Lead Lawyer Suspended From Child Abuse Inquiry

Whilst Chairs may have come and gone at the now infamous independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, ongoing tensions, arguments and fiascos were always underscored by just one panel member. And now, it seems, the reign of tyranny is over.

Accusations of bullying and riding roughshod over Chairs, as well as routine intimidation is the legacy lead counsel Ben Emmerson leaves behind, after being suspended from the Inquiry yesterday. The suspension takes place amid growing concerns about certain aspects of his leadership within the team he was tasked to manage.

This won’t be the last of it. Emmerson is likely to counter with a robust defence, as lawyers tend to do, and Professor Jay will need to steal herself for what will be an aggressive effort. Still, with Emmerson no longer at the Inquiry, it will be interesting to see if the investigation settles down and starts to function as it should.




Researching Reform For The Huffington Post: Bullying And Mental Health

Researching Reform has very kindly been invited to contribute articles for The Huffington Post UK as one of their bloggers, and so for our first monthly article we chose to write about childhood bullying and the real and often lasting effects on mental health.

You can catch the article over on the Huff Post website, and please feel free to comment there, we’d love to hear your views.

Whilst we have our own list of topics and areas of concern we will be writing about, we always welcome article suggestions, so if there is something you would like us to write about, please don’t be shy, we’d love to hear from you.

Future articles can be found in our author archive, but we will let you know when we publish them as well.

We would like to thank The Huffington Post for giving us a platform to share child welfare issues with its readers. We hope that our articles will allow for a wider discussion on child welfare and the ways in which we can improve the lives of children both in the UK, and globally.


Question It!

Welcome to another week.

A judge in Italy has ordered a 15 year old girl, who was at the centre of a paedophile ring, to read feminist books in order to give her an understanding of the “damage that has been done to her” and to take on “feminist values” from the materials.

The court in Rome has given one of the men involved a two-year jail sentence for paying to have sex with the girl, and has ordered that he pay for the books and films which she must read and watch.

The ruling, which was passed down by a female judge, was met with criticism by one of the authors on the court ordered reading list, who felt that the books should be read by the perpetrator instead.

A very concerning mental health issue also arises from this judgment. By placing some of the responsibility on the young girl for the events that took place, she could take the view she is to blame for what happened to her and could go on to suffer with depression, anxiety and poor physical health, which could worsen over time.

This course of action also does not address the underlying reasons why the girl found herself at the centre of a paedophile ring, and no effort appears to have been made to offer this young girl counselling or support. The girl could also feel that the two year sentence the man was given was very lenient, and that this in some way reflects upon her self worth.

Those in favour of the ruling might suggest that at 15, the girl was old enough to understand what she was doing, and that her part in the paedophile ring was a considered life choice, having accepted money in return for sleeping with the man involved. They may also argue that the books could help to inform the young woman about her rights and offer her more options on how to live her life, going forward.

Advocates of the ruling might also say that the length of the sentence is an appropriate amount of time for the crime committed, bearing in mind the girl’s age and what appears to be an isolated event as far as the man in question is concerned.

Our question to you then, is just this: Do you think the judge’s ruling was right? 



Is The Care System To Blame For Children’s Psychological Damage?

Child development and any subsequent events in a child’s life which may cause disruption to that development, are hugely complex areas in which even cutting edge knowledge today is still not sophisticated enough to offer a clear pathway in these fields.

It is no surprise then, that in a system which is understaffed, under resourced and unable to offer its professionals the latest research in a fast and efficient way, mistakes about the cause of a child’s deteriorating mental health are made.

And whilst it can be the case that a child entering the care system has suffered terrible psychological damage as a result of their home environment, the care system itself can and does makes children’s mental health worse.

Former Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming has recently highlighted this issue in a blog post, and offers research and data on the topic. What he effectively says, is that if we agree that there is a specific period within which children need to form attachments in order to avoid significant disruption to healthy development, then the data available suggests that a large proportion of children are being taken into care during these critical periods and suffering psychological damage as a result. John explains that the numbers don’t give any indication as to what is causing the damage during these critical blocks of time, but he does suggest that the system is either not responding to children’s needs efficiently or actively making things much worse by adding to any existing problems.

The post is worth a read to get a sense of the numbers and what the research says about the potential effects of taking children into care, particularly if systems are not properly set up to really support and nurture the children it takes in.


Lib Dem MP: Schools Should Encourage Children To Consider Prostitution As A Career

As Brexit anxiety continues to sweep the country, so too does the stupidity of politicians looking to find ways to boost the economy.

Dennis Parsons, a Liberal Democrat MP, is calling on schools to add prostitution to their careers advice agenda. The comment was made during a special session on sex work and he compared prostitution to accountancy, saying:

“The fact that we are asking “should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?” is part of the problem. You wouldn’t ask the question, should we prevent people becoming accountants?”

More bizarrely, perhaps, is Parsons next observation:

“We have had a chap suggest that one of the areas we need to be concerned about was families coercing people to go into the sex trade. Well, again, you wouldn’t protest at families urging and coercing people into becoming accountants.”

Prostitution itself, that is the exchange of sexual services for money, is not illegal in the UK, though some activities relating to it, are. 

Whilst the debate around the legalisation of prostitution and accompanying activities like running a brothel is ongoing, Parsons’ comments are less about liberal thinking, and more about economic gain. Delegates at the session were told that decriminalising prostitution would raise £1 billion a year for the Treasury in taxes. That’s a lot of money, at a time when it looks like the EU are set to punish the UK for severing ties, through the ending of trade agreements and free cross border movement.

Wherever you stand on prostitution, it is no secret that many of the men, women and children who work in this industry do so as a last resort, often under duress and are treated badly, both by clients and pimps. To then promote prostitution not just as an alternative to accounting, which does not suffer with the same levels of crime and violence, but as a way to boost our economy is ridiculous and yet another way of exploiting sex workers.

Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron has refused to address Parson’s comments, saying that he believes in free speech and the importance of being able to air views and then talk them out. Researching Reform does too, however Farron’s stance completely ignores the reality of Parsons’ agenda.

Many thanks to Dana for alerting us to this news item.



Question It!

Welcome to another week.

The Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service have released a joint statement outlining their intention to go ahead with what they’re calling “an ambitious programme of reform” to modernise the justice system. And that includes the Family Courts.

Setting aside the standard rhetoric inside the accompanying vision statement, the aim is to make the system just, proportional and accessible. The section focusing on the Family Courts can be found at page 13, and explains that the main focus for these courts should be to make the law simple and straightforward, whilst placing the welfare of the child first.

It’s no coincidence that the family justice system has decided to review the way it functions just as it finds itself on its knees, struggling to cope with an ever-growing number of cases and an ever shrinking budget to handle them. Whole scale reform was something we predicted would happen eight years ago, and it offers an amazing opportunity to finally develop the system in a way which is both humane and effective.

Our question then, is just this: whether you are a parent, child or family professional, what reforms would you like to see, and why?




Researching Reform Becomes A Member Of The End Violence Against Children Global Partnership

Researching Reform is thrilled to announce that our application to become a Member of the End Violence Against Children Global Partnership (EVAC) has been accepted.

EVAC’s Partnership project involves governments, UN agencies, civil society,
private sector organisations, academics and the Voice Of The Child in order to accomplish sustainable development goals which touch upon child welfare issues.

The Partnership’s aims include:

  • Ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children
  • Ending violence against women and girls
  • Ending the economic exploitation of children
  • Keeping children safe in schools and communities and;
  • Promoting peace and non-violence




EVAC also produces excellent research on child welfare matters around the world, as well as informative videos for their End Violence campaign, which feature world leaders, celebrities, children’s rights activists and children as well.


If you’d like to follow the End Violence Campaign on social media, you can do so by connecting to their Twitter account or Facebook page.

Researching Reform feels incredibly honoured to be a part of this Global Partnership and we will continue to work hard to protect children’s rights and the welfare of children both here in the UK and around the world.