Survivors of Organised and Institutional Abuse (SOIA).
SOIA agrees with The Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, that this Inquiry is a “once in a generation opportunity” to expose what went wrong in institutions and public bodies and to prevent it from happening again 1 .
As an organisation SOIA aims to bring a co-ordinated response to the upcoming Public Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and to facilitate the input of Survivors to the Inquiry.
SOIA wholeheartedly supports the view of the Inquiry Chair, Justice Lowell Goddard, that survivors of child sexual abuse should be “at the centre of this inquiry” and that “their views will inform the inquiry throughout”. Survivors need to be allowed to take their place at the “centre of the inquiry” through the grant of core participant status allowing for SOIA to engage with the Inquiry’s decisions about methodology, targets for investigation, public disclosure of material and contributing to the Inquiry’s findings and recommendations.
SOIA is a group of survivor activists formed from within the Whiteflowers Campaign details of which can be found on the Whiteflowers website: http://whiteflowerscampaign.org 2
SOIA wishes to ensure that the Statutory Inquiry achieves its aims of discovering the depth of abuse in the past and ensuring that Children are properly protected in the future.
The goal of SOIA, as of the Whiteflowers Campaign, is to discover what has happened in the past and to ensure that children are protected from organised and institutional abuse. SOIA wishes to contribute to the Inquiry by providing objective assistance through high quality representation. SOIA seeks core participant status before the Inquiry without trying to interfere or limit the engagement of other groups targeting specific institutions or organisations.
Further SOIA seeks to provide Survivor access into the Inquiry and in particular to engage with the Inquiry’s consideration of the extent and nature of organised abuse against children and of the
high level responses
to actual and suspected organised abuse. Finally SOIA seeks to ensure that Survivors are kept informed of Inquiry developments and processes as it goes forward.
SOIA wishes to provide assistance through representation of survivors before the Inquiry so that Survivors have a voice in:
* further development of the Inquiry aims and objectives
* the methodology of the Inquiry
* properly targeting the Inquiry’s investigation and evidence gathering
* providing a sympathetic and Survivor led access to the Inquiry
* questioning, where appropriate, the witnesses called before the Inquiry
* making submissions as to the effect and meaning of evidence before the inquiry
* contributing through reasoned and constructive argument to the development of the Inquiry’s findings and conclusions
* shaping the Inquiry recommendations SOIA’s goals
* Making sure that Organisations and Institutions are places of safety for children and not places of safety for abusers
* Protecting children, young people and adults who appear before the Inquiry whether as Survivors of abuse, witnesses to abuse or whistleblowers.
* Maintaining an oversight on the Sexual Abuse Inquiry on behalf of the Survivors of organised and institutional abuse, challenging preconceptions and seeking through legal representation and argument that the truth is revealed
* Seeking to ensure that (unless Survivors, witnesses of abuse or whistleblowers might be harmed) this Inquiry is heard in public
* Arguing for public disclosure of all investigatory materials, information and documents relating to the Inquiry terms of reference
* Establishing redress and on-going support systemsfor Survivors
The Approach of the Inquiry
Is the Inquiry about the detection of offenders or the protection of children?
The answer to this question is vital for the understanding of the long-term work to be done by the Inquiry and the answer will shape its work, goals and length.
As Angela Constance said of the Scottish Inquiry into Historical Sexual Abuse
“The inquiry will aim to shine a light in the dark corners of the past, to shape how we respond in the present and to guide how we go forward in future. We need to learn all we can to ensure that no institution becomes a hiding place for those who abuse positions of trust to prey on children”.3
Our suggestion is that there must be a balance. In order for the Inquiry to help protect children in the future what has happened in the past must be examined. Some offenders may well be identified in the process and the authorities directed to investigate and consider prosecution of both current and historical abuse. What is important is the respective weight to be placed on the detection of offences within the Inquiry.
We know that there has been systemic abuse of children within our society. How and why this abuse was allowed to continue, and further, to be accepted or tolerated is at the heart of the Inquiry’s task. It is only by establishing the nature and extent of organised abuse against children particularly by those at high level of power and control that the effectiveness of the governmental and professional response to protect children can be properly evaluated and progress made.
Some people will want to come forward and ‘bear witness’ so that the abuse they have suffered can finally be acknowledged. Of course the greatest of care will be taken when dealing with individuals who have been abused.
With a court room all of the paraphernalia of the Justice System is required including the potential trauma of cross examination. Within the Inquiry the evidence that needs to come from witnesses who have been abused, witnesses to abuse and whistleblowers must be given within a professional and carefully planned environment. Safeguarding witnesses should be a primary concern.
Survivor witnesses that need to be called must do so within a protective environment with no expectations.
Acknowledging abuse is vital but it is certainly not all that this Inquiry should be about. What is required is the consideration of the pattern of behaviour of the abusers, those who knew about the abuse or suspected the abuse and those who covered up for the abusers. The Inquiry should, in the end, be focused on the abusers and their protectors.
The Acknowledgment of Abuse
The fact that children have been abused within Organisations and Institutions has at last been accepted. Many abuse survivors have fought for years to have their voice heard and for their complaints to be taken seriously. The media is littered with acknowledgements that within state and private institutions abuse has occurred and been covered up. Society has finally acknowledged the fact of abuse and indeed there is widespread awareness that the detection of abuse has been utterly inadequate.
“We asked professionals and people in the community how widespread they believed CSE to be. The most common response was that what is known about it was likely to be “the tip of the iceberg.” No-one suggested that it was not a problem.”4
On October 24th 2012, Tom Watson M.P. asked the Prime Minster, at PM’s Questions, to ensure that police investigate claims of a powerful paedophile ring linked to a previous prime minister’s senior adviser and parliament. Mr. Watson said that an evidence file collected by the police to convict paedophile Peter Righton in 1992, contained, ‘clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring’ and that one of its members boasted ‘of his links to a senior aide of a former prime minister’. Mr. Watson later wrote that a specialist unit at Scotland Yard had the material, seized in a raid on Righton’s home, which supplemented a wider investigation into organised paedophile rings in children’s homes and included letters from known and convicted paedophiles.
Peter Righton was a social work academic and practitioner. He was also a member of the UK Paedophile Information Exchange and co-author of a book which promoted the right of adults to have sex with children (Taylor 1981).
After conviction for possession of abusive images of children, he lived in a house on a baronial estate in Suffolk which was a regularly used and valued holiday centre for disadvantaged children of Islington (Payne and Fairweather 1993). Despite requests by police and social services that Righton leave this house, it seemed that he continued to live there until he died in 2007.
Investigations into Righton highlighted extensive worrying connections within the world of social work and academia including networks that permeated the highest echelons of society. An Inside Story documentary traced his association with known child sex abusers (BBC 1993). The Obscene Publications Unit at Scotland Yard, with colleagues in Hereford and Worcester, achieved some convictions but it was clear that the investigation could have gone so very much further. The social work team, which had conducted the investigation jointly with police, was closed down and files went missing. This case is well documented by a senior police officer who led the investigation (Hames 2000).
New and historic information has come forward and, in the aftermath of the work of Operation Yewtree, concerning allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, two further police teams, Operation Fairbank and Operation Fernbridge were established. Specifically, a hostel, Elm Guest House, in South London, was exposed as a place where high profile people were alleged to have abused children from children’s homes across the UK during the 80s (Hanning and Cahalan 2012).
In the last few weeks the Jersey Police announced they were re-opening criminal investigations into historic abuse and abuse by prominent people, that investigation is called Operation Whistle. That is the Jersey section of Operation Hydrant which has been set up to coordinate existing police investigations across the UK. The significance of Operation Whistle is that its
launch is recognition that the 2008 Jersey investigation, Operation Rectangle (which included the suspension of Police Chief Graham Power in November 2008), was a valid and important investigation.
Simon Bailey, the Chief Constable of Norfolk and the national police lead on child abuse recently revealed that the police are investigating more than 1,400 prominent men, including politicians, celebrities and those linked to institutions over allegations that they have sexually abused children in the past.
Academic assessment of the prevalence of abuse is seriously questionable with little hard evidence existing to allow a firm assessment of the numbers of those abused. A study5 in 1992 of 1000 children in care found 158 reporting that they had been sexually abused. This data is old and likely, we suggest, to be an underestimate of the problem. Even if these figure are accurate it would suggest over 15% of all children in care have been abused.
The NSPCC states that 1 in 20 children6 have been sexually abused but that:
“Official statistics, published annually, show the amount of child sexual abuse recorded by authorities in the year. The problem is much bigger than shown in official statistics, as most crimes7 are not disclosed and/or reported.
Most sexual abuse isn’t reported, detected or prosecuted. Most children don’t tell anyone that they’re being sexually abused. It’s a crime that is usually only witnessed by the abuser and the victim.”
SOIA respectfully suggests that this Inquiry should be centred on the question of why this abuse was allowed to go on without acknowledgment, without investigation and without prosecution. If the reason why this form of abuse was allowed to continue and allowed to flourish is not considered by the Inquiry then more children will be abused. If the Inquiry fails to properly consider these issues and examine the similarity of behaviours within those organisations to be considered then no lessons can be learnt for the future and no child can be safe.
Society and the organisations and institutions charged with the protection of children have manifestly failed to protect the children within their care. From the top down to the smallest of care homes it seems that there has been, at the very least, a failure to ensure that systems are designed to protect and to properly respond to allegations of abuse. At worst there are signs that abuse has been recognised and abusers protected.
For years Survivors of abuse have been ignored and their accounts rejected. Finally, around the world, Survivors have been recognised. Without the Survivors campaigns, over decades, this inquiry would never have been set up. Now the Survivors wish to take part in this Inquiry and be represented not just in dealing with the detail of accounts of abuse but in the investigation and discovery of why this abuse has continued for so long. Survivors respectfully wish to have an effective voice speaking on their behalf before this Inquiry.
The Inquiry will consider all the evidence that can be brought before it and will make recommendations for change and perhaps for prosecutions and statutory intervention to protect. Survivors suggest that they have earned the right to have a full place before this Inquiry and be allowed to make
submissions and argue as to the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence and as to the remedies that should be in place for the future.
A Survivor perspective throughout this Inquiry will assist in making appropriate decisions about the targeting of disclosure of information, the lessons learnt from decades of campaigns and the best way for any Survivors to be safeguarded in their evidence before this Inquiry.
Without the clearest of signals to Survivors that they will be taking a part throughout the Inquiry process the Inquiry is in danger of being seen as a white-wash concealing potential perpetuation of establishment cover-ups and consequently may well not receive the support of Survivors.
Where to start?
Patterns of behaviour across institutions are likely to be the similar. The Inquiry will in all probability find that the same reasons for ignoring the signs of abuse and the complaints of abuse will be replicated across the various organisations. The attitudes of the top level of organisations and the managements of institutions will have set in place the systemic response. This will be found to be true across all of the Inquiry’s areas of focus. With that in mind the best place to start is at the top. This should be tackled from the highest levels of government and parliament. Unless this Inquiry tackles the hard questions about the MPs, the Lords and the involvement of the police and security services Survivors will never be able to trust the findings made or the recommendations of the Inquiry.
If the Inquiry manages to tackle the highest levels of Government and Parliamentarian involvement in organised abuse the lessons learnt will inform all the other areas of Inquiry set out within the terms of reference. Some of the
high profile names have been mentioned as individuals who have or may have abused children and young people and have already been the subject of media attention and publicity. What has not happened is any drawing together of the facts lying behind these allegations. Who was involved? Why did no one come forward? Why were people being protected? What use did the information about the abuse have to the police or security services?
This is also going to be the hardest of areas to tackle. At the highest reaches of government the files and information will be automatically classified. Chinese walls will have been thrown up years ago so that requests for information appear to reach dead ends. Files kept in storage may have deliberately been destroyed and/or altered. How will this Inquiry reach the information it requires? There is no dedicated adjunct Inquiry investigation team. There is no Survivor input into information requests and further requests. The very campaigners who have fought for so long to establish this Inquiry are now no longer allowed to take part.
There is a pressing need to allow access into this Inquiry of representatives as soon as possible to assist the Inquiry and promote the interests of Survivors through the proper targeting of disclosure and the obtaining of evidence about past episodes of abuse.
Protecting Children and Investigating Abuse
Investigating complex (organised or multiple) abuse (Working Together (2010)):
6.10 This abuse may be defined as abuse involving one or more abusers and a number of children. The abusers concerned may be acting in concert to abuse children sometimes acting in isolation, or may be using an institutional framework or position of authority to recruit children for abuse.
6.11 Complex abuse occurs both as part of a network of abuse across a family or community, and within institutions such as residential homes or schools8.
An example of good investigatory practice is seen in the MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs) model where police are co-located with social workers and health professionals in intake teams. Another positive initiative is the Hertfordshire Joint Child Abuse Investigation team which includes police and social workers working side by side. It states that, ‘by working even more closely together, this team is able to respond more swiftly and effectively to allegations of child abuse’. (Hertfordshire Constabulary 2012). It is worth noting that the Scandinavian system of the Barnahus provides an excellent example of good child protection practice, based on a children’s rights approach, central to which is joint investigation and joint investigative interviewing by police and social workers (Davies 2011).
Although there are now over 30 police operations into networks of child sexual exploitation across the country, (Conrad 2013), they are not generally providing evidence of joint investigation with social workers9. There are very few social workers now trained and skilled in the investigation of abuse. Generally there is an urgent need to re-establish specialist social work child protection teams to focus on high risk cases and to develop the skills of joint working with police colleagues. SOIA suggests that the Inquiry investigations include a joint working approach.
The extent of serious crime against children is coming to light as never before and it is clear that in the past local investigations were disconnected leading to a lack of collation of intelligence and ineffective targeting of perpetrators. Child sex offenders are well organised and plan their activities most carefully. Investment must be made into setting up joint police/social work investigation teams to assist the inquiry. A comprehensive knowledge base exists derived from previous joint investigations and the time is now right for this Inquiry to support professionals raising concerns, protect child victims and ensure that justice is achieved for children and adult survivors.
The basis of working together policy is enshrined in legislation. Section 47 (Children Act 1989) refers to actual or likely significant harm and requires enquiries to be made by social services with the involvement of police and other agencies. Harm is broadly defined but whether or not it is significant remains subject to professional judgement. It is informed by bringing together a range of professionals and through the formal structure of a professionals only strategy discussion and subsequent meeting, knowledge is shared, facts debated, issues, feelings and intuitions raised.10 All decisions rely on judgement about whether to do so would place the child at risk in order to comply with the first principle of the Children Act – the paramountcy of the child’s best interests.
This Inquiry’s approach to the investigation of Child Abuse should be to learn from current mistakes and establish best practise for its handling of child victims and witnesses.
Currently the investigation of these types of offences leads much to be desired. Training by the National Police Improvement Agency in child protection has not been well received by some police officers who have wanted investigative interviewing to be better emphasised (Puffet and Lepper 2009). The London Safeguarding Children Board has also expressed concern about, ‘the poor quality of interviews taking place with regards to child victims’ and the need for better quality training (2012).
Sadly in most investigations the working together process, in place from the late 80s, has been slowly eroded since the 90s leaving children unprotected and less able to achieve justice. This shift in practice came about as a focus on perpetrators substantially declined, the work of police and probation became steadily split from the work of social workers and there was a politically steered reduced policy emphasis on child protection (Davies 2008, Munro and Calder 2005, Fitzgibbon 2011). Based on an American model (Farrow 1997) the plan was to slim down statutory child protection services and maximise children in need assessments which could then be easily privatised. The prevention agenda thus became the favoured approach, accelerated following Every Child Matters (HM Treasury 2003) and defined as an alternative to protective action rather than as an additional and essential means of protection (Nelson and Baldwin 2002, Davies 2010). These changes have been exacerbated more recently with the growth of privatisation and cuts in services within all key child protection agencies.
The Inquiry can do better. The Inquiry needs to set up as a matter of priority a wholly professional and collaborative approach to the handling of witnesses to ensure that social work teams and investigatory teams work together to provide the best support and highest quality investigation for Survivors and
other witnesses. This will be assisted by a multi-agency co-location model which would also be the best way forward for local authorities11.
The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference
The breadth of the Inquiry TORs whilst welcome is also seriously challenging and gives rise to major concerns that the Inquiry will fail to deal with, let alone report, in less than a decade. In other words there is a danger that by framing the Inquiry’s remit so very widely that it will become a further smokescreen for abusers and continuing abuse.
The institutions and organisations targeted and referred to are as follows:
a. Government departments, the Cabinet Office, Parliament and Ministers;
b. Police, prosecuting authorities, schools including private and state-funded boarding and day schools, specialist education (such as music tuition), Local Authorities (including care homes and children’s services), health services, and prisons/secure estates;
c. Churches and other religious denominations and organisations;
d. Political Parties; and
e. The Armed Services.
The ability to adequately investigate over the decades the allegations of abuse that concern the highest ranking politicians and departments of state including the very likely use by the security services of ‘intelligence’ concerning high profile individuals and their abusive activities will be a significant task. The information that is known suggests that at certain levels there was an awareness of the evidence relating to Smith and Janner etc and
their possible involvement in abuse. There are also clear suggestions that the security services and police knew about some abusers and used their information as leverage. There are also indications of class based immunity from investigation and society at a certain level seemingly being able to turn a ‘blind eye’ to an individual’s perceived “peccadilloes” and “indiscretions” as though abuse is synonymous with a mistake at the card table.
Has this changed? How is the inquiry to focus on and receive reliable evidence on the question of state involvement in the cover-up of abuse? The papers that relate to this ‘high-level’ abuse will also fall under the heading of the Official Secrets Act. The Inquiry will be faced with the classic dilemma so familiar to the Criminal Courts of seeking to balance the competing interests of the State in protecting its operations versus the immediate interest of the Public and individuals in obtaining relevant disclosure.
The Inquiry TORs already recognise the problem and say:
Disclose, where appropriate and in line with security and data protection protocols, any documents which were considered as part of the inquiry;
Conduct the work of the Inquiry as transparent a manner as possible, consistent with the effective investigation of the matters falling within the terms of reference, and having regard to all the relevant duties of confidentiality.
Without Survivor involvement and legal representation, when dealing with the question of disclosure, the Inquiry may well be seen as withholding information and therefore protecting abusers.
The TORs include reference to the health services and care homes where inevitably some consideration of abusers such as Savile will be considered.
The types of abuse within care homes have been revealed over the years to range from internal abuse from those with the day to day care of children and young people through to the use of these institutions as places where children are stored for abusers to procure, take out and return when and if they wish. Every indication has been given that the abuse within the state systems has been ongoing for years, known about, accepted and also covered up. Those professionals and others who alerted the statutory authorities to the abuse and who raised the alarm were met with disregard, hostility and vilification.
The Survivors have legitimate concerns about whether this Inquiry will be capable of pursuing its goals to investigate and disclose where appropriate. For the Survivors to have any faith in this Inquiry they need to be part of the Inquiry.
The Survivors have fought for years to uncover the truth about their abusers and the extent of wider abuse. For Survivors to have some faith in the work and the findings to be made by this Inquiry they need to be treated as an integral part of the Inquiry. This means that Survivors must be able to argue for disclosure, press for public release and consideration of classified material and continue to press for disclosure of information relevant to discovering what has happened in the past to avoid its repetition in the future.
The Inquiry’s geographical remit is limited to England and Wales yet the apparatus of some of the church bodies and the larger care providers will have an international dimension which cannot be excluded from scrutiny. Perhaps the larger charitable institutions such as Barnardos and the Church are the simplest of examples.
What is the approach that is going to be taken to the Church? The Catholic church is of course a worldwide institution, the Vatican is its base. Catholic
church priests and church staffs and volunteers has been he subject of innumerable prosecutions leading Pope Francis to say12
“Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.”
“I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”
Bishops who had allowed their priests to molest children and minors “will be held accountable”.
He admitted that the Catholic Church had been guilty of “complicity” in covering up what he called “despicable actions” and “grave sins”.”
The Survivors hope to be able to assist by suggesting that the Inquiry’s focus should be on the identification of the response to indications of abuse and complainants about abuse. The Australian Royal Commission13 includes within its TORs the following:
d. what institutions and governments should do to address, or alleviate the impact of, past and future child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts, including, in particular, in ensuring justice for victims through the provision of redress by institutions, processes for referral for investigation and prosecution and support services.
e. the experience of people directly or indirectly affected by child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts, and the provision of opportunities for them to share their experiences in appropriate ways while recognising that many of them will be severely traumatised or will have special support needs; f. the need to focus your inquiry and recommendations on systemic issues, recognising nevertheless that you will be informed by individual cases and may need to make referrals to appropriate authorities in individual cases
Yet despite the real breadth of the British Inquiry’s TORs there are serious gaps in the identification of matters of real concern that will in all probability touch on most of the TORs institutions and organisations:
* Insurance companies and their interest in ensuring that matters are dealt with without the possible cost of public hearings leading to a closed shop advice pattern
* the effect of modern communication networks
* the Criminal Justice System and whether the current legal framework is fit for purpose
* particular concerns with children and young people with a disability or issues with mental health and children where English is not the first language
* unaccompanied asylum seeking children and children in custodial settings14
* Lesbian, gay and transgender issues in particular as sexuality emerges and leads to a heightened vulnerability
* ethnicity and in particular the possibility an individual’s membership of a particular ethnic group has lead to being targeted for abuse
The provision of redress and ongoing support for Survivors as a central goal for the Inquiry would be a major step forward.
In Australia the
“….Terms of Reference require us to make recommendations in relation to ‘ensuring justice for victims through the provision of redress by institutions’. Many institutions have acknowledged that their previous response to survivors has been inadequate. Many survivors have a pressing need for assistance, including effective and just redress’
The Scottish Government has given the clearest of possible indications that it favours redress as an appropriate outcome of its consideration of Child Sexual abuse.
Rosanna Cunningham Minister of State for Scotland referred to
“a decision on a reparation scheme, which was mentioned by a few members, including Graeme Pearson, Sandra White and Neil Bibby. I need to put on record that the Government is still committed to scoping out a possible reparation scheme. However, as I said, we need to wait until we see the outcome of the consultation on the action plan.’
Other Inquiries and Governments15 are also actively considering redress as part of the package of reforms that should be in place in the future. It is incomprehensible to Survivors that this Inquiry has so far failed to appreciate the need for a system of compensation and ongoing support.
The Modular Approach
It is understood that the Inquiry is likely to take a modular approach. This will provide the Inquiry with the ability to focus the investigation into an institution or organisation and receive evidence and make findings.
In a recent advertisement in the Times the Inquiry was seeking to recruit 10 QCs and 20 juniors to assist the Ben Emmerson QC as Counsel to the Inquiry. This demonstrates the amount of work which will be involved and no doubt the approach being taken by the Inquiry will be ‘team based’ with Team Leaders responsible for the areas they have been assigned.
There is considerable sense in the Inquiry taking a segmented approach to the investigation and evidence gathering phase. Clearly the Inquiry cannot investigate and assess every school, every hospital and every care home. The Australian Royal Commission has adopted a roving approach and visits an institution and hears evidence leading to a series of interim reports issued by the commission.
Survivors naturally want justice; they want abusers identified, abusers punished and they want protection for children currently at risk. The Inquiry will be likely to grant Core Participant status to survivors and survivor groups with particular interest in the institution where they were abused. This must be right. But there is already a growing sense of unease about the Inquiry breaking up the vast task into modules. The reason for the disquiet is that this will exclude the Survivors from taking part in the wider evidence gathering, disclosure arguments and overall consideration of all of the modules. Survivors are also concerned that the ‘cherry pick’ approach should not lead to the exclusion of critical institutions for the purpose of political expediency.
At the commencement of the Inquiry proper a decision will have to be made by the Inquiry panel as to what module comes first. No doubt with a team based approach there will be on going work and progress made on all aspects but we suggest that the formal starting point should be at the highest level and deal with the first of the institutions identified under the scope of the Inquiry:
a. Government departments, the Cabinet Office, Parliament and Ministers;
The reasons why we suggest that the Inquiry should start at the very highest levels of government are clear:
The Survivors and public will suspect that unless the area is taken first then the Inquiry will appear to not be taking these issues seriously and instead may seem to be sending these matters into the ‘long grass’. Justice Lowell Goddard recently called for the papers in relation to Janner to be forwarded to the
Inquiry at a time when this matter was very much in the public eye. A failure to tackle early on the high level accusations of organised child abuse will mean this Inquiry will lose the confidence of Survivors and the public generally.
Further, by tackling the high level abuse accusations at the earliest opportunity the Inquiry will begin to understand what was the atmosphere at the top that led to the growth of sexual abuse within the Institutions. By understanding this level of abuse the Inquiry will also be assisted in considering the responses to information gathering, the report and handling of abuse at all levels by the police and social services.
There is a real and unshakeable fear amongst Survivors that this Inquiry was set up by and under a Government which includes MPs, Peers and officers of the State who were either abusers or those who allowed abuse to continue. Operation Yewtree has identified in its investigation the fact that abusers have continued to abuse over decades not just years.
Sadly there is every reason to think that abusers and those prepared to cover up for abusers still exist within Parliament and the State more widely. This could mean that a failure by the Inquiry to tackle first the abuse at the highest reaches of power will mean that the Inquiry may continue to protect abusers still in power and those who have covered up abuse. If this is right such individuals might still be in place and still be capable of thwarting the Inquiry’s investigations.
The longer the delay the greater the likelihood will be that the information will continue to disappear, memories fade and witnesses die.
The involvement of the state in covering up abuse is also believed to have included the state security services who are likely to have used intelligence gathering techniques to gather the material capable of being used to apply
pressure on high ranking individuals or in intelligence operations concerning Northern Ireland and as part of the Cold War. The longer the Inquiry takes to turn to consider this area the longer there is the possibility that the security services may continue to use this sort of information as part of their ongoing operations.
Finally the circumstances applying to the abuse by the richest and most powerful member of society are also going to apply to the senior levels of any organisation as well as proving the real possibility that abusers may have established abuse networks that cross over into other state organisations such as care homes.
It seems to Survivors that by dealing with the highest reaches of the State that the lessons learnt and the material seized will assist in targeting the other organisations and institutions with the Inquiry’s remit.
The Struggle Continues
Survivors have spent years of their lives fighting to be heard and fighting for recognition of the crimes perpetuated against them. Many don’t disclose. Many don’t survive. The environment of ICSA is such that the pressures on the most vulnerable of children to stay quiet and not to complain are extreme. How can you complain when the very person who you should be complaining to is also your abuser? For far too long there was a failure to recognise the powerlessness of the abused and a failure to appreciate that the abusers are also their ‘carers’.
Even if a complaint is made the Survivors experience is that their word will be ignored against the word of their abuser. Who will believe the complaint
made by a child against the professional reputation and authority of a career, teacher, priest or MP?
The recent Methodist church report16 recognised the problem with authority figures:
“It is extremely hard for people to comprehend that people who are ministers, stalwarts of the church, including church leaders can be offenders.”
The CEOP Thematic Assessment; The Foundations of Abuse17 was clear in its finding:
“Case studies demonstrate that the victim is often afforded the lowest priority in the institutional response. Where disclosures are made, institutions often look first to protect their own reputation rather than protecting the victim. Victims can be the most severely punished, often having their own credibility questioned, being ostracised by their community and receiving little support in recovering from their ordeal. Despite being ostensibly designed to safeguard children, institutions can instead place them at significant risk.”
All of the work by so many Survivors has led to institutions and organisations finally recognising that what should have been safe places for children became safe places for abusers.
It’s time that the Survivors of abuse are recognised and treated with the respect that they deserve. Survivors commonly prefer not to be called ‘victims’ as that term tends to reflect an ongoing abuse. SOIA would respectfully suggest that Survivors are also fighters without whom this Inquiry would not be taking place.
Survivors deserve a place at the table.
Survivors deserve to be granted core participant status so that they can consider the material, engage with the Inquiry through expert representation and play a full and continuing part in the Inquiry.
SOIA seeks recognition as a core participant under the Inquiry regulations to allow for funding for representation.
Sam Stein QC, Mansfield Chambers, instructed by SOIA
with contributions from
Dr Liz Davies18 a registered social worker who, following a career in frontline child protection social work, is now a Reader in Child Protection at London Metropolitan University.
Brian Douieb, Independent Children’s Social Worker and Survivor
Andi Lavery (Survivor and campaigner; Fort Augustus Whistleblower)
Phil Frampton, past National Chair of the Care Leavers Association and campaigner
1 3rd November 2014
2 Whiteflowers: The Campaign is inspired by the actions of ordinary people in Belgium, 300,000 of whom marched through the streets of Brussels carrying white flowers on 27 October 1996 to remember children who were abducted, abused and murdered by a paedophile ring involving members of the Belgian establishment.
3 The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Angela Constance, on behalf of the Scottish Government Parliamentary Statement on 28 May 2015 on the National Inquiry into Historical Child Abuse
4 Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland Report of the Independent Inquiry, November 2014
5 M.A. Nunno “Factors Contributing to Abuse and Neglect in Out of Home Settings” – a paper presented to the NSPCC Conference on the International Abuse of Children, London (1992)
6 Radford, L. et al (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today
7 the NSPCC on 17th June 2015 referred to Police recording 85 sexual assaults on children each day and a total of 31,238 allegations of sexual offences against children were made to forces in England and Wales in 2013-2014 showing an increase of 38% on the previous year
8 Since this statutory guidance was published there has been Working Together 2013 which abolished the definition of organised abuse and the guidance about how to investigate it.Working Together 2015 has maintained this same position. Organised abuse includes many forms of abuse not just sexual abuse. For instance ‘Child sexual exploitation’ is one form of organised abuse.
9 These are not marginal issues but central to the safety of children requiring a proactive multi-agency response. Working Together (HM Government 2013 and 2015) has omitted all reference to joint investigation which suggests an even further reduction in the emphasis on joint work. This can only increase the vulnerability of abused children and of those working to protect them and to bring abusers to justice at a time when organised crime against children is on the increase. This guidance has also omitted all reference to ‘Managing individuals who pose a risk of harm to children’(DfE 2010 Chapter12) thereby removing all guidance relating to the investigation of suspected and known perpetrators.
10 In a police investigation decisions can then be made together about how best to investigate the possibility or actuality of harm caused to the child, the approach to the alleged perpetrator/s, whether to conduct a paediatric assessment or an investigative interview and how to collect forensic evidence if such is indicated.
11 Children First, The Child Protection System in England; Education Committee, fourth report http://www.publications.Parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmeeduc/13/13702.htm
12The Telegraph 7th July 2014
13 The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
14 Children First. The Child Protection System in England; Education Committee Fourth Report
15 In EIRE they have judicial redress board and survivor care agency -http://www.rirb.ie/updates.asp. Harte – sets out the requirement or desirability for redress to be provided by the institution and/or the Executive to meet the particular needs of victims, http://www.hiainquiry.org/index/acknowledgement_forum/terms-of-reference.htm And Canada; Restoring Dignity some years ago and currently First Nations inquiry both calling for redress https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/inquiries/cornwall/en/hearings/exhibits/Peter_Jaffe/pdf/Restoring_Dignity.pdf
16 Courage, Cost & Hope, The Methodist Church report into Sexual Abuse May 2015
17 National Crime Agency CEOP Thematic Assessment Oct 2013
18 Liz teaches on the BSc and MSc Social Work programmes and is module convenor for subjects including child protection, and communication with children and families. Her specialism is the investigation of child abuse and the investigative interviewing of children, particularly in the context of organised and institutional abuse. In 2010, she completed her PhD, entitled ‘Protecting Children: a critical contribution to policy and practice development’ and supervises a number of PhD students. She has also conducted serious case reviews, acted as an expert witness for social workers in high profile child protection cases, written widely about child protection and is a consultant to television, radio and print media.