It was unfortunate that the long awaited final report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse coincided with the resignation of Liz Truss, the shortest serving PM in British history. The Westminster psychodrama has drained political discussion of any policy initiatives from the government while the main protagonists in the Tory Party fight each other to the death for the top job.
If Theresa May , who commissioned the inquiry, was still PM I suspect that action would have been taken promptly. As it is there will be no response from the government for six months and I doubt whether we will see any new laws for years. Particularly if Boris Johnson becomes PM again as he made it vividly clear that investigating child sex abuse was a waste of money. You only have to look at how long it is taking to reform the antiquated Mental Health Act to see a parallel.
Having reported on it and even helped to initiate the inquiry as a journalist, I have followed it with a lot of interest , both when I was on Exaro News and on this blog. I have mixed feelings about the £186m inquiry .
On the plus side the scale of the inquiry – some 15 investigations in every institutional area of the UK from the Roman Catholic Church and Church of England to local authority care and the reach of the global internet – should put to bed any misconceptions that child sex abuse is not a major epidemic in this country. And it proves that in many instances that those in charge of those institutions are more than willing to turn a blind eye and pretend it doesn’t exist either for reputational reasons or because they actively connived in the sexual exploitation of children.
Also it did provide a much needed voice for thousands of survivors who might never get real justice but at least now felt people had listened to their appalling life changing experiences.
On the other hand I felt -because it was closely tied to the legal profession- they felt they had to be ultra cautious and only take on proven cases by perpetrators – whether Bishop Ball or dead people like Sir Cyril Smith – because the fury from families of the living, I am thinking of Greville Janner, wanted no discussion of anything to suggest that he might have been involved.
The inquiry also took place during the conviction of paedophile Carl Beech whose detailed revelations turned out to be made up and the Metropolitan Police spent millions investigating them. I suspect that made them more cautious and the media ultra cautious in reporting fresh allegations.
The downside of this is that has protected more paedophiles from media scrutiny and made authorities less likely to believe victims. One only has to see the total silence in the media of the allegations revealed in Simon Danczuk and Dan Smith’s book, Scandal at Dolphin Square, of a well researched story of David Ingle, a victim of abuse by a Lincolnshire farmer there.
Now the proof will be in the legacy of this inquiry. It has proposed the mandatory reporting of sexual abuse – making it a criminal offence not to do so. But there is an argument whether this goes far enough.
Richard Scorer, the head of abuse law at Slater and Gordon, which represented more than 120 victims at the inquiry, said there should also be a criminal penalty for failure to report abuse that is reasonably suspected, otherwise organisations will continue to turn a blind eye.
He is reported in a good analysis by Rajeev Syal in the Guardian as saying:” Children rarely disclose abuse, perpetrators almost never do,” he said. “Mandatory reporting can only work if the requirement to report suspicions has consequences, such as a criminal sanction. The inquiry’s proposal falls short of what survivors seek.”
More must be done to support whistleblowers of sexual abuse
More can also be done to support whistleblowers in this situation.
Jayne Senior, Director of Safeguarding at WhistleblowersUK, said;
“After a week of political turmoil, it would be easy to overlook the damning reports exposing the failure by every possible authority to protect Children and the most vulnerable in our society and the Whistleblowers who have selflessly spoken up only to become targets and subsequently victims themselves.”
The report also proposes a national compensation scheme for survivors of sexual abuse and “the creation of a Child Protection Authority (CPA) in England and in Wales. The CPAs will have powers to inspect any institution associated with children. They will not replace current inspectorates in relation to the statutory authorities, but may require inspection of those authorities by existing inspectorates. The CPAs over time will become centres of expertise, and may extend their child protection functions to other forms of harm experienced by children.”
There are also 17 other recommendations. They vary from tougher controls of the internet to extending the debarring and disclosure scheme for staff to those working overseas with children to the end of pain compliance techniques for children held in custody.
The problem is that again unfortunately these measures come at a new time of austerity and fresh spending cuts so I can’t see a government committed to lifting the burdens of regulations wanting to implement them soon.
The problem is immense and the report estimates that child sexual abuse costs the country £10 billion and of the 13 million children in the UK “Babies, toddlers and children are potentially at risk, with current
estimates indicating that 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 20 boys experience child sexual abuse before the age of 16.”
But it is going to take a lot of action and public pressure to make the government act and also create a gamechanger situation for the millions of children suffering sexual abuse which is a global problem.
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