The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (“IICSA”) published its final report with 20 Recommendations on 22nd October 2022. I commented on the report and the recommendations in a previous post here. The Inquiry opened in 2015. The report was the culmination of 725 witnesses during 325 days of public hearings, hearing from over 6,000 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, and the contents of 52 separate reports. The report was therefore well researched and evidenced, and was not a hurried summary on the back of a cigarette packet.
The Response of the Home Office to the Report
IICSA was firm in its insistence that the Government respond within 6 months. In April this year, the government explained that due to the Local Elections it would not be able to respond until May. The Response was finally published on 22nd May 2023. To read the full response click here
The report adopts 18 out of the 20 recommendations, but some of the responses are firmer than others. Whereas a firm commitment to bring in changes is made in relation to some recommendations, consultations with a commitment are made in relation to others. I have copied and pasted the table appearing in the report below
Twitter Response of IICSA
We are deeply disappointed that the government has not accepted the full package of recommendations made in the final report. In some instances, the government has stated that a number of them will be subject to consultations, despite the extensive research and evidence-taking which the Inquiry carried out over seven years. The package announced by the government today will not provide the protection from sexual abuse that our children deserve. We ask the government to reconsider and accept and enact all our recommendations in full.Twitter
What do I think?
I agree that sending a recommendation out for consultation simply delays the implementation of firm recommendations by IICSA. The government should simply commit to law changes set out in the report, which have clearly been considered by IICSA from the available evidence, given clearly on oath from witnesses. Otherwise the Inquiry becomes redundant. The cynical would say that they do not want to throw out a recommendation, but are thus hoping that others might refuse to make the suggested changes if they put it out to consultation with the correct nuances.
It is ironical that the Government have previously consulted on this law change, then decided not to change the law to bring it in. A 180 degree change of attitude is welcome, but, as always, the devil is in the detail. The IICSA recommendation does not go far enough in the view of the survivors. I have lost count of the number of examples from previous cases where a house parent has received complaints of abuse by another house parent, but done nothing to take the complaint further.
The point is that the offence of failing to report by someone in a position of care of children should be on the basis of “reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed”, rather than “observed recognised indicators of child sexual abuse”. Obviously, “actual witnessing” and “receiving a report that abuse of a child has been committed”, as recommended should found the basis of an offence.
Limitation (“Time Delay Bar”)
IICSA was firm that the time delay rule in abuse cases is iniquitous and the cause of a lot of psychological harm done to survivors/victims when they are told that a case cannot be pursued due to time delay rules. Again they are quite clear that it should be abolished as it is in Scotland.
The Home Office response is weak and watery, and does not commit to law change as it should if it is following the IICSA recommendations. They say:-
The Government will publish a consultation paper later this year exploring options on how the existing judicial guidance in child sexual abuse cases could be strengthened as well as setting out options for the reform of limitation law in child sexual abuse cases.Para. 105
The report also says that the rule can be extended, and is not unarguable, which is true but the odds are stacked against any Claimant in such cases. This is not an acceptable response to the recommendation. The judiciary are independent, and will not be swayed at all by government edicts, or “guidance”.
I was not expecting such a firm commitment to a Redress Scheme as appears in the Home Office response. To be fair the response does suggest an all parties consultation on the subject, but that is exactly what IICSA recommended. I thought that the cost of such a scheme would be prohibitive and not something a Conservative Government would be prepared to commit to.
We accept the need to introduce a redress scheme to acknowledge the institutional failures that led to the suffering of victims and survivors. The detail of the scheme, including eligibility, types of redress available, the extent of any financial component, and application process, will be considered following extensive engagement, including with victims and survivors, third sector organisations, local authorities, insurers and lawyers