Question It!

Welcome to another week, but this isn’t just any week. This is the last week before the Chair for the Child Abuse Inquiry takes her seat as lead for the nation’s inquiry into child sexual abuse.

As Justice Goddard prepares to take the helm on the 3rd April, she will be steering an investigation which is set to examine institutional responses to child abuse. The current terms of reference limit the inquiry to only that – in other words, the Inquiry may not be required to look into child abuse which took place in organisations which are not classed as institutions, nor to understand how child abuse occurs or the processes which it thrives by.

Our question to you then, is just this: should the Inquiry limit itself to institutional responses to child abuse allegations, or should its terms of reference be wider?

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National Apology for Forced Adoptions Celebrates Its 2 Year Anniversary

It passed by without much fanfare, but Australia’s National Apology for Forced Adoptions, celebrated its two-year anniversary yesterday (21st March).

This Apology has become an important event for Australians, which was established in 2013 after their former Primer Minister Julia Gillard made her now famous and moving speech apologising for the forced adoption practices in the country. Following this apology in 2013, the Forced Adoptions History Project came into being. This online project is designed to increase awareness and understanding of experiences of individuals affected by forced adoption practices and to identify and share experiences of forced adoption.

The website holds lots of useful information including research, access to support and the effects of forced adoption on all affected by the practice.

Forced adoption is a declining practice around the world, and has drawn a great deal of criticism both for its impact on children and its shedding of parental consent. The UK is one of only two remaining countries in the EU which still uses forced adoption as a means of removing children from parents deemed to be unable to care for them.

Forced Adoption

Home Secretary Writes To Child Abuse Inquiry Chair Seeking Immunity For Whistleblowers

It has been confirmed today that Home Secretary Theresa May has written to the Chair of the nation’s child abuse inquiry Justice Goddard to ask her to look into securing immunity for police officers wanting to come forward with evidence.

This news comes after more revelations about a VIP paedophile ring have emerged, which claim that Scotland Yard were complicit in covering up child sexual abuse because it involved senior politicians and police officers.

Mrs May told the Home Affairs Select Committee that she had written to the new chair of the child abuse inquiry asking her to pursue potential immunity under the secrecy laws. She has asked Justice Lowell Goddard to contact the Attorney General, the Government’s senior law officer, to look into whether immunity guarantees could be offered.

At the moment, the Home Secretary is only asking Chair Goddard to look into immunity for police officers in relation to possible conflicts with the Official Secrets Act. Will this pave the way for other groups to seek immunity? And will the Inquiry be mindful of the delicate balance to be had in relation to those who might seek out immunity for the protection it offers against those who wish to see justice done? Only time will tell.

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The Haldane Society – Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: A Road to Justice?

This just in.

The Haldane Society, a society of Socialist Lawyers which has been set up to uphold the principles of justice and liberty in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and whose current President is Michael Mansfield QC, is holding an event which hopes to clarify the Inquiry’s intentions.

The open meeting, which will be held on Tuesday 24th March, from 6.30-8.30pm, at London Metropolitan University, is, as the invitation explains, a chance to discuss how to take forward the campaign for justice for child abuse survivors. There is obviously a political flavour to this event, as the Haldane Society are Labour leaning, and the Inquiry has been put together by a Conservative government, but the meeting is still an important one.

The event will raise some interesting questions, namely:

  • Can we prevent an establishment cover up?
  • Can the Inquiry deliver justice?
  • What role for survivors?
  • What should we demand of the parties that form the new government?
  • Is Goddard a step forward from Butler-Sloss and Woolf?

The Speakers for the event are:

Phil Frampton, Founding Chair, Care Leavers Association (2000-03)
Alison Millar, Solicitor – Leigh Day
Andy Kershaw, Survivors of Forde Park
Liz Woodcraft, Barrister
If you would like to attend (and bring others with you), please email Phil with your details and those of your guests, at phil.frampton@ntlworld.com.

Further information on the event can be found below:

Organised by The Haldane Society
Venue: Room GS235
London Metropolitan University,
16 Goulston Street (just off Middlesex Street)
London E1 7TP

Located minutes from Aldgate and Aldgate East tube stations, Goulston Street is served by the Circle, Metropolitan, District, and Hammersmith & City lines. Mainline train stations Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street are a short walk away.

Directions can be accessed by clicking here.

Question It!

Welcome to another week. The government, say MPs working on the Public Accounts Committee, is not doing enough to help children in care. More than this, the Committee noted a distinct reluctance by stakeholders, like the Department for Education to play an active role in improving services and securing better futures for children in care.

Amongst some of the criticisms levelled at the Department for Education, were its defensive attitude to the problems, overt attempts at limiting responsibility for the failings noted and not doing enough to ensure that local authorities are run competently.

Our question to you, then is this: what other failings do you feel the government is responsible for when it comes to protecting and nurturing children in care, and elsewhere?

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Website’s FAQ’s On The Child Abuse Inquiry Raises More Questions Than Answers

The latest on the Child Abuse Inquiry’s start date and structure can be found on the Inquiry’s FAQ’s page, but the level of detail leaves much to the imagination, and raises more questions, than answers.

To be fair to the Inquiry, its Chair Justice Goddard is not due to take the helm until April, 13th. Until then, the Frequently Asked Questions page is far from complete, and offers little to soothe or stabilise anxieties about its intentions.

What the Inquiry doesn’t seem to realise, is that despite the process being new and fresh for Chair and other panel members, it is a continuation of a long and disappointing saga for most, and action is required, now.

As of yet, there are no guidelines at all on how the inquiry will carry out its work, when evidence will be taken, how whistleblowers will be able to contribute, nor how much the Inquiry is likely to cost.

As the Inquiry is not a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom Of Information Act, we will also have to rely on the Inquiry’s will to be transparent, and efficient. We also know that the Inquiry is funded by the Home Office, and Central Government, which may also fuel concerns that the Inquiry is not fully independent, and may suffer with conflicts of interest as a result.

The page also only addresses evidence given by victims, survivors and whistleblowers. There is no information at present on who else may be asked to give evidence.

Whilst it is only right that the Inquiry should have time to get itself organised and take the time to ensure that their working structure is perfect for the task at hand, there are things they could be doing to alleviate the silent pause in the process.

We are not sure whether the current terms of reference on the site are the latest, most up to date terms but they are thin and lacking in clarity. Mention of the removal of a cut off date, combined with a desired timeline to be investigated should be in the terms for example, along with clear definitions for words and phrases used. Words like “Institution”.

The Inquiry also needs to get digital, fast. A Wikipedia page on the Inquiry should be created, detailing how it came about, the timeline of its evolution and the developments and set backs it has experienced to date. Australia’s child abuse inquiry website is currently ranked 6 by Google – ours does not even make it to 1. The Inquiry also needs a Twitter Feed and a Facebook page, as well as a You Tube account, sooner rather than later.

There’s a lot to do, and no doubt the Inquiry are furiously working away to set the terms and scope of the investigation. This period is critical. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to set proper parameters for the analysis of some of the most grotesque crimes against humanity. We hope the end result is stunning, for all the right reasons.

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Is The Nation’s Child Abuse Inquiry Fundamentally Flawed?

The recent news that the Statutory Inquiry into Child Abuse would not be questioning individuals has caused confusion amongst the public and survivors, but a closer look at how Inquiries work reveals a concerning flaw in the process.

Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed this week that the nation’s Inquiry into child abuse would not “probe individuals”, but did not go on to clarify what she meant, leaving many baffled and angered by the revelation.

What is clear however, is this. The Inquiry has been tasked with looking into institutional and non institutional child sexual abuse. The current terms of reference will include Parliament, ministers and the Cabinet Office, as well as Government Departments, police, schools, local authorities and more. That ‘more’, is at the discretion of the Inquiry Chair – she can, if she so wishes, expand the list of organisations to include others.

We also know that the Inquiry has been set up to look at “the extent to which State and non-State institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation; to consider the extent to which those failings have since been addressed; to identify further action needed to address any failings identified; to consider the steps which it is necessary for State and non-State institutions to take in order to protect children from such abuse in future; and to publish a report with recommendations.”

And whilst it is not part of the Inquiry’s remit to determine whether someone is guilty of a crime, whether civil or criminal, they are able to make findings of fact when it comes to determining any failures to protect children within the relevant institutions. This of course, means that the Inquiry will at some point be confronted with information that shows people either ignored established child abuse, or engaged in it.

With its new-found Statutory status, allowing the Inquiry to summon individuals to speak about what they know in relation to the department or institution they work or worked in, you could be forgiven for thinking that such powers might be used to secure reluctant witnesses who may have seen or heard about child sexual abuses, before the Inquiry. Or to question such witnesses in order to establish where the trail, as May puts it, begins and ends.

But in reality, this is not how the Inquiry is likely to work. Travel across to Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (their version of our child abuse inquiry), where a possible answer can be found. Their Public Hearings section explains the following:

“The Royal Commission holds formal public hearings to hear evidence about child sexual abuse within institutions. The hearings do not focus on individual cases, but instead focus on case studies of how institutions have responded to allegations and proven instances of child sexual abuse.”

Whilst our Inquiry is not a Royal Commission, much of our own Inquiry’s scope and remit have taken inspiration from Australia’s own investigation, and it is most likely that our public hearings will work in much the same way. In retrospect, what Theresa May may have been trying to explain, is that individuals will not simply be summoned to share their knowledge of child abuse within a particular institution or organisation, whether in person or through documentation. Rather, those who come forward will come specifically from institutions who were alerted to allegations or proven instances of child abuse, and will bring with them a case study on how their institution dealt with those allegations.

If this is indeed the way our Inquiry hopes to operate, it raises several very concerning questions. Who is going to prepare such case studies? How will the Inquiry know whether these studies are impartial, objective and complete? And if they are not going to summon individuals from institutions whose remits did not include dealing with allegations of child abuse, but who have a potentially deep and important knowledge base for the Inquiry, how will that information be sourced?

This takes us into yet more controversial territory. The Paedophile Information Exchange clearly falls foul of the above remit. It is unlikely that anyone who was abused by PIE members or a potential VIP paedophile ring would raise the abuse directly with their abusers. In any event, these organisations were not institutions as such. They were movements whose business was the promotion of child sexual abuse, the former being an open movement, the latter a criminal one.There is also the added complication of the abuse in those circumstances emanating directly from individuals inside the organisation, rather than being a scenario where victims sought help from departments designed to respond to such allegations. (A complication which may also arise inside approved institutions, but that’s another headache for another day).

And yet, PIE was a legitimate movement which was supported by several high-profile politicians during its time. It is so obviously important to understanding the culture and cause behind child sexual abuse in our country, that to leave it out altogether would be counter productive. Its omission would create a gaping hole in the Inquiry’s understanding of the phenomenon, not least of all because many of PIE’s alleged members appeared to be government officials, some of whom were tasked with crafting and advising on child welfare policy. But that is what the Home Secretary seemed to imply in her most recent statement. It has also fuelled fears amongst the public that senior politicians will effectively be shielded from any investigations which take place, despite May’s assurances that allegations would be passed on to the police.

We are still not clear on exactly what the Home Secretary meant nor whether the Inquiry will follow Australia’s suit on the Hearings front, but we very much hope that the Inquiry will find a way to accommodate investigations of those institutions which sit outside such a remit whilst potentially having played a significant role in the proliferation of child abuse in England and Wales.

Lowell Goddard, Chair for the Statutory Inquiry Into Child Abuse

Lowell Goddard, Chair for the Statutory Inquiry Into Child Abuse

Child Abuse Inquiry – New Library

As the nation’s Statutory Inquiry into Child Abuse is likely to cover much ground, both in terms of news coverage and no doubt, controversy, we thought it might be helpful to house these materials on our site in a dedicated page to all things Inquiry.

We have added the Inquiry’s website details, Home Affairs Committee reports, Early Day Motions on the Inquiry, updates, news items and discussions for you to access and read, along with information we think the Inquiry should be paying attention to.

As things come in, we will keep updating the page, but in the meantime if you think we’ve left anything out, please let us know and we’ll make sure it’s added.

Much has happened since the Inquiry’s inception last year, so we have purposely chosen not to overload the Library with too many items on the initial phase of the Inquiry. If you would like to access those items, you can do so by by typing “Child Abuse Inquiry” into the search box, or clicking on “Child Abuse Inquiry” in our category index on the left hand column of the blog. Alternatively, you can access all materials we’ve gathered on the Inquiry here. 

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Theresa May: “Child Abuse Inquiry Won’t Probe Individuals.”

We should be used to disappointment by now as far as the nation’s inquiry into child sexual abuse is concerned, but the latest statements from Home Secretary Theresa May are not encouraging.

In a piece she wrote for The Daily Telegraph, May warns that what we have seen so far is just the tip of a grotesque iceberg which will highlight that, “sexual exploitation runs through every level of British society like a “stick of Blackpool rock.” This all sounds on cue and very much in line with what many of us working in the sector have known for a very long time, but then, the caveats start to creep into May’s rhetoric.

She goes on to say that “the trail” will lead into schools, hospitals, churches and youth clubs as well as “many other institutions that should have been places of safety but instead became the setting for the most appalling abuse”. However, she doesn’t mention Parliament in the list, despite the very many allegations we are seeing now about high profile paedophile rings operating inside Westminster, and the fact that the current terms of reference include Parliament, and its ministers.

And then May tells us that the inquiry will not be probing individuals at all. This she says in connection with questions about the VIP paedophile ring. We can only speculate as to whether she read our piece suggesting that members of the now infamous Paedophile Information Exchange be summoned to give evidence to the Inquiry, but it seems rather uncanny that she should make that point now.

This latest revelation will be an enormous blow to many. It is most likely that members of PIE will be mentioned by certain survivors and that they will have a great deal of information on the movement both during and after its heyday in the 70’s and 80’s. May tells us that any allegations surrounding individuals will be passed on to the police, but their remit is not to work out how the abuse came about, or the wider implications of the cases they will receive.

The Inquiry is missing an incredibly important opportunity, not only to understand the cultural and social origins of child sexual abuse in Britain, but the structure in which it works – and therefore the mechanics of how to stop it. Which, as Theresa May knows, is part of the Inquiry’s remit after all.

UPDATE: The original piece from the Daily Telegraph was published a few hours after we wrote this post – you can read it here.

Theresa May

Petitions We’ve Signed This Week

There are always important causes worthy of attention, but on this Red Nose Day, we are not only choosing to support Comic Relief’s humanitarian efforts around the world, but the ethos behind the campaign too.

That’s why we’re posting these petitions, both of which we’ve signed. The first petition is about a little boy and his mummy who have been deported to Nigeria. They are not familiar with the country and have no connections or means of survival there. Both mother and child are vulnerable. Their removal from the UK has been contested and this is the latest update on the matter as of yesterday:

“The Initial Hearing is due for next week in London. The Children’s Commission is involved as an interested party and have secured lawyers to support Rafeeq and Bola’s case to return to the United Kingdom. More information about their next steps should be available after this hearing.
In the meantime Rafeeq continues to attend school. Bola has been told about the case next week, initially she was excited but more recently has reported feeling worried. A small parcel has been sent out which should be arriving at the beginning of the week. It contains treats and clothes for Rafeeq and it will hopefully give him a surprise.
Bola and Rafeeq thank everyone who has been involved in fundraising to help to support them. There has recently been a tombola and cake sale that raised £365 and the school that Rafeeq attended are holding a disco at the beginning of the week. It really helps their morale to know that they are still thought about and that so many people care.”

The second petition takes its cue from an independent review in Norfolk by Ofstead, which is looking at claims that foster carers have had their children taken from them purely through allegations made by social workers, rather than solid evidence. This petition then seeks an independent review for biological parents who have experienced the same.

So why not go Cause Crazy this freaky Friday 13th, and show your love for good causes by picking and clicking on your favourite petitions today?

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