With social media used by most of us daily, how do we know who we are interacting with?

Shows like Channel 4’s The Circle have shown how you can portray yourself to be someone completely differently. Terms like ‘catfishing’ have become common terms.

But there is a very serious side to the ability to portray yourself to be someone else online.

Dating sites are another form of interaction online. The problem again with this is you are exchanging personal information with a stranger online, you are becoming trusting of such stranger.

There have been many exchanges of stories of turning up to dates with people who aren’t who they say they are. Netflix has just released the film Love Hard when the female turns up to her expected dates house to establish her date is not who he said he was.

The sinister side of this is the lured sense of security is the safety position. With increased reports of date rape drugging incidents, this leaves people open to sexual assault.

A report was commissioned by ProPublica in regards to safety on dating sites. See the full report here. Tinder Lets Known Sex Offenders Use the App. It’s Not the Only One. — ProPublica

In 2018, there was a report by one individual who provided information to the investigation that  she reported to Bumble that a man she met through its popular online dating platform had sexually assaulted her. The company didn’t respond, she says. Two months later, after seeing his profile photo on the app again, she recalls the same report-no-response scenario playing out.

The investigation revealed the industry giant Match Group fails to screen for registered sex offenders on its free products — OkCupid, PlentyofFish and Tinder — despite doing so on its paid platforms. Our reporting has shown that some dating app users either received inadequate responses to their rape complaints or none at all.

The report found users reported their attack to the company but saw the user on the app again. Many more told us it never occurred to them to report an offline sexual assault to an online dating company. Or they didn’t realise a dating website could play a role in preventing such incidents.

Many of the apps do not complete criminal checks or whether someone is on the sex offenders register.

Further complications arise with identifying if an account is real. The question, like with all social media accounts such as facebook and Instagram is whether dating apps should be verified with the user having to include ID. At this time any one can set up a profile, with any information they want.

Cosmopolitan released a number of safety suggestions for online dating meet ups How to stay safe online dating | 15 women protect themselves when meeting someone from a dating app or site (cosmopolitan.com)

Over the last two months there have been multiple reports of assaults in nightclubs with needles. This is alongside increased reports of drink spiking.

In Nottingham, one woman woke up in bed the next day with no memory, another woman woke up in hospital both displaying needle stick injuries. Further reports of paralysis and the concern of wating weeks for test results to confirm they have not been infected with HIV or other potential illnesses/diseases.

As of 23 October 2021, the NPCC had also collected 198 reports of drink spiking, in addition to the 56 reports of incidents involving a needle. 

Report by fullfact.org have provided the following alleged assaults:

  • Nottinghamshire Police have since said they are investigating 15 separate incidents, reported within less than a month, of young women and men being jabbed with “something sharp”. 
  • Two men, aged 18 and 19, have been arrested by Nottinghamshire Policeon suspicion of conspiring to administer poison, but not in connection with any specific reports of spiking either via injection or drinks. They have since been released under investigation. 
  • Sussex Police is investigating seven reports of womenbeing spiked via injection in Brighton and Eastbourne. Hampshire Constabulary has said it is investigating one report of a woman being spiked by injection at a nightclub in Portsmouth. 
  • Lancashire Constabulary has confirmed it is investigatingafter a woman reported being injected with an unknown substance in Preston. Norfolk Constabulary has said it has received six reports of people either being spiked or injected. 
  • Wales Online reports that four women in Swanseaclaimed to have been spiked by injection, though these have not been confirmed. South Wales Police has said it had received “a small number of reports from people” who believed they had been spiked via injection, and was investigating. 
  • The Scottish Sunalso reported four stories of suspected spiking with a needle across Scotland, with cases in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. 

Freedom of Information requests collected by Sky News and published in 2018 found that reported incidents of spiking had doubled in three years. The BBC reported in 2019 that there had been a rise in the number of cases, with 2,600 reported incidents in England and Wales since 2015.

The information can be found here : What do we know so far about reports of ‘spiking’ with needles? - Full Fact

There are calls for security to be bolstered at nightclubs with extra bag and pocket searches.

There have been nationwide conversations about the crime and inspired a boycott of nightclubs and bars dubbed ‘Girls Night In’ where nightclubs were boycotted on 11 October. But there was also criticism that women staying home was not the answer to this big problem.

With universities now back and bars full again, universities are running campaigns to raise awareness.

TikTok has been flooded with videos showing just how easy it is to spike a drink with a small distraction to the drink holder, again to raise awareness.

The question is whether spiking has increased dramatically recently, or whether this is now only once again hitting the headlines raising awareness.

Different companies have now come up with further safety measures for drink covers, such as a hair scrunchie that can be placed over the drink like a cap so you may put a straw through.

The difficulty with such spiking, is that if the impact is delayed to the victim or this is not caught on CCTV, catching the perpetrator may prove very difficult to police.

Of statistics obtained so far, it would seem this is impacting both male and female victims equally, despite the coverage forming this is a larger risk to females.

In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss a recent case regarding alleged gang rape that took place at Oxford Brookes University in February 2018.

This case concerns one woman, a British student and the victim, and four international students, the alleged perpetrators.

It is understood that one of the accused was admitted to the university while under investigation in the United States over two allegations of rape by a female student.

The victim, who was aged 19 at the time, alleges that the topic of “group sex” had come up in a hypothetical and humorous context and she had “laughed it off”. But, on another occasion the men allegedly turned serious and told her that she “owed them group sex”. The woman felt pressured to participate and claims that she initially took part in some non-penetrative sexual activity. She states that she was clear that she did not want to continue but was overpowered and repeatedly raped.


The case was investigated by Thames Valley Police but they concluded that there was ambiguity over the woman’s consent and so they could not refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service. This is allegedly because she consented to some sexual activity both before and after the alleged rape. The decision was reviewed by a detective chief inspector who concluded that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

This led to the student attempting to kill herself, by overdose.

After the police concluded their investigation, Oxford Brookes University initiated a misconduct investigation. It was held that the woman was subject to “sexual harassment, violence or abuse” and three of the four men were found to “had not taken appropriate care to establish that consent was present throughout the entire evening, and this constitutes abuse”. It was found that apparently the fourth individual did not participate in the rape. The three individuals were expelled from university. The fourth had a term’s suspension and was ordered to write a letter of apology to the alleged victim.


This case highlights concerns that have been growing around rape culture on campuses, and in relation to men with power or social status, as athletes, as these men were. This case also addresses the difficulties with consent in a criminal context.

The different outcomes to the criminal investigation and the university investigation are because of the different “burden of proof” that applies.

In a criminal context, the lack of consent has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, meaning you are sure, in order for someone to be guilty of rape, assault by penetration, sexual assault or causing a person to engage in sexual activity. The university needed only to look at a “balance of probabilities”, meaning more likely than not.

Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines consent as “if [s]he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice”. Prosecutors should consider this in two stages. They are:

  • Whether a complainant had the capacity (i.e. the age and understanding) 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.

Assuming that the complainant had both the freedom and capacity to consent, the crucial question is whether the complainant agrees to the activity by choice.

Determining if the four men had “reasonable belief” that the woman consented can be a difficult one.

The best way of dealing with this issue is to ask two questions.

  • Did the suspect genuinely believe the complainant consented? This relates to his or her personal capacity to evaluate consent (the subjective element of the test).
  • If so, did the suspect reasonably believe it? It will be for the jury to decide if his or her belief was reasonable (the objective element).

It is, of course, difficult when the alleged perpetrator alleges that they reasonably believed there was consent, when in fact they do not believe the same.

We encourage anyone who has comments or concerns relating to this subject, or about abuse in general, to get in touch with Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Feleena Grosvenor at Feleena.grosvenor@hughjames.com.



Rape and Sexual Offences - Chapter 6: Consent | The Crown Prosecution Service (cps.gov.uk)

November 5, 2021

HJ Talks About Abuse: Uber

Uber Technologies Inc is a technology company that offers ride-hailing services to its platform users. The company uses its algorithms to connect passengers to their pool of registered Uber drivers to use their transportation services in exchange for payment. Today, Uber counts over 14 million trips each day in more than 60 countries.

Uber have now also expanded to boat travel and Uber Eats food delivery services.

One of the questions which has been posed over the years is whether drivers are self-employed or employees. The Supreme Court held that drivers must be treated as employees with holiday pay and minimum wage. This is important for anyone bringing a claim against Uber drivers, who would look to a claim against Uber as being vicariously liable for the actions of their drivers rather that pursuing claims against drivers directly.

In London, Uber secured its right to continue operating after a Judge upheld its appeal against TfL. TfL had rejected Uber’s application to be granted a new licence over safety concerns in 2017. One of the main concerns raised by TfL was a flaw in Uber's system that allowed unauthorised people to upload their photographs to legitimate drivers' accounts, which then allowed them to pick up passengers.

This ‘flaw in the system’ allowed Naveed Iqbal to use his brother’s Uber login details to use the app as a driver. He was alleged to have sexually assaulted two women in Leeds in 2015. Both women have recently reached a five figure settlements with Uber, after Uber were found liable for the incidents as it had a duty of care to protect passengers.

Iqbal lost an appeal in 2017 to keep his own private-hire licence when a crown court heard no charges had been brought, but a judge said he had carried out the attacks “on the balance of probabilities”.

In 2018, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said TfL was "absolutely right" not to renew Uber licence but acknowledged the company had "made improvements". Alarmingly, that same year, more than 3,000 Uber passengers and drivers reported sexual assaults.

The ‘improvements’ in Uber’s way of handling the widespread problem may have been triggered by the accusation Uber faced in the US, trying to force women who say they were sexually assaulted by drivers to resolve their claims behind closed doors through arbitration rather than in courts. Similarly, Uber was fined $59m (£43m) for refusing to disclose details of more than 1,200 alleged victims of sexual assault involving its drivers in California between 2017 and 2019, justifying it would be a ‘shocking violation of privacy’ for victims. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), which imposed the fine, said it did not require a public disclosure of the information, and the details of individual cases would have been kept private.

In July 2021, Uber has agreed to pay a reduced fine of $9 million to the California Public Utilities Commission. Uber will now provide anonymised data about the assaults to the Commission.

With the aim of ‘standing with survivors’, Uber voluntarily published the US Safety report that discusses safety issues. They claim they understand that business leaders such as Uber have a unique opportunity to address the widespread problem of sexual assault and harassment, not only by acknowledging and assessing the issue but also by responding appropriately when incidents occur.

“Uber has emerged as a leading partner in standing against sexual assault – not just through accountability and transparency, but also by supporting survivors, eliminating barriers to reporting, and taking steps to prevent violence and harassment. We call on other companies to follow Uber’s lead by partnering with anti-violence organizations and releasing their own reports.” - Cindy Southworth, Executive Director, National Network to End Domestic Violence

The safety team at Uber has tripled since 2017 and there are more than 300 professionals now dedicated to safety. Uber has been testing different features and reports various improvements:

  • Allowing riders to verify their driver with secure PIN code
  • Enabling for a text message to directly be sent to 911 operators (in the US) and report safety incidents to Uber before the trip is even over.
  • Improvement of drivers’ background checks and screenings
  • Feature ‘share my trip’/ ‘follow my ride

Sexual assault claims have not just been limited to Uber. Lyft was also sued by 19 women in December 2019. The platform has been accused as not doing enough to prevent sexual assaults by drivers on the platform, and not investigating complaints properly.

Since March, the two ride-hailing firms agreed they will put aside competition and partner to share data on drivers who have been banned from their platforms in the US for serious safety incidents, including sexual assault and physical assaults resulting in a fatality.

However, the lack of comprehensive background checks coupled with inadequate investigation of customer complaints involving sexually inappropriate behaviour by drivers still puts thousands of men and women at risk. Only in June 2021, did a video surfaced of a woman in Australia who filmed her uber driver relentlessly pestering her for sex.

Statistics obtained by The Sun revealed Uber drivers were accused of 32 rapes and sex attacks on London passengers over the past year, this is equal to one every 11 days.

The figures represent more than a fifth of all claims against taxi and car-hire drivers filed to 14 UK police forces last year, which totalled at 154 allegations including attacks in minicabs and chauffeur vehicles

As many of the cases brought forward have been settled behind closed doors, many consumers continue to use such services with no knowledge of the potential dangers. We would expect as the consumer that these individuals have been through an extensive vetting process.

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 we discuss the topic of sex dolls following the American headline “Mom Fights to Ban Child Sex Dolls After Daughter's Likeness Was Used for One”

A mother reached out to news producers in America after she discovered her 8-year-old daughter's likeness was used for a sex doll face that went up for sale on internet sites  including popular site Amazon.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said, “All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. This product has been removed.”

The sex doll which very closely resembled her child was being sold as a high-quality sex doll.  Despite Amazon removing the advert, this doll remained on a number of other sites. The same doll appears naked on another website, which NBC 6 verified.

The mother is now campaigning for a ban on child sex dolls. Currently in America, child sex dolls are only banned in Florida and two other states but advocates and victims say much more needs to be done to expose this secret.

Research by NBC 6 showed similar child sex dolls on other popular sites

Carly Yoost, the CEO of Child Rescue Coalition said “This is a real child who's been affected, this isn't a hypothetical doll that was created. This is something made out of someone’s own likeness and took images from this mother."

Yoost said “The more a predator consumes online images and video of children being abused and purchasing of dolls that act out their sexual fantasies, the more likely they're going be a hands-on abuser of a real kid,"

The Child Rescue Coalition has started an online petition to make them illegal in the United States. 

With the ease of imports now, it is likely that the same type of dolls are being imported into the UK. This raises important concerns as Yoost voiced whether this is not only increasing child pornography but also sexual assaults on minors.

In the United Kingdom, former solider Richard Turner was found with a ‘child-like’ prosthetic sex doll when his house was raided before being jailed for almost ten years for a string of sex offences against children. Teesside Crown Court heard how Turner had a vast collections of child abuse images stored on a number of computers and digital devices, as well as carrying out sexual assaults on three young girls while taking indecent photographs of them.

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

*Trigger Warning - Podcast contains discussions about abuse and violence*

In this week's episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan interviews John Skull, the author of "If You Can't Take a Joke..." his memoir of growing-up in the slums of Belfast during the "Troubles" and his progression from Rathgael Training School to a successful career in the Royal Navy.

In spite of being subjected to abuse, violence and having to survive on the streets controlled by soldiers and para-militaries, he adapted and managed to retain a positive outlook on life which served him well.

Alan and John discuss the Northern Ireland redress scheme and John explains how he applied for redress under the scheme, how he has helped survivors apply and why those who have not yet done so, should apply.

The redress scheme is there to compensate those who experienced abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. Those who qualify receive a compensation award. The process is a simple one, so please contact us for further information.

If you would like to communicate with John about the scheme he would be pleased to be contacted by email: johnskull@hotmail.com.

This week on the podcast we discuss American music artist R. Kelly. The 54 year old artist broke into the music scene as a teenager, has made millions through his music career, selling over 75 million records and winning three Grammy awards.

Kelly was also widely known as ‘the pied piper of RnB’, following nearly 30 years of ongoing sexual abuse allegations against him. It is shocking to note how long he, a man of great power and fame was able to continue to abuse young women in his position before his September 2021 prosecution.

Channel 4 and Netflix released a documentary titled ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ in 2019 which interviewed a number of his alleged survivors. The documentary over 6 hours long, showed major patterns that these girls were minors ranging from between 12-16 years old. They would be asked to appear in music videos or join him and his team at young hang outs such as McDonalds or on his tour bus. It was alleged that R. Kelly would target very young girls especially those with aspirations to be singers.

Concerningly, the documentary noted that many of R. Kelly’s staff were aware and facilitated him meeting such young women. A former tour manager for Kelly testified during the New York  trial how he had bribed a government worker on Kelly’s behalf, to get the singer Aaliyah a fake ID so that Kelly could marry her when she was just 15 years old in 1994. Kelly was then 27 years old. The marriage was annulled a year later. During rumours of a relationship, journalists and presenters would ask about the relationship status but both denied they were in a relationship. This was just the beginning of abuse rumours to circulate.

In 1996, Kelly was sued for personal injury and emotional distress by an individual who claimed to be 15 at the time they began to have sexual intercourse.

In 2001, Kelly was sued by his intern and alleged she was used as his personal sex doll.

In the early 2000’s a sex tape was leaked perpetrating to show R Kelly performing sexual acts on a minor. This video then was circulated widely. Jokes were made in the media; this was turned into cartoons and people widely discussed this, it would seem without the seriousness of what was actually displayed in the tape by someone in a great deal of power. He remained a music star with deals and a record label behind him. He performs at the Superbowl in 2001.

In 2002, two further court cases commenced against Kelly for impregnating a minor and videotaping another without consent.

Also in 2002, Kelly was charged with 21 counts of making child pornography with one girl. It took 6 years to get to trial. By the time the case got to trial the alleged victim denied it was her in the videos. The aunt of the girl who originally recognised and identified her stated in the Surviving R Kelly documentary how she was offered a 6 figure salary to discuss this with Kelly’s team. The trial fell apart and Kelly was acquitted.

Between 2002 and 2004 Kelly was charged with a further 12 counts of making child pornography in Florida, where he was arrested at his holiday home.

At the same time of such allegations, R. Kelly hit the big time. Between 2005 and 2012 he wrote the ‘Trapped in the Closet’ album, a tale of sex and lies.

In the years that followed many rumours circulated that Kelly had begun a sex cult and had trapped women in his property without phones or the ability to leave dictating "what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records".

In 2018, one of the survivors broke the non-disclosure agreement to confirm she had sex with Kelly when she was underage.

In 2019, Kelly was sued by a former partner for intentionally infecting her with an STI.

In the 2019 documentary one of his survivors’ documents how she was videoed by R. Kelly without consent and how she was made by him to perform sex acts on another survivor who she later found out was underage. A number of women documented how they were filmed without consent and made to perform sex acts without consent.

Of focus in the documentary was his wife Andrea Lee who was married to Kelly between 1996 and 2009. She bravely discloses how over the years, Kelly became controlling of every aspect of her life whilst also hiding the abuse he was conducting against other young women. Only on his arrest did she realise the control and abuse she had suffered for years before.

Two weeks after the documentary 'Surviving R. Kelly' was broadcast in 2019, Kelly was dropped by his record company. Planned concerts in the US and New Zealand were cancelled.

Later in 2019, Kelly was charged with recruiting and transporting underage girls over state lines for illegal sexual purposes, including the production of child pornography, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice by destroying evidence and bribing or threatening witnesses.

It is in 2019, after the documentary is released that more survivors come forward to disclose the abuse they suffered by Kelly over the previous three decades.

In 2020, there were allegations of victim tampering, with large bribes and threats to distribute sexually explicit photographs whilst awaiting trial in New York.

In similar circumstances to other high profile abusers in positions of power, it is reported there were numerous compensation payments and non-disclosure agreements entered into but Kelly largely continued with similar behaviour.

Federal prosecutors charged Kelly in July 2019 with child pornography and obstruction charges, with that trial delayed due to the pandemic and to allow the New York case to proceed.

Jurors in a New York federal court heard from multiple witnesses over the weeks-long trial of behaviour by the singer, with a common theme of Kelly using his fame and power to subject his victims to sexual and physical abuse. He was found guilty of racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child and kidnap. Kelly faces a mandatory minimum and up to life in prison, according to a Department of Justice statement. Kelly’s sentencing hearing is set for May 4th, 2022.

This however is not the end, as Kelly has yet to be tried for crimes in the three other jurisdictions where he faces prosecution.

It is also likely that other survivors may now find the strength to come forward.

One of the most shocking things is how long rumours circulated, for almost 30 years before Kelly was convicted.

It is another stark reminder that people in positions of power, impressionable to young individuals, use such power to abuse their position. Sadly this case also identifies how many others who worked or were in Kelly’s company were aware of the abuse being perpetrated.

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 episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, the abuse team discuss an investigation of the Byline Intelligence Team into Police Officers Sexual Misconduct.

The investigation was conducted by making multiply freedom of information requests and by using publicly available data in relation to police officers. It comes in response to the devastating case of Ms Sarah Everard, who was murdered by a serving MET police officer in March 2021.

The aim of the investigation was to address the accountability and wider failings of the police force in tackling male violence against women and girls. Particularly, after the failure of the MET police to dismiss Mr Couzens until after his guilty plea in July 2021, four months after Ms Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered by him.

In response to Couzens’ guilty plea, the MET police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, said “on occasion, I have a bad ‘un”. This suggests that it is incredibly unusual for police officers to be involved in any sexual misconduct, however, the investigation suggests otherwise.

The investigations key conclusions included:

  • In 31 misconduct hearings, between 2017 and 2020

    • 41% of MET police officers who were subject to disciplinary proceedings for sexual misconduct retained their roles following the decision.
    • 52% of MET police officers who were found to have committed sexual misconduct stayed in their posts.
  • Of MET police officers accused of sexual offences, 89% were male.
  • Of Suffolk and Norfolk constabularies, 70% of officers found to have committed sexual misconduct stayed in their posts.
  • In West Yorkshire, much of the sexual misconduct (44%) was found to have been committed against female colleagues who were also police officers.

These figures are shocking when you consider the role of a police officer; undoubtably one of power and that is meant to promote public trust and confidence. This research seems to suggest that the disciplinary process is too lenient on its officers accused of sexual misconduct.

However, the difficulty with the research is that it is of a small subject area and is gathered from various sources (freedom of information requests from each department and publicly available data). Therefore, it lacks detail regarding who the allegations are made by, what the allegations are (including the level of severity), and the reasons why the police officers were (or weren’t as the case may be) kept in post.

We hope that the UK police force acknowledges this report and identifies that the first step is to improve their own internal reporting and transparency.

If there is far better record keeping of the various police departments, which is transparent and can be reported on, then this in turn would result in research being appropriately gathered and patterns of failings being identified. Ultimately then changes can be identified to improve this situation.

We encourage anyone who has comments or concerns relating to this subject, or about abuse in general, to get in touch with Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Feleena Grosvenor at Feleena.grosvenor@hughjames.com.



More Than Half of Met Police Officers Found Guilty of Sexual Misconduct Kept their Jobs – Byline Times

On this week's episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan and Danielle are discussing the issue of 'sex for rent' - the ongoing subject which has been in the media lately, of Landlords who extort their tenants for sexual favours.

There are numerous ways of renting a property, such as via apps, rental websites or through a private landlord, which mean that they may not be regulated very well. Using a registered estate agents or rental service can sometimes incur many hidden fees and costs, which cause many people to choose the option of renting through a private landlord to avoid this.

This has recently hit the headlines, as Covid-19 has had a massive impact on people financially, with many losing their jobs or having a reduced income due to the furlough scheme. Unfortunately, some landlords have used the financial misfortune of their tenants as an opportunity to make inappropriate offers. A recent report has shown that there has been a huge increase in complaints about landlords making inappropriate suggestions to their tenants, especially lone female tenants that they will waiver or reduce rent in exchange for sexual favours. 

Alan & Danielle discuss this issue in further detail, the legal aspects and statistics.

This week we discuss the headline that an ex-porter from Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital has been accused of 84 sex offences between 1985 and 2018, including rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault of a child under 13.

A link to the article can be found here.

This is not the first-time concerns have been raised regarding safeguarding in public areas of hospitals, volunteers or in regard to moving patients around the hospital. Following the shocking disclosure of abuse by Jimmy Savile at Leeds Teaching Hospital amongst many other hospitals, an investigation report published by the Trust in 2015 made 31 recommendations to prevent similar incidents happening again. The full report can be found here.

Sadly, the new allegations of abuse are not the first for Great Ormond Street, who also hit the headlines previously for child sexual abuse involving Jimmy Savile who was accused of abusing a dying child in the 70’s at the hospital. In 2012, Great Ormond Street also commissioned an investigation in regard to this. Therefore, despite their investigation and further recommendations in the report by Leeds Teaching Hospital, the Great Ormond Street porter continued to abuse children until 2018.

To many, Great Ormond Street Hospital is well known for the fabulous work and care for very sick children. This further headline will shock  due to the period an employee went undetected and begs the question how could children be put at risk in this way?

This recent headline sadly follows further concerns regarding Great Ormond Street after government minister Steven Barclay called on the health secretary to commission an independent investigation into an alleged cover-up of a child’s death in 2011. Great Ormond Street has admitted that crucial medical evidence about the child’s condition when she arrived at the hospital’s intensive care unit was not provided to a coroner’s inquest Minister demands investigation into Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital ‘cover up’ | The Independent.

In any medical situation whether it be that of a child or an adult, we expect those who are looking after us when we are our most vulnerable to be appropriately vetted and trained. We put our lives in the hands of medical staff. Safeguarding is paramount as there is a clear position of trust we rely upon.

Heath care professionals include but are not limited to, doctors, nurses, healthcare assistance, carers, support staff and therapists.

Physical and emotional abuse may be easier to identify, whereby sexual abuse can at times be more difficult.  The guidance states “A breach of sexual boundaries occurs when a healthcare professional displays sexualised behaviour towards you. Sexualised behaviour is defined as acts, words or behaviour designed or intended to arouse or gratify sexual impulses or desires.” Breaches of sexual boundaries do not just include criminal acts such as rape or sexual assault, but cover a range of behaviours including the use of sexual humour or innuendo, and making inappropriate comments about your body. It can include comments made in your presence, even if not about you. clear-sexual-boundaries-information-for-patients-and-carers.pdf (professionalstandards.org.uk)

A google media search for the last year alone brings up numerous concerning entries for abuse in the health sector and these are only the reported cases we know of.

  • In February 2020, GP Manish Shah was convicted of committing 90 assaults against 24 female patients whom he persuaded to undergo unnecessary intimate examinations for his own gratification. He did not always wear gloves to carry out examinations and in one case he left a woman entirely naked on an examination table. His victims were aged between 15 to 39. Shah, is to serve a minimum of 15 years prison sentence. This followed a previous hearing in 2018 for similar offences. GP who sexually assaulted 24 patients jailed for life | Crime | The Guardian.
  • Cambridge paramedic Andrew Wheeler was found guilty of rape of two women and sexual assault of a minor. 18 offences were committed between 2002 and 2018. He is to be sentenced in February 2021
  • NHS Gynaecologist Dr Jomo Mathurine was struck off after secretly filming himself having sex with unsuspecting women

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has now published a report having spoken with 109 victims focusing on the period between 1960-2000. The report found healthcare practitioners who committed child sexual abuse commonly did so under the guise of medical treatment, which went unchallenged by other staff even when unnecessary or inappropriate because of their position of trust. The full report can be found here.

Inappropriate Relationships

Abuse in the health sector has also come up repeatedly in regard to inappropriate relationships. This can be between doctors and patients, nursing staff and treating psychiatrists or mental health practitioners to name just a few scenarios.

Personal relationships with former patients may also be inappropriate depending on the individual circumstances such as whether the patient sought medical attention for mental health concerns. Other factors include; the length of time since the professional relationship ended, the nature of the previous professional relationship and whether the patient was particularly vulnerable at the time of the professional relationship, and whether they are still vulnerable

The General Medical Council, the organisation that regulates doctors in the UK, makes it clear that doctors “must not pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with a current patient”. Any doctor caught ignoring this rule is likely to face professional sanction, including being struck off. Doctors must not end a professional relationship with a patient solely to pursue a personal relationship with them.

Guidance can be found here.

As outlined above, of particular concern, is a patient who has engaged treatment for mental health. Therapists can be provided with very intimate and vulnerable details from a client. The client may form a strong bod with their therapist. This could lead to an abuse of power and makes a sexual relationship which such patient highly unethical.  It is the doctor or therapist’s responsibility and duty to ensure that his or her relationship with the patient remain as professional as possible.

Anyone who has concerns regarding a health care professional can report this to the manager on site, the General Medical Council and police. All NHS organisations will have a formal complaints procedure which should be readily available to all patients on request.

If an NHS employee has committed abuse, it is possible to make a civil claim against the NHS Trust for who the employee works, under the term ‘vicarious liability’ if it can be established that the abuse occurred during the course of employment or in a relationship akin to employment.

In the private sector, civil claims can be made against the individual practitioner’s indemnity insurance.

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

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