In The News

The latest child welfare news from around the world:

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Question it!

Welcome to another week.

With the recent news that Justice Lowell Goddard has handed in her resignation as Chair for the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, speculation has been mounting as to who will replace her.

Contenders have now begun to emerge. 

Professor Alexis Jay, a current panel member and former social worker who led the independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, and who also chairs the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland, is the front runner to take up the role. Widely respected by victims and survivors of abuse, and without any establishment links, she is considered to be a strong choice. However, some are calling for Jay to act only as an interim Chair until a permanent replacement can be found, though the Inquiries Act does not make any provision for a temporary Chair.

Sue Berelowitz, the former deputy children’s commissioner, has also publicly announced that she would take on the role if asked by Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. Berelowitz is a controversial choice. Outspoken and reactionary (she made waves with her stark warning about media reporting and greater transparency in the family courts being responsible for child suicides), Sue has a great deal of experience working with issues relating to child sexual abuse having assisted on inquiries of this nature before, and brings a child-focused approach to the table. But will her views on transparency help or hinder the Inquiry should she be appointed as Chair?

Michael Mansfield QC, also favoured by survivors, victims, and lawyers, is a possible choice for Chair, unafraid to challenge the establishment and has said in the past that he would take on the job if asked, though he has little direct experience with child abuse cases.

Lead counsel for the Inquiry Ben Emmerson QC may also be in the running; his knowledge in the field of human rights and his engagement with the Inquiry, making him familiar with survivors and other key players make him a practical choice, but a risky one. He has been implicated in panel tensions and very public rows over the Inquiry’s process, which have slowed things down and grated away at public trust in the Inquiry.

Berelowitz, Mansfield and Emmerson were previously shortlisted for the role before Goddard was nominated, so it’s likely that they will be re-considered. However there are others who could also be put forward for the position. Although never made public, a list of 150 candidates was produced before Justice Goddard was chosen, meaning that there are potentially a large number of people who could be offered the job.

Our question this week then, is just this: who do you think should Chair the nation’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse?

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Freeing Women From Polygamy In 1968

Whether sent by mistake to their online subscribers or as a reminder that The Law Commission holds some fascinating pieces of history in its archives, a pioneering consultation from 1968 on Polygamy which landed in our inbox, is our post of the day.

From the different types of polygamy encountered (there were four), to the leading case at the time called Hyde v Hyde, the consultation takes you through a ground breaking moment in human rights and family law. It was also ahead of its time – it attempts to protect Muslim women living in England,  married into polygamous marriages under Islamic Law, with cultural sensitivity and grace.

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The consultation looks at the limits of the leading case in the context of women’s and children’s rights, circumstances in which polygamy could be recognised and highlights the tricky entanglements that came into play when parties tried to divorce.

Like most moments that change the course of history, this report is as sad as it is beautiful. It represents a struggle to come to terms with a growing awareness that women and children are human beings with the right to legal protection, and religious and moral principles that fit uncomfortably with a need to offer relief to those suffering under polygamous arrangements. All of these things make this document a must read.

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Abuse Inquiry Chair Resigns, Blaming A “Legacy Of Failure”

After the disappointing news that yet another Inquiry Chair is leaving the role, racking up the total to three failed Chairmanships, reasons for Lowell Goddard’s departure are now starting to emerge.

In a full statement released this morning, Lowell Goddard blames the Inquiry’s “legacy of failure’ which she said, had been “very hard to shake off”.

 

You can read the letter in full, below:

“I announce with regret my decision to resign as chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, effective from today.

When I was first approached through the British High Commissioner in Wellington in late 2014, and asked to consider taking up the role, I had to think long and hard about it.

After carefully discussing the matter with the home secretary and her officials and seeking the counsel of those people in New Zealand whose opinions mattered to me, I decided that I should undertake the role, given my relevant experience and track record in the area.

It was, however, an incredibly difficult step to take, as it meant relinquishing my career in New Zealand and leaving behind my beloved family.

The conduct of any public inquiry is not an easy task, let alone one of the magnitude of this. Compounding the many difficulties was its legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off and with hindsight it would have been better to have started completely afresh.

While it has been a struggle in many respects, I am confident there have been achievements and some very real gains for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in getting their voices heard.

I have nothing but the greatest of respect for the victims and survivors and have particularly enjoyed working with the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel which I established.”

As Goddard points out, and as we mention in our previous post, the Inquiry must refocus and put in place an altogether more open and functional strategy. We will be writing an article in due course on how they might do this.

IICSA July

 

 

Goddard RESIGNS as Child Abuse Inquiry Chair

In another hugely disappointing turn for the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, Chair Lowell Goddard has just handed in her resignation.

Giving no reason for the decision, she simply asks the Home Secretary to accept her decision to resign with immediate effect.

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Some are speculating that the move is a reaction to the recent criticism over Justice Goddard’s decision to take a three month holiday since first being appointed as Inquiry Chair. Others have suggested that the press interest in her confusion over British law, reluctance to fully incorporate survivors within the Inquiry and questionable rank within the New Zealand judiciary could be factors in her departure.

Whatever the reason, Researching Reform takes the view that the Inquiry urgently needs to rethink its core PR strategy and start to engage with the public at large, not as a means of gaining popularity, but as a crucial tool to gain the trust and respect of the nation and most importantly the survivors both taking part in the Inquiry, and watching on.

Whoever takes up the mantle must inspire confidence and not be afraid to let in the world as the Inquiry does its work.

Good luck, contestant number four.

Goddard L

Lowell Goddard

 

 

New Research: 1 in 14 Adults Sexually Abused As A child

The ONS’s Crime Survey For England and Wales has for the first time included in depth data relating to child sexual abuse.

The Survey, which was published last month, tells us:

  • 11% of women and 3% of men said they were sexually assaulted during their childhood
  • 567,000 females aged between 16 and 59, suffered sexual assault by rape or penetration, as minors
  • 102,000 males aged between 16 and 59, suffered sexual assault by rape or penetration, as minors
  • Women were significantly more likely to report they had been an abuse victim than men
  • Individuals blamed for psychological or physical abuse were most likely to be the person’s parents
  • Rape and penetration attack survivors said the most likely attacker was a friend or acquaintance (30%) or other family member (26%)
  • 3 out of 4 victims of  sexual assault said they did not report what happened at the time. The most common reason given was “embarrassment or humiliation, or thinking that they would not be believed.”
  • 42% of assaults were carried out by strangers

Politicians and child welfare charities are calling on the government to look into more ways to tackle ongoing child sexual abuse.

The “10-15 Year olds Survey” is also interesting, and very worth while, as it highlights the little known fact that 10-15 year olds are more likely to be a victim of violent crime than adults are. The survey is designed to look at crime, bullying, thoughts on the police, and steps taken to keep belongings safe and its findings will be used to prevent crimes against children.

CS ONS

 

New App Protects Children in Brazil During The Olympics

The Olympic Games are almost here, and as part of an initiative to prevent violence against children in Brazil, UNICEF has launched an app called Proteja Brasil (Protect Brazil).

The app allows you to report incidents of violence against children and adolescents by flashing up telephone numbers, addresses and the best routes to the nearest police stations, protection councils and other organizations that help combat violence against children. You can report the time, location and circumstances of the incidents online and anonymously.

Brazil app

Unfortunately it seems the app only works in major Brazilian cities which means that violence against children in rural areas is unlikely to be reported through Proteja Brasil.

Nevertheless, if you’re in Brazil or visiting during the Olympics, do think about downloading the app and keeping an eye out for children who are suffering.

For those of us not lucky enough to visit Brazil over the next few weeks, UNICEF has also launched a sports initiative which promises to pledge funds for children in need around the world by encouraging participants to work out. For every milestone reached during exercise, UNICEF’s partners will donate to the charity to support its work protecting vulnerable children.

Brazil 1

And if exercise isn’t your cup of tea, UNICEF have you covered – just complete their online quiz to earn points and help raise funds and awareness.

Researching Reform hopes everyone has a safe and exciting Olympics and we wish all the teams taking part lots of luck.

For anyone who would like to support the campaign from their work stations or sofas, you can use the hashtag #TeamUNICEF and share their child protection app.

 

The Buzz

The latest in family law and child welfare:

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Child Abuse Inquiry: Paedophiles Could Question Victims

Welcome to another week.

The Goddard Inquiry recently announced that convicted paedophile Bishop Peter Ball has been granted Core Participant Status within the Inquiry, which would allow him to apply to ask questions of the victims involved at future public hearings.

Ball is also going to get tax payer funded representation for the Inquiry hearings he will be called to attend. Under the Inquiries Act 2005, the Inquiry panel has the power to award the cost of legal support to a variety of witnesses, including survivors of abuse.

Survivors are understandably worried that convicted sex offenders are not only being granted Core Participant Status at the inquiry, but also being given legal representation for the public hearings the Inquiry will be holding. Lawyers are concerned that this might set a dangerous precedent which could see an influx of convicted paedophiles claiming priority status and representation in order to try to defend their reputations, despite having already been found guilty in a court of law.

This latest development has caused a bit of confusion.

Some are questioning why the Inquiry is seeking to determine information about an individual’s conduct when the remit of the Inquiry has long been understood to be a process which focuses solely on institutional failings. But the Inquiry’s Executive Summary tells us something different. Paragraph 13, which relates to the Public Hearings Project says:

13. A hearing may relate to a particular individual who appears to have been enabled to sexually abuse children in institutional settings. Or it may relate to an institution that appears to have demonstrated repeated failings over a number of years.

The paragraph goes on to explain that evidence is likely to be taken from both representatives of institutions under investigation and victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

Bishop Ball may well be being called to the Inquiry so that the panel can try to understand better how he was able to commit sexual offences against children within a Church setting, enabling them to gain insight into how the Church failed in its safeguarding duties.

If the Inquiry is seeking to extract factual information about Ball’s offending which has already been highlighted by the Criminal Court, in order to determine his guilt or innocence independently of the court that convicted him, then the Inquiry’s activities could be called into question.

Whilst the issues above are important, the topic of our question this week relates to just one of the four  powers granted to all those who receive Core Participant Status: the power to apply to the Inquiry Panel to ask questions of witnesses. 

The Inquiry divides participants into two broad groups: Core Participants and Witnesses.

Core Participants can:

  • Be provided with electronic disclosure of evidence, subject to any restrictions
    made under section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005 and subject to a formal promise
    to keep the evidence confidential until it is used in any public hearing
  • Be able to make opening and closing statements at any hearing;
  • Be able to suggest lines of questioning to be pursued by Counsel to the Inquiry;
  • Be able to apply to the Inquiry Panel to ask questions of witnesses during a
    hearing.

Witnesses are not entitled to any of the above privileges, but both witnesses and Core Participants can be asked to provide evidence, and apply to the Inquiry for their legal costs to be covered.

Having allowed Bishop Ball to have Core Participant Status, he could now ask survivors and victims of abuse questions during a hearing (and also read any statements made by individuals who were abused by him as a child). This could be terribly traumatic for individuals who have experienced abuse, though it is not clear whether the Inquiry has set any policies in place in relation to this happening.

The Inquiry Panel has the final say as to whether or not questions can be asked, but as news of convicted paedophiles possibly coming forward to attend hearings as Core Participants spreads, survivors and victims of abuse have become anxious as to how this might work in practice, and, crucially, may deter them from coming forward if they fear being questioned by their abuser.

Our question this week then, is this: Should convicted paedophiles be allowed to apply for Core Participant status given the very traumatic experiences involved for victims and survivors, or should they just be called as witnesses? 

Peter Ball

 

NSPCC Offers Advice To Parents Concerned About Their Children Being Radicalised

The NSPCC has just opened a helpline for parents who are worried that their children may be being recruited by Daesh.

Callers have been given training to advise parents on signs to watch for, although the source of the training is unknown. The article does not explain what legal and other forms of advice the charity can offer should a child be preparing to leave for Syria.

The charity does offer this tentative list though, which they say could ‘hint’ at a child being radicalised:

  • Isolating themselves from family and friends
  • Talking as if from a scripted speech
  • Showing increased levels of anger
  • Becoming disrespectful and asking inappropriate questions.

The article outlining the NSPCC’s new initiative (linked to above), also offers case studies of children who left the UK to travel to Syria to join Daesh, and interestingly, sheds light on some of the reasons children chose to join the movement. Some believed it was a way to become a better Muslim, others wanted to be part of something special. Crucially, others felt that the West was responsible for Muslim suffering around the world, particularly in Gaza.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless explains that: “The fact that a young person might hold extreme or radical views is not a safeguarding issue in itself. But when young people are groomed for extremist purposes and encouraged to commit acts that could hurt themselves or others, then it becomes abuse.”

Several thought-provoking discussions stem from this development:

  • At what point does radicalisation become abuse and at what age, if any does the appropriation of an ideology become the sole responsibility of a minor?
  • Are there underlying parenting concerns we should be exploring to try to understand why some children are looking to belong to a movement or cause that promises to glorify them, in this context through violence?
  • And how do we effectively balance child rights and child protection in a conversation about preteen and teenage ideological experimentation which has the potential to lead to a child’s death?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Researching Reform does not use the terms Islamic State, Isis or ISIL – if you’d like to know more about the significance of these names, this helpful article from the BBC is worth a read.

If you are worried about a child, you can call the police, or NSPCC helpline added below.

NSPCC

 

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