This week we discuss allegations of abuse made by four women against actor Chris Noth.

Many of us will have grown up knowing Nott’s notorious character 'Mr.Big' in the hit show Sex And The City.

Following the release of the long awaited follow up programme 'And Just Like That' in late 2021, an allegation of sexual assault was made against him.

This was quickly followed by 4 other allegations of abuse stemming over a period from t 1990’s until 2015.

There have been allegations of blacklisting those women in the New York community if disclosure was made Nott’s would destroy their careers.

It is important to state at this time, these are allegations, to which no prosecution or charges have been made at the time of writing.

Following the disclosure, Noth has already had endorsements such as Peloton  commercial cancelled and has been removed from some of the marketing for And Just Like That.

Noth has released a statement which said  “The allegations against me made by people I met years or even decades ago are categorically wrong“, According to Noth, the contacts with the women in question were consensual. “These stories could have been written 30 years or 30 days ago – no always means no – that is a limit that I have not crossed. The encounters were amicable, ”said the star

Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis, who played Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte in the hit US show, acknowledged the difficulty of sharing the “painful experiences”.

“We are deeply saddened to hear the allegations against Chris Noth,” “We support the women who have come forward and shared their painful experiences.

“We know it must be a very difficult thing for them to do and we commend them for it.”

We believe there will be much more published about these allegations in the coming months.

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

Whatever the outcome of the application by Prince Andrew’s lawyers to get the case dismissed on the basis of the Virginia Giuffre’s settlement agreement with Jeffrey Epstein, it brings into question their legal value?

Settlement and non-disclosure agreements are commonplace. Parties in litigation who reach an agreement to resolve their disputes often enter into them, usually with legal advice, to record what has been agreed and frequently to avoid misunderstandings let alone further disputes.

Such agreements intended to be water tight may not always be so. Their validity can be questioned if considered to  be contrary to public policy for example if it was considered to be a means to avoid a serious crime from being reported, or if one of the parties entered into it under duress or lacked capacity.

Courts are reluctant to set aside or render void what is a contract or legal agreement entered into by parties, who clearly did so having made an informed decision, and particularly so with legal representation.

In cases of sexual abuse where a victim has entered into such an agreement, which in my experience is quite un-common, the effect or consequence is not to prohibit reporting to the police, on the contrary the wording is usually clear to enable that to happen, but to keep confidential the amount of compensation payable. The payer’s motive is to prevent publicity of the fact that compensation or an amount has been paid so as to avoid further claims.

The intent of the payer can be very simple of course namely settling a legitimate claim, but on the other hand it may be more complex. It could be a commercial decision having weighed-up the cost of litigating versus the cost of settling. The point being that care needs to be taken in assuming the parties motivation in settling.

In my experience such a agreements in sexual abuse cases are relatively uncommon and this is because the crime or alleged crime cannot be supressed by such means, and what can the payer do if the victim breaks the terms agreed? In theory he/she could be sued for breach of contract but that involves more expense.

In the Giuffre case we have such an agreement which on the face of it appears comprehensive, and does not prohibit disclosure of any criminal allegation to the authorities, but the interesting question is whether it is enforceable by a third party?

Epstein is not around to enforce, and so would his estate do so? The fact is that it is a third party who is not a party to the agreement which is effectively seeking to do so, and not the estate…. Arguably the wording is such that only the estate can.

As we approach the end of 2021, Alan, Danielle, and Feleena from our Abuse Team take a look back at some of the key stories that have featured in the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast series.

Some of the stories remain very topical such as non-consensual deepfake porn and sharing of nude images. Maria Miller MP wants there to be legislation  that prohibits the making and sharing of image based “sexual abuse”. Deepfakes are were ordinary photographs of women are taken without their consent and placed on onto pornographic images or videos. Needless to say this is very distressing and damaging for the victims, and legislation designed to combat effectively this form of sexual abuse is long overdue.

This story feeds in to the disturbing reports of children’s images being imposed on sex dolls for commercial sale. This development highlights the reality for child abuse is not a static phenomenon

The coverage of the murder Arthur Labinjo-Hughes is discussed by the team, and they explore the legal issues that arise from the involvement of social services in the lives of vulnerable children.

The team conclude by discussing the Northern Ireland and Lambeth redress schemes and the various reasons why survivors of child abuse seek redress.

To get in contact with the team, please visit our website.

On this week's episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, the abuse team discuss the conviction of morgue rapist, David Fuller, and how the NHS will most likely have to foot the cost of his sickening actions. 

We all have that one thing in common: one day we are going to die, and when we do, if we can bring ourselves to think about it, would like to think our remains shall be treated with dignity and respect.

The conviction of hospital electrician David Fuller, who admitted to performing sexual acts on corpses in morgues, raises questions about the safe keeping of bodies and human remains. It would be assumed, understandably, that this would be a key concern for the NHS yet Fuller, who had a criminal record (burglary), nevertheless, enjoyed unrestricted access to the hospitals where he worked. His seemingly unchecked ability to denigrate the deceased demonstrates a collective lack of respect by the NHS and, especially so, given it has previously been told to improve safeguarding.

The Lampard report published in 2015 in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal recommended that:

All NHS hospital trusts should undertake DBS checks (including, where applicable, enhanced DBS and barring list checks) on their staff and volunteers every three years. The implementation of this recommendation should be supported by NHS Employers.

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said the NHS had written to all trusts asking for mortuary access and post-mortem activities to be reviewed in the wake of Fuller, but the question to be asked is why was he allowed access to hospital facilities given his criminal record?

 A DBS check no doubt revealed, or would have revealed Fullers’ offending history, and it should have followed that he was not to be employed on NHS hospital premises, or if he was in restricted and managed circumstances.

Tragically Fuller was allowed to offend under the radar, and the families of the deceased now live with the knowledge of the sexual abuse. The NHS may have to pay a price too because of the failure to detect and stop him when it clearly had opportunities to do so.

The families affected, arguably, have a case to bring against the NHS Trusts concerned under Articles 3 and 8 of the ECHR: the prohibition of degrading treatment; and the right to family life. Following the decision in: Akpınar and Altun v Turkey close family members who can demonstrate that they have suffered some form of psychiatric injury attributable to the discovery that their loved one was sexually abused, arguably, have a case and this would be on the basis that either or both articles had been breached.  

The breach of both articles arises from the fact that the NHS Trusts would be liable for the actions of its employee, who had afforded to him the opportunity to violate the deceased, either by failing to undertake a DBS check, or having done so paid no regard to the risk that his past revealed. To sexually abuse a dead person is degrading, and in turn arguably equally so for close family members whose right to grieve has been compounded by the discovery of Fuller’ depravity.

Domestic abuse and sexual offences should be considered as seriously as knife crime and homicide, the government announced recently as it says that it continues driving forward its plan to end violence against women and girls.

Observers, if not critics, may well say that it has a very long way to go.

The news does not sit easily with the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

His stepmother and father of the tortured, poisoned him, and were jailed for murder and manslaughter respectively.

The government has confirmed a review  into Arthur's death.

The National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the investigation and will provide additional support to Solihull Children's Safeguarding Partnership to "upgrade" the existing local review launched shortly after Arthur's death in June 2020.

It emerged during the trial that Arthur had been seen by social workers just two months before he died, but they concluded there were "no safeguarding concerns".

All too  often in child homicide cases we see the problematic family being given the “all clear” only for a  child to be killed.

The government says that changes to legislation currently being considered in Parliament will make clear that a new legal duty requiring public bodies to work together to tackle serious violence can also include domestic abuse and sexual offences.

What is needed is true accountability. When we examine cases “after the event” we often struggle to find where the buck actually stops. There is often collective “group think” and it is hard to discern who made a decision which impacted on the child’s life. This has to change so that working together means accountability.

“Working together” is supposed to happen now. It sounds positive and common sensical but what does it mean to a child in an abusive home? He/she needs protecting and that may well mean moving them out of the family. Moreover, it means staying with them until they can stand on their own two feet. Too often social workers come into the family then go, and that’s when things go badly wrong.

Treating and regarding domestic violence as a serious crime is welcome, but what matters is ensuring that the crimes of abuse do not happen in the first place.

This week we discuss the overturn decision by India Supreme Court regarding the need for skin on skin contact for sexual abuse to be established.

Child sexual abuse is a major problem in India with thousands of cases reported each year. Some research suggests that sexual abuse was as high as 53% of children surveyed.

The background of the case in question was that a 12 year old girl was groped over clothing by a 39 year old man who touched her breasts and tried to remove her trouser bottoms.

The Mumbai High Court Judge ruled as there was no skin on skin contact when touching the child’s breasts, the case would fail for sexual assault and would only result in a lesser charge of molestation.

This understandably outraged many people who called for a review of the decision. It was rightly argued  at appeal that skin on skin contact should not be necessary for sexual assault to be established.

The decision would have set a dangerous precedent and perhaps discouraged others from reporting sexual abuse.

The Supreme Court bench said that the sexual intent must be considered not whether there was skin to skin contact and the previous decision had “insensitively legitimised sexual behaviour”.

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 on the podcast we discuss sex abusers reoffending and whether changes should be made to increase safety for the population.

This follows the news article that double killer and sex offender Colin Pitchfork, 61, has been recalled to prison after only two months after his release. Pitchfork made headline when he was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1987 following the rape and strangling of two girls in Leicestershire.

Following his release in September 2021, routine checks by probation handlers flagged concerning behaviour and he also failed a polygraph lie detector test.

It is stated Pitchford was subject to strict monitoring and licence conditions such as tagging, exclusion zone and a ban on contact with children on his release.

Pitchfork had been reportedly approaching young girls when out and was recalled to prison. However, he could once again be released in as little as 28 days.

This raises important questions, regarding the success of prison reform, the release board consideration process, and safety to the population on release of unknown sex offenders.

Many high profile sex offenders are provided with new identities when they return to the outside world.

Statistics for the US found 5% of sex offenders reoffended within three years and 24% after 15 years.

A UK study in 2019 found proven reoffending rates were 24.8% for any reconviction and 12.6% for sexual reconvictions after a 13-year average follow-up. Rates increased greatly for offences relating to indecent images of children online.

A further study by Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse found

  • Of sexual reoffending It is widely believed that adults convicted of CSA have an enduring high risk of sexual reoffending, but reoffending studies – although not CSA-specific – show that most individuals convicted of sexual offences are not reconvicted of further sexual offences. In England and Wales, for example, 7.5% of those released from prison between 2002 and 2012 had been convicted of another sexual offence by October 2015 (Mews et al, 2017). It should be noted, however, that most CSA does not come to the attention of the authorities. In that study, the reconviction rate for offences of any sort over the same period was considerably higher at 38% (Mews et al, 2017).
  • However, there is some evidence that, in comparison with those convicted of sexual offences against adults, individuals convicted of CSA offences are more likely subsequently to commit only sexual offences rather than other offences (e.g. Harris et al, 2009; Harris et al, 2011).
  • Long-term international studies suggest that most adult males convicted of sexual offences no longer have a significant risk of sexual reoffending after 10 years (having a similar risk to those with histories of other crimes), and only a small proportion remain at risk after 15 years (Hanson, 2018). This applies for all risk levels; even in the highest risk group, four-fifths of individuals in a 20-year study were never reconvicted for another sexual offence (Hanson et al, 2014).
  • Research evidence also indicates that women convicted of sexual offences reoffend at significantly lower rates than men (Cortoni et al, 2010), with an average sexual reoffending rate of around 3%, which may partly reflect that women are unlikely to be identified and reported. This suggests that distinct policies and procedures are needed to assess and manage the risks from women and from men.

The full report can be found here: Key messages from research on institutional child sexual abuse from research on institutional Key messages (csacentre.org.uk)

As discussed on many of our previous podcasts, sexual abuse is significantly unreported and therefore these statistics are likely to be higher.

In addition, monitoring of those on probation is dependent on the probation services monitoring individuals efficiently. There is no requirement to disclose to neighbours the offender’s previous offences.

In 2018 the BBC aired Second Chance Sex Offenders presented by Stacey Dooley which looked at the position in Florida, where convicted sex offenders were required to disclose a large sign outside their home to confirm they have been convicted. Other states required sex abusers to live in sperate communities.

In the UK the balance must be correct, with the risk of reoffending to protect the population and ensure safety, but if the sentence is spent that individual’s human rights to re-enter society, this is always going to be a difficult position.

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.

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.

 

Sources:

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

Load more

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App