Child Abuse Inquiry Panel Meeting With Survivors

Chris Tuck, a survivor and representative from a group called Survivors of Abuse has very diligently made notes of the meeting that took place last week between members of the Inquiry and several survivors.

Amongst those listed as present were John O’Brien, Director of Safeguarding at the Home Office; Liz Sanderson, Theresa May’s media spin doctor; at least three Inquiry’s panel members and 10 Survivors/Survivor Organisations which included SOB, NAPAC, Rape Crisis, Survivors Alliance and representation from Scotland & Wales.

The three key points raised by survivors at the meeting were that:

  • The inquiry must be statutory & independent
  • The need for transparency around the panel
  • The TOR needs to be expanded geographically and start from at least the 1950’s

O’Brien told the attendees that the first thing that needed to sorted out was getting the Chair in place and that he hoped this could move forward with more haste after a meeting taking place today (8th December). Survivors were going to be given a package of items to look over, but the notes don’t clarify what this refers to or the weight to be given in terms of survivor comment on this package.

It’s clear from the notes that survivors have become increasingly distrustful of the Inquiry and its members and it appears that this phase is the government’s last chance to get the Inquiry right before they are inundated with a mass boycott of the thing.

It’s also apparent from the meeting that people were not happy with the panel, and several attendees complained about not having yet received replies to their emails from certain panel members. They were assured that responses would be delivered but it had to be done in the appropriate way.

Any delayed responses to communication now may well be due to the recent storm surrounding panel members who have engaged in communication with other survivors, and so it is likely that communication may well be being vetted before it’s sent off.

The call to increase the geographical remit included involving Scotland, and survivors were told that they had invited Scotland to join. A Scottish representative then said the invitation would be accepted. Survivors also wanted to include other countries as they felt many paedophiles had fled the UK and so were likely to evade justice.

Survivors also want to take the Inquiry back to the 1950s, to include everyone who is still alive today.

It was confirmed that all alleged perpetrators’ names would be passed on to the police to deal with.

A support package for victims was also discussed.

The overall sentiment from this meeting was that the government really were working hard to get it right and apologetic for failing to include survivors from the start. But it was also made plain that if the government failed to deliver a proper Inquiry survivors would walk away from the process, which would leave the Inquiry helpless, and impotent.

An interesting meeting and we hope today’s session makes further progress. (You can read our thoughts on improving the Inquiry here).

Thank you to JG for alerting us to this website.

Question It!

Welcome to another week of thoughts and views, and this time, our question stems around the latest row involving the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Abuse.

It has emerged that two of the panel members have now been asked to resign, following what has been perceived to be threatening communications from them to specific survivors of child abuse.

The two panel members are Barbara Hearn and Graham Wilmer, a survivor of child abuse himself. It has been alleged that Barbara’s involvement with the National Children’s Bureau, where a leading member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, Peter Righton, worked as a consultant between 1972 and 1974 creates a conflict of interest. Mr Wilmer’s email communications with a survivor are also being examined to see whether or not they are threatening.

Whatever one may think of the conflicts involved or the direct communication between panel members and survivors of abuse, it is clear that the Inquiry members are unaware of the very many considerations involved when running an inquiry such as this.

Our question this week, then, is this: Should the government scrap the current Inquiry and start again, with an open consultation to put together a panel the public can have confidence in, or are these unavoidable difficulties in a delicate process which any panel would have to navigate? 

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Serial – The Podcast Series Taking The Internet By Storm

Serial is a series of podcasts which features one non fiction story a week, and was produced by the people who brought you This American Life.

The audio series’ first story explores the disappearance of a teenage girl in America in the 1990’s and the subsequent arrest, charge and imprisonment of her boyfriend who maintained throughout that he was innocent.

We first heard about Serial last night when a friend told us about it; they also explained that the production was quietly taking the internet by storm, with hoards of people hooked on it already, so given that it was child welfare related we felt we had to check it out, too. That, and the fact that it also raises interesting ethical questions about the nature of entertainment in the 21st century.

Although we haven’t listened to the first episode yet, shunning our burning curiosity for the time being to bring you the news first, we already like the format for this programme. Not only does it offer up the episodes themselves, but it also gives you blog posts filled with actual evidence collected from the case, as well as timelines and even information on the musical scores used.

We’re going off to listen to the first episode now. Catch us on Twitter if you’d like to hear our verdict…

Claridge’s: Falling Into The Booby Trap

Hot off the heels of a story about a mother who was asked to cover herself with a large napkin whilst breastfeeding in Claridge’s comes a staged protest outside the establishment which saw around 25 mothers breastfeeding their children in front of the luxury hotel, yesterday.

The gripe, or gripe water, was simply this: women should not take their tits out in public. Or at least, that was Claridge’s breast efforts at explaining the hooha. What transpired though, was a rather less savoury turn of events.

The mother who sparked the protest, quietly eating her lunch at the hotel and nourishing her baby at the same time, was clearly well covered. What you notice from her Twitter timeline, where she posted a photo of herself feeding her baby, is that you cannot see any nipple, or flesh.

 

Now, when we first heard the story, we thought, fair enough. The hotel is not asking the mother to stop, or to leave – just to feed discreetly, and whilst we are of the view that breastfeeding in public is perfectly acceptable, and we are quite happy flashing bits of our own flesh, being considerate to those around you is never a bad thing.

But this is clearly not what is going on here.

Although the law makes it clear that it is unlawful for a business to discriminate against a woman because she is breastfeeding a child, many establishments can and do try to intimidate women into taking their baby duties elsewhere. The old napkin ruse in just one way – sometimes, hotels and restaurants will ask you to sit outside the dining room and return when you are done.

Establishments like Claridge’s are filled to the brim with old-school prudes who would rather not eat their Duck A L’Orange and feel aroused at the same time, or who simply can’t bear the sight of their own bodies let alone someone else’s. And these prudes are regulars, regulars who pay to eat at overpriced and overrated establishments like Claridge’s. That is why women who breastfeed are asked to cover up, and nothing more.

If you’re still not convinced, check out this tit for tat scenario. Whilst Claridge’s takes a dim view of mothers feeding their babies in their restaurant, they seem all too happy to let half naked celebrities walk in. Take Margot Robbie, for example:

Or, perhaps, model Carla Delevigne:

And then there’s Megan Good, with her goodies hanging out:

Celebrity Sightings In London - December 11, 2013

 

And how about Ola Jordan – or should that be Areola Jordan?

Celebrity Sightings In London - January 28, 2014

 

So what do all these boob-bearing celebrities have in common that our breastfeeding mother doesn’t? They all provide Claridge’s with media coverage and the chance to make some serious money.

Having read the news items on this story over the last 48 hours, we are in no doubt that there is a serious double D standard at play, and Claridge’s, who have yet to make a formal statement on the story, will have to issue an apology for their foul play. Ironic that such a publicity seeking outfit, craving as much exposure at it can get, comes across all coy and asks mothers to cover up.

 

Teachers and Doctors Could Be Barred For Failing to Report Female Genital Mutilation

Under new proposals by the Home Office which have been published today in a consultation paper, the government is looking at the possibility of barring teachers and doctors who fail to report Female Genital Mutilation.

As teachers will not be in a position to visually confirm FGM, a potential duty on this group might be limited to victim disclosure, the paper tells us. Doctors would have a duty around disclosure but also observation. These are some of the issues the paper hopes to navigate and clarify with the feedback they hope to get on this proposal.

The consultation will run for five weeks, is fully open to the public and also hopes to hear from:

  • health care professionals,
  • the police,
  • the judiciary,
  • teachers,
  • social workers,
  • criminal justice practitioners,
  • victims of FGM,
  • organisations representing victims,
  • community groups and leaders,
  • front line workers,
  • service providers,
  • regulatory bodies,
  • the Disclosure and
  • Barring Service and local authorities.

The consultation will look specifically at the question of how to introduce a mandatory reporting requirement on cases of FGM.

FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK for almost thirty years (1985), but only two prosecutions have been brought. It is a particularly difficult crime to detect as victims and witnesses often feel pressured by family or community members not to speak out. The consultation hopes to find an effective way of introducing mandatory reporting and ensuring that more people come forward and report FGM in England and Wales.

The consultation is divided into three parts:

  • What should be in scope of the mandatory reporting duty?
  • Sanctions for failure to report and
  • Statutory guidelines

If you have something to say about FGM, why not fill out the consultation form or E mail the team with your thoughts at  FGMenquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk. If you would like a hard copy of the consultation, you can write to:

FGM consultation, 5th Floor, Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF

FGM

 

 

Contact for Children in Care, Child Poverty, Transparency and More…

Some of our posters have expressed an interest in various themes or family law topics, so as a stop gap we thought we would source some useful information from the internet which at least offers a starting point for these issues until we get the chance to invite others to write about them, or write ourselves.

We appreciate this isn’t a finely tuned list that hones in on exactly what you’ve asked for, but it’s something for you to ruminate over. More anon!

Latest Legal Aid Stats

The latest legal aid stats are in, and not surprisingly the worst hit sector is private family law. These figures are for April-June 2014.

The stats make no bones about the fact that the sharp drop in legal aid for family cases is due to the implementation of LASPO, though public family law workloads remain stable (this is due to the fact that public cases are non means and merits tested and applications brought by the Local Authority).

Notable stats include a 27% drop in family law volumes from April to June and a sharp decrease in certificates granted, with just over 30,000 granted in 2013 to just under 20,000 in 2014.

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Researching Reform for Jordans: Give The Child Abuse Inquiry Some Teeth

This month for our column over at Jordans, we have chosen to write about the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Abuse, why we think it’s going nowhere and what the Inquiry can do to come back as a contender when it comes to analysing the state of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Britain.

From giving the Inquiry statutory status, to publishing the names of the 100 candidates who the government are considering as Chair, we go through a raft of considerations and proposals which we believe would make the Inquiry better. And as always, we’d love to hear what you think.

You can grab the article here.

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“I Am A Monster”

In a case which has shocked one of our most senior family law judges, a father who was found responsible for systematically injuring and abusing his daughter and a mother who ignored these acts and failed to protect her baby now face criminal prosecution for their actions.

The father, who is twenty, has recently been jailed for 12 years for his actions, spending the first year in youth custody, and will remain on license checks for 17 years. Their daughter has been placed in care and is developing well, but slowly due to the many life threatening injuries she suffered. To date, there appears to be no further news regarding the mother.

In his statement to the court, the father referred to himself as a monster.

The injuries inflicted on his daughter, who was born in January this year, were as follows (warning: contains graphic descriptions of injuries sustained):

(a) squeezing her very tightly around her torso;
(b) pressing his thumb into her eye causing bleeding;
(c) picking her up by her legs and flicking her up in the air and catching her, and on one occasion dropping her on the floor;
(d) placing his hands around her neck and throttling her so that she would if not actually lose consciousness then nearly lose consciousness;
(e) when sitting on his lap, forcefully pulling her legs up, and pushing her head down so that she was bent double;
(f) holding her upside down by her ankles and shaking her;
(g) twisting her head so she was looking right over her shoulder;
(h) thumping her on the top of her head;
(i) pushing her toes backwards towards her legs;
(j) squeezing her hands very tightly;
(k) pushing hard down on her vagina to make her cry;
(l) inserting his finger into her anus in order to hurt her;
(m) pinching her cheek, causing a bruise;
(n) bashing her head against a cupboard, causing a bruise and a cut;
(o) scratching her hands;
(p) bruising her jaw;
(q) forcing her bottle into her mouth, causing it to bleed;
(r) pushing down on her tongue, thereby causing bruising; and
(s) submerging her in the bath, giving her the sensation of being drowned.

By all accounts, the judgment paints a picture of two young adults: a man who did not wish to be a father, and a woman who wanted to have a baby but did not wish to care for it. The resentments that flowed from this regrettable scenario appear to have culminated in the father physically abusing his daughter and the mother ignoring her injuries and delegating the lion’s share of the duties to the father, who washed, changed and fed their baby daughter, even at night, leading the father to feel fraught and angered by his lot. And although Mr Justice Mostyn took to calling this case “macabre and chilling” and the father “diabolical”, there is, sadly, nothing unexplainable, or mystical, about this turn of events.

One of the great difficulties the family court as a whole faces is working without a clear knowledge of and access to cutting edge psychiatric knowledge. Whilst Mr Justice Mostyn laments that if “ Freud or Jung were alive today and able to advise me, [I doubt] they would be able to give me an explanation for conduct…so completely at variance with any understanding of human nature…which has no basis rational or irrational… [and] which violates the most basic and elemental taboos which govern our society,” it is clear that what happened to this baby can be explained and indeed warrants further consideration.

Both parents though not from deeply troubled backgrounds exhibited violent and conflicted behaviours. There was a history of self harming amongst one of the parent’s family members. Both experienced multiple parents and homes but may not have experienced the smooth transitions which are an ideal feature of such phases. The mother, it is alleged, was controlling and dictatorial and would seek to anger the father often – perhaps a symptom of the difficulties present within her own childhood. There is no indication either that these parents were given the opportunity to further their education or improve their way of life such as it must have been in cramped accommodation with minimal interaction with the outside world.

Of course none of this excuses harming a child or is always a cause of crime, but if the family courts don’t start to look at, and try to understand the reasons why people abuse and physically injure children, we cannot hope to protect children from harm in the future. Though we have yet to see whether the mother is tried for neglect, doubtless neither parent will receive the clinical help they need in prison and they will simply be let out into the world to continue living their lives as before, in a cycle of conflict, and violence. If we agree that most people who cause pain and suffering would rather not do so, then we must also accept that they too must be victims of their own circumstance. Difficult though it is to accept, the reality for most of us is that given the choice, we would choose to be good. So what happens to those who choose not to be and is it really a choice they make?

Most of the time men and women who injure children with intent get thrown into jail and left to languish in their own un-natural state, only to be released into the world free to continue the cycle of pain and injury. These parents may not have experienced physical abuse as children themselves, but they were young, without the coping mechanisms they needed to communicate well with each other and their baby and appeared to be, despite a large and varied family, on their own.

Sometimes, victims of child abuse sit on both sides of the table – but we can only protect the most vulnerable if we commit to uncovering the cause.

Thank you to the lovely Jerry Lonsdale for alerting us to this story.

Question It!

Welcome to the first day of December, and another question for you to consider.

The Guardian has reported that since Baby Peter’s death, the number of children in care has reached an all time high but that the care they are receiving remains very poor and does not effectively address these children’s complex emotional needs.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson says the recent findings are flawed and do not take into account all the progress that has been made. Timpson is quoted as saying, “It is a fact that since 2010, children in care are doing better at school and absences from school have decreased. Foster children can also now stay at home until the age of 21, and this year a record number of children found places in stable, loving homes through adoption.”

Our question to you then, is this: do you think Mr Timpson is right, or are the findings outlined in this article more reflective of the reality on the ground?

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