviour;
  • Communicating kindly: Be kind and reassure others; and
  • Enjoying work: Make positive comments at the start of working day.

This is not an exhaustive list, but by reviewing these categories and thinking of how we can implement strategies along these lines, you will find that over time, you will increase your resilience and wellbeing.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse Podcast, we discuss the topic of remote interviewing with returning guest, Clinical Psychologist and visiting Professor at Birmingham City University Hugh Koch.

Part of the process for survivors of sexual abuse is to be interviewed. These interviews can be conducted by those trying to help them recover and rebuild their lives - such as psychiatrists or psychologists. Or, it may be by those who are trying to help them in other ways such as the police or their solicitor. In each of these interview situations, it is vitally important that the interviewee feels comfortable and able to share honest and open answers. It is also vitally important that the interviewer is able to clearly hear the person they are interviewing and, equally importantly, they need to be able to pick up on body language.

Both Hugh and I had conducted remote interviews prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, but neither of us were enthusiastic about the prospect of doing more of them, unless they were strictly required by the interviewee. 

However, since the COVID-19 lockdown, remote interviews have become the accepted norm and both of us have had to use them extensively. A variety of platforms can be used for remote interviews with each having their pros and cons, but as long as the platform is easy to access for the survivor of abuse, it should work well.

With limited cause to use the technology prior to lockdown, we were more willing to cope with limitations like poor picture or sound quality. In some cases, there was a noticeable delay between a question being asked and the answer being given when interviews were done with people in North America. There have previously been issues with assessing body language of the lower torso and legs or if those areas of the body sustained an injury. But technology has improved a lot recently and there have been far fewer problems than anticipated. Empathy and listening is good for both ends of the call.

In March, there was a big discussion between solicitors, barristers, therapists and insurance companies about the validity of remote interviews. But, since BPS guidelines have been issued, client satisfaction with the process has been high, it has been easy to access for clients, and provides a good degree of privacy, confidentiality and security.

There have been specific issues with remote psychometric testing, as the process becomes much more complex when done remotely. It’s not that it can’t be done, just that it takes much more skill and attention.

Overall, remote interviewing has been working well and it may be used more in the future, even after lockdown ends, but it will never replace the face to face interview.

In this podcast AC and MS discuss the question why would you “cover-up” allegations of child sexual abuse?

The question is asked in the wake of the publication of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s report in which it is revealed that it determined that Cardinal George Pell had known of clergy paedophile activity at least as early as 1982 and possibly earlier.

The findings concerning the Cardinal who was last month acquitted of charges of child sexual abuse by the Australian High Court had been redacted until Pell’s court processes had run their course to avoid prejudicing the proceedings.

The findings relate to Cardinal Pell’s conduct as a priest in the Victorian diocese of Ballarat, where numerous cases of paedophile activity by Roman Catholic clergy occurred in the 1970s and ’80s. The Commission rejected Cardinal Pell’s evidence that he had not been told that the paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale was being moved from his parish because of child sexual-abuse complaints. The Commission said that it was “implausible” that the then Bishop of Ballarat did not tell Pell and others in a meeting the real reason for Ridsdale’s move. The failure of Pell and others to advise the Bishop in relation to Ridsdale was unacceptable, the Commission said.

What Cardinal Pell knew about Ridsdale taking boys on trips in 1973

[Gerald] Ridsdale was appointed assistant priest at Ballarat East in 1972. In January 1973, Father Pell was appointed assistant priest at Ballarat East. He lived in the Ballarat East presbytery with Ridsdale for nine or 10 months in that year.

While at Ballarat East, Father Pell heard that Ridsdale had taken groups of boys away on camps, including overnight trips. Cardinal Pell accepted that, because of the Monsignor Day scandal, child sexual abuse was at least on his radar. In submissions, he also accepted it was clear that ‘momentary thought’ was given to the matter of Ridsdale taking boys away on camping trips.

We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps. The most likely reason for this, as Cardinal Pell acknowledged, was the possibility that if priests were one-on-one with a child then they could sexually abuse a child or at least provoke gossip about such a prospect.

By this time, child sexual abuse was on his radar, in relation to not only Monsignor Day but also Ridsdale. We are also satisfied that by 1973 Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy but that he also had considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Final Report

The  Royal Commission has also found that Pell failed to act on complaints about paedophile clergy in Melbourne in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne, and later when he was Archbishop.

In a statement, Cardinal Pell, who is now living in a Sydney seminary since his release from prison, said that he was “surprised by some of the views of the Royal Commission”, particularly the findings concerning Gerald Ridsdale. “These views are not supported by the evidence”.

In their examination of possible answers AC and MS discuss:

  • an institutional culture that prioritises reputation, prestige or loyalty to the institution above the individual
  • strong personal relationships between adults within institutions, or conflicts of interest for individuals in institutions
  • Culture can suppress disclosure of abuse for example out of concern that it may bring shame (real or imaginary) on to the family or community

“We urge Member States and the international community to include the specific needs and priorities of indigenous peoples in addressing the global outbreak of COVID 19." ~ Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Anne Nuorgam.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan and Regina Paulose discuss the impact of coronavirus on indigenous peoples from a human rights perspective.

Indigenous peoples experience a high degree of socio-economic marginalization and are at disproportionate risk in public health emergencies, becoming even more vulnerable during this global pandemic, owing to factors such as their lack of access to effective monitoring and early-warning systems, and adequate health and social services.

As lockdowns continue in numerous countries, with no timeline in sight, Indigenous peoples who already face food insecurity, as a result of the loss of their traditional lands and territories,  confront even graver challenges in access to food. With the loss of their traditional livelihoods, which are  often  land-based, many Indigenous peoples who work in  traditional occupations and subsistence economies or in the  informal sector will be adversely affected by the pandemic.  The situation of indigenous women, who are often the main providers of food and nutrition to their families, is even graver.

Yet, Indigenous peoples are seeking their own solutions to this pandemic. They are taking action, and using traditional knowledge and practices such as voluntary isolation, and sealing off their territories, as well as preventive measures – in their own languages.

WEF: A 15-year-old boy from a remote region of the Brazilian Amazon, near the border with Venezuela, died of COVID-19 on April 9. A member of the 35,000-strong Yanomami people, the boy was the first known death among Brazil’s indigenous communities in the current pandemic. There are now growing fears that COVID-19 will wreak havoc across the Amazon

Alan and Reg question the effectiveness of the UN and ask

  1. How does the UN protect indigenous rights if at all?
  2. What role does the UN have?
  3. Are there legal obligations and rights?
  4. Who speaks for indigenous peoples?
  5. What can indigenous peoples do to protect and promote their human rights?
  6. What can we learn in the COVID 19 context from indigenous peoples?

In answering these questions they explore whether there are wider implications for mankind given the impact globally of the virus and the environment and should we wring our hands in despair, or look forward with optimism?

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse Podcast, Alan Collins speaks with Clinical Psychologist and visiting professor at Birmingham City University, Hugh Koch, about the impact of lockdown on mental health.

Specifically, they discuss lockdown related anxiety. 

Hugh writes a weekly blog about lockdown related anxiety and brings some of his observations from that endeavour to this conversation. Most of us have experienced some form of lockdown related anxiety over the last 12 weeks from difficulties adjusting to new working patterns, family dynamics, loneliness and isolation. 

There are a few main ways to avoid lockdown anxiety:

  1. To control our schedules and routines to make sure that we stay connected to others
  2. To be aware of the way that we think during lockdown
  3. It's also important to have positive views of our abilities and those of our peers and the country as a whole to eventually be able to come out the other side of this crisis
  4. Finally, we need to be able to manage our feelings by focussing on the kinds of things that will help us to stay nice and calm.

Hugh also talks about the need for doing exercises that help us to focus on our breathing as well as tensing and relaxing different parts of our bodies to allow us to loosen up and let go of our anxiety.

Connecting to our main subject of abuse, Hugh answers Alan's question about how adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse should deal with anxiety as they also have to deal with their past experiences on top of lockdown related stresses.

Hugh's advice is that whatever has happened in the past is in the past and today can be the first day of the next phase. This next phase can involve being clear with yourself about what you can change starting today that will make a positive impact on you. Maybe it is going for a walk and saying hello to five people or looking at the world around you and identifying aspects that are pleasant. Even making a phone call to show an interest in someone else's life story can have a big impact. 

It's obvious that the complex issues faced by adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse cannot be solved by a few minutes on a podcast, but these strategies can be a starting point from which real healing can stem. 

People’s Tribunals are independent, peaceful, grassroots movements, created by members of civil society, to address impunity that is associated with ongoing or past atrocities. As such, they offer society an alternative history and create a space for healing and reconciliation to take place that may otherwise be stifled by political agendas and legal technicalities. Since the 1960’s, People’s Tribunals have grown and developed to address many kinds of situations, from genocide to environmental degradation.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast Alan and Reg Paulose discuss the concept of the People’s Tribunal and question their effectiveness.

In the context of that question they discuss:

  • Can they be seen as legitimate responses to injustice?
  • How do they work?
  • What do they achieve that conventional legal models do not?
  • So are they effective?
  • How do we measure effectiveness, what does it look like?

Reference is made to the UKCSAPT – the People’s Tribunal established in the UK to examine child sexual abuse (see website HJ).

These issues are discussed in the recently published book: People’s Tribunals Human Rights and the Law: Searching for Justice (published by Routledge, and edited by Reg. Alan wrote the chapter on “People’s Tribunals and how they examine child sexual abuse).

This book presents a balance of academic and practitioner perspectives on People’s Tribunals. It explores key questions relating to their formation and roles and discusses what they can offer to victims and survivors. The volume provides an introduction to the subject, theoretically informed discussion reflecting different perspectives, and a range of contributions focusing on different types of People’s Tribunals and various aspects of their operation. The authors analyse the advantages and disadvantages of these movements in a variety of contexts. The impact and contribution they have in the international criminal law and international human rights context is also discussed.

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