*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.

 

Sources:

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

In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss “Stealthing”. This term refers to non-consensual condom removal during sex.

Stealthing falls under Section 74 of The Sexual Offences Act 2003 which states that Consent is when “a person consents if he/she agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice”. Under UK law, consent is required for each sexual act and is specific to the agreed-upon. Removal of a condom intentionally during penetrative intercourse without consent is sexual assault.

There is no data on stealthing rates in the UK and there is only one widely known conviction of “stealthing” in the UK. The man was convicted in 2019 and since, Feleena and Alan have assisted that individual bring a related civil claim.

This issue was explored last year, in the BBC One drama “I May Destroy You” and discussed in our previous podcast episode. The main character Arabella has sex with a man who removes the condom without her knowledge. Like many women, Arabella doesn't realise it's rape until she hears it discussed on a podcast.

In addition to clear harm of disregard for consent and illegality of Stealthing, there are two other clear risks. It increases the likelihood of pregnancy and of Sexually Transmitted Infections. It is unfair that those who have taken the step to protect themselves, by using a condom, to be put at a risk of harm against their consent.

We encourage anyone who has experienced “stealthing” to contact the police or other supportive organisation.

If you have comments or concerns relating to this subject, or about abuse in general, you can get in touch with Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Feleena Grosvenor at Feleena.grosvenor@hughjames.com.

 

Sources:

In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor address Apple’s new system to scan iPhones for child sex abuse material.

Organisations, including Apple and Facebook, have been under criticism for, supposedly, prioritising customer privacy and keeping individuals safe from hackers and criminals. This is rather than using processes to identify and report child sexual abuse material. 

This is related to the previous podcast “Encryption on Tackling Child Sexual Abuse” whereby Alan and Feleena identified the issues with end-to-end encryption on apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook messenger.

Apple have announced details of a system which both limits the spread of child sexual abuse material and protects user privacy.

It is a system which, before the image is stored in iCloud photos, scans for child sexual abuse material from the existing database of known child abuse images. The system would identify not only the original but edited or similar versions of the original image.

Apple claims that it has an extremely high level of accuracy and each report will be manually reviewed to confirm if there is a match. If there is, it would then disable the user’s account and report to the authorities.

The limitation is that the images have to be in their iCloud Photos account to be caught by the system. On the one hand, this limits the benefit to tackling the spread of child sexual abuse images, but on the other it limits the negative impact on customer privacy as their images can be saved elsewhere.

Whether the system goes too far or not far enough, ultimately, it identifies prohibited content and may serve to encourage other organisations to introduce 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.

 

Sources:

In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss the NSPCC Report Abuse in Education helpline, which was launched in April 2021. It is dedicated to children and young people who have experienced sexual harassment or abuse at school. It is also for worried adults and professionals that need support and guidance.

The NSPCC worked with the Department for Education to set up the phone line after Everyone’s Invited published thousands of anonymous testimonials about sexual harassment in all types of schools, colleges and universities.

The helpline comes at a time of specific concern and research regarding sexual abuse in schools and colleges. The “CASPAR briefing” is considered a landmark report by Ofsted that was conducted in April 2021 regarding peer-on-peer sexual harassment, sexual violence and online sexual abuse. One of the findings were that sexual harassment was so “normal” in schools that children did not see any point of reporting it.

In August 2021, it has been recorded that over 600 people have called the helpline to repost sex abuse in schools (averaging 150 calls a month). Some of the calls have resulted in referrals to external agencies, such as the police and social services.

We hope that the spotlight will remain on the issue to encourage as many people as possible to report and recover from their experiences, as well as preventing it from happening to others.

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.

Sources:

In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss the report of the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces (“the Committee”) titled “Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Women in the Armed Forces from Recruitment to Civilian Life”.

The Committee’s survey is the first of its kind due to the Ministry of Defence lifting usual restrictions that are in place which stops service personnel from contributing to such inquiries.

The report states that the UK military is “failing to protect” female recruits and has failed to help servicewomen achieve their full potential. Key findings included:

  1. 64% of female veterans, and 58% of currently serving women in the armed forces have experienced bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination;
  2. 62% of those who gave testimony had either witnessed or received “unacceptable behaviour”;
  3. 6 in 10 women did not report the bullying, harassment and discrimination; and
  4. 1 in 3 women who did report the bullying, harassment and discrimination stated that the experience was “extremely poor”.

The Committee made recommendations including that the Ministry of Defence should create a specialised Defence Authority to handle complaints. The Service Complaints Ombudsman also required better resources and its decisions be authorised to be binding.

A further recommendation was that the Ministry of Defence should completely remove cases of rape and sexual assault from military courts and the Service Justice System. Instead, they should be dealt with by the civilian court system. Therefore, the “chain of command” would be removed entirely from complaints of a sexual nature.

We hope that the Ministry of Defence will take this landmark report seriously and make the appropriate changes, as soon as possible, to improve the life of women in the armed forces.

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.

 

Sources:

 

In this week's episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, we look at the civil case that has been brought against Prince Andrew in the US, at a New York federal court under the state’s Child Victims Act.

This is brought by Virginia Giuffre who claims that Prince Andrew had sex with her while she was 17 (a minor), with the knowledge that she had been trafficked by his former friend, Jeffrey Epstein. She claims that incidents occurred in both New York and in London.

Prince Andrew is the sole defendant to the civil suit. Thus far, he does not appear to have responded to the issuing of the claim.

Often, the place of residence of the Defendant and the place of the injury would be the place that has jurisdiction and where the case should ultimately be brought. In this case, the UK would seem suitable. Alan and Feleena discuss why the claim may be being brought in the US as opposed to the UK.

Giuffre’s lawyers, we assume, have considered the limitation issues and the applicable laws in both the US and UK and found the US preferrable for Giuffre.

Another consideration appears to be tactical and in relation to the other criminal proceedings that have occurred. This includes the case against Ghislaine Maxwell. She has pleaded not guilty to sex-trafficking charges and faces trial in November. (Epstein took his own life in a US federal jail in August 2019, a month after he was arrested on the same charges.)

The case will, no doubt, develop and receive a lot of media coverage which we will be following with interest.

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.

Sources:

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