Unreported by the national media: How some bosses can help if you are one of 2 million people enduring domestic abuse

Elizabeth Filkin

Elizabeth Filkin: chair of the steering group of the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

This week the BBC hosted an extraordinary conference on how business and public employers can act to help employees if they are suffering the living hell of domestic abuse.

The conference attracted big names. Lord Hall, director general of BBC; Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police Commissioner; Amber Rudd, the home secretary (by video); Ben Page, chief executive of ipsos MORI;Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, Chief of Defence People;Victoria Atkins,Home Office minister for crime and directors from accountancy giant, Grant Thornton, and Vodafone, the mobile phone provider.

It also was addressed by a remarkably brave woman,Serena, who told her story of both child sexual abuse and an adult abusive relationship, which led her unsympathetic employer to sack her and the actor and series producer of TV drama Holby City, whose story line included an abusive gay relationship which ended up with one partner being beaten up.

The event was organised by an organisation you have probably never heard of – the Employers’ Initiative  on Domestic Abuse – run by Elizabeth Filkin, a no nonsense figure who as Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards once took on Peter Mandelson and Keith Vaz over allegations of bad behaviour..

People might think what has business got to do with people’s personal lives – but what was noticeable was the firms that are backing the initiative had got involved after a traumatic event involving their staff.

Cressida Dick told the extraordinary story of how a very competent senior police officer in the Met rang her own switchboard to report that she was  a victim of domestic abuse. The police commissioner read out her testimony and described how she , though finding it an extremely difficult thing to do, is now coping with it

Another  big accountancy firm became involved after an employee jumped off London Bridge and committed suicide because they couldn’t cope with domestic abuse.

And a person attending from a hotel group told me they got involved after a young man attending a function was sexually abused when sleeping off the effects of too much alcohol on their premises. He went to the police, they decided they should join an organisation that dealt with abuse.

The BBC’s involvement comes some 18 months after the shock of the Jimmy Savile scandal – and ironically the conference was held in the same room where Tony Hall pledged to take action in the wake of Dame Janet Smith’s devastating findings on the issue.

Ad the Ministry of Defence actually tackles predators as well both those serving in the forces and those in the families of serving officers.

But they are the good ones. Ben Page told the conference that HR departments ” talked the good talk ” but often didn’t take any action or did not know how to to take action. Only one in twenty medium and large companies have a policy to deal with domestic abuse.

He described the present situation as akin to the position on mental health – which had been ignored by firms but was now accepted as an issue. He was an optimist saying ” In 10 years time all the misogynists will be dead ” – a point challenged by Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley, who takes up domestic abuse issues, and is regularly trolled by people on the net.

Probably his most interesting admission was as chief executive of an organisation employing 1400 he did not know or had never come across a case of domestic abuse among his staff. He admitted that could not be the case.

His report makes a number of recommendations which could be included in the government’s new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill- including removing the minimum qualifying period for domestic abuse victims to get flexible working and introducing  ten days paid leave a year for domestic abuse victims. The latter, he admitted, would lead to protests from the Tory right. I can just imagine MPs like the nappy change refusnik Jacob Rees Mogg having apoplexy.

The government is obviously keen on employers sharing responsibility. But below the surface there are huge issues of resources, the fate of women refuges, austerity, pressure on local authorities and the police and social services to handle this huge problem.

I shall return to some  of these issues in future blogs. But one point needs to be made. This conference was covered by none of the national media – not even the BBC who hosted it. Only The Telegraph and ITN did show some interest. And that is despite energetic efforts made by conference  organisers.

There is an interesting parallel. In the media industry – only the BBC and ITN – have  signed up  to the group which now numbers over 150 companies who are trying to help victims of domestic abuse.

So the entire national  and regional press and the major social media sites believe there is no problem with domestic abuse among their thousands of employees. A likely story. No wonder they didn’t cover it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Justice yet for Daniel Morgan

Scotland Yard: Dragging its feet Pic Credit: Wikipedia

Scotland Yard: Dragging its feet
Pic Credit: Wikipedia

This Christmas the long-suffering campaigner Alastair Morgan should  be seeing the proposed report into the alleged corrupt links between the Met Police, journalists on the News of the World and the undercover world of private investigators following the brutal murder of his brother, Daniel, some 27 years ago.

Theresa May, the home secretary, when she set up the inquiry in May 2013 promised it would aim to report by this Christmas.

But instead – partly thanks to enormous foot-dragging by the Met Police – the inquiry has barely begun.

As I reported last week on the Exaro website – it is only in the last few weeks – that the Met Police – has finally handed 50 crates of documents connected to this case. And we still do not know whether this  is everything or whether the documents are in good order.

It seems quite clear that the Met Police – which could face itself having to answer some very difficult questions when this report is published – has done everything to frustrate this inquiry going about its business.

This has wider significance since the inquiry is one of the innovative independent panels set up after the successful inquiry headed by Bishop James Jones, the former Bishop of Liverpool, into the Hillsborough scandal.

This foot-dragging  by the Met raises questions about the powers such inquiries have – since it has no power to compel the Met Police to hand over anything and it looks like Cressida Dick, assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, took every opportunity to delay handing everything over.

It also  re-opens the issue whether the new overarching child sex abuse inquiry – which I return to in another blog later – will be able to do its job when demanding information from public bodies.

The murder of Morgan, co-founder of a private-detective agency, Southern Investigations, who was found with an axe in his head in 1987 in the car park of a pub in south London, was a scandal in itself. Despite five police investigations into the case, nobody has been convicted for the murder.

No wonder Alastair Morgan told Exaro: “It appears that the Met has been allowed to use every opportunity to obstruct and delay the process at every turn. I am sickened by such behaviour from a service funded by the public. It can only be described as disgraceful.

“I have little doubt that the Met will continue to try to obstruct and delay the work of the panel, without taking any account of the decades of pain and frustration that my family has suffered as a result of their failure to confront the corruption and criminality that seems endemic within their ranks.”

The Met themselves say it took so long because they had negotiate such  a detailed protocol to hand over the information. But I am not impressed.The whole idea of an independent panel is that it has its first duty is to families of people who have suffered gross injustices that the existing system has failed to bring to a proper resolution.

Plainly in the Daniel Morgan case this has not happened.

I can only hope that Nuala O’Loan, the replacement chair of the Daniel Morgan inquiry, who I am told is a formidable figure with a  tough reputation as the first Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, gets a proper grip on this now the Met have handed over the files. She needs to get on with the job pronto.

Otherwise it will be a gross insult on top of a gross injury to Alastair Morgan and his family who have suffered far too much already.

Failure will also bring the whole system of independent panels into disrepute – so let’s see some action now.