On 20th October 2022 IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) published its final report which ran to over 400 pages, and included within its copious volumes 20 recommendations which have been posted online as a handy pdf file entitled “rapid reads” For those who wish to see more detail of the actual text there is an Executive Summary or the Full Report.
These views are those of the author Peter Garsden personally.
Recommendation 1 – Child Sexual Abuse Data – single core data set
The UK government and the Welsh Government should improve data collected by children’s social care and criminal justice agencies about child sexual abuse and exploitation. There should be one single set of data covering both England and Wales. Data should be consistent and should include the characteristics of victims and alleged abusers, such as age, sex and ethnicity. It should include factors that make victims more vulnerable to child sexual abuse or exploitation. It should say where the
child sexual abuse and exploitation happened and the context in which it happened. Data should be compiled and published regularly and should be capable of being organised at national, regional and local levels.
IICSA recommends that all relevant statistcs relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation should be collected together by all the disparate agencies in one place. This responds to frustration experienced by the Inquiry that statistics relating to the sexual abuse of children were not only hard to come by but also variable in quality depending upon the local authority in question. Uniformity and the ability to predict trends is a good thing for the future, but whether there is a will and a way of achieving this is perhaps optimistic though supremely laudable.
Recommendation 2 – Child Protection Agency for England and Wales
The UK government should create a Child Protection Authority for England. The Welsh Government should create a Child Protection Authority for Wales. Each Authority’s purpose should be to:-
● improve practice in child protection
● advise and make recommendations to government to improve child protection
● inspect institutions and settings as it thinks appropriate.
The Authorities should also monitor the implementation of the Inquiry’s recommendations
Curiously children usually fall between various agencies with the result that they can be forgotten. Interestingly this is a throw back to the old Children’s Departments of the 1950’s and 60’s when they were replaced in 1972 with “Social Services”, a generic organisation, who clearly have failed Children. The new department would monitor the quality of protection to children by the various agencies and implement the IICSA recommendations
Recommendation 3 -a Children’s Minister at Cabinet Level
The UK government should create a cabinet-level ministerial position for children. The Welsh Government should ensure that there is cabinet-level ministerial responsibility for children.
When I first read this I was confused because there is already a Minister for Children but the key word is at Cabinet Level. There is a Minister for Safeguarding, and a Minister for Children and Families but their status is that of a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, ie the lowest junior ministerial level.
Recommendation 4 -Public Awareness
The UK government and the Welsh Government should commission regular campaigns to increase public awareness of child sexual abuse. These should say what to do if child sexual abuse is happening or suspected. The campaigns should challenge myths and stereotypes about child sexual abuse.
They should use different approaches, such as public information campaigns and creative media such as television drama
This speaks for itself, and cannot be broadcast loudly enough and encourages both the English and Welsh governments to promote public awareness campaigns of abuse so as to raise public awareness, and dispel myths. One such myth I have come across is that “a victim of abuse turns into an abuser in adulthood”. Tragically this myth has discouraged victims/survivors from being close to their own children.
Recommendation 5 – Pain Compliance
The UK government should ban the use of any technique that deliberately induces pain. These are sometimes referred to as ‘pain compliance techniques’. The UK government should withdraw any policies that allow pain compliance techniques to be used in custodial institutions where children are detained, and should prohibit the practice. (A similar recommendation was made in the Inquiry’s February 2019 Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions: 2009–2017 Investigation Report.)
It is somewhat alarming to read that in Young Offenders Institutions there remain in existence policies which permit the use of pain inflicting manoeuvres designed to prevent bad behaviour and unruly children. There are three – Thumb bending, Wrist Bending, and Pressure Point squeezing to the neck. The inquiry recommends that they be banned.
Recommendation 6 – Children Act 1989
The UK government should amend the Children Act 1989 so that looked after children or someone acting for them can apply to the family courts for orders to mandate or limit a local authority’s exercise of its parental responsibility. If a child in the care of the local authority is or is believed to be being significantly harmed, or is at risk of significant harm, it would allow the court to stop a local authority taking or planning particular action or allow the court to give directions in relation to the local
authority’s exercise of parental responsibility for that child.
Surprisingly, once a Care Order, which gives parental responsibility to the Local Authority, is made by the Court, thereafter the Local Authority has complete carte blanche as to what happens to the child. Whilst there are legal remedies, the threshold is very high for success. The Act should be amended to give children the right to apply for a review of their Care Order to the Court where he/she is dissatisfied with the way arrangements have been made, and, in an extreme case, abuse is taking place. As practitioners there is a legion of cases called “Failure to Care” where adults bring cases against Local Authorities after the event where abuse has taken place in care and insufficient vigilance by the Local Authority has been exercised.
Recommendation 7 – Registration of Care Staff in Children’s Homes
The UK government should introduce a system for registering staff working in care roles in children’s homes including secure children’s homes. (A similar recommendation was made in the Inquiry’s April 2018 Interim Report.) Registration should be with an independent body. This body should set and maintain standards of training, conduct and continuing professional development. It should also have the power to enforce these through fitness to practise procedures.
It is also surprising that some individuals working with children are not regulated at all, namely Care Staff. Whilst certain institutions which look after children such as schools, nurseries, healthcare settings, children’s homes and some other social care services, the police and young offender institutions are regulated with their own body, care staff have slipped through the net, so the recommendation is for Care Staff to have their own professional body with a set of prescribed standards to abide by.
Recommendation 8 – Registration of Staff in care roles in young
offender institutions and secure training centres
The UK government should introduce a system for registering staff in roles responsible for the care of children in young offender institutions and secure training centres. (A similar recommendation was made in the Inquiry’s February 2019 Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions: 2009–2017 Investigation Report.)
I seem to be using the word surprising with alarming regularity but again, I find it hard to believe that staff looking after children in Young Offender Institutions are not required to have specialist training in child care, and are often recruited from Prison Staff who may lack the commitment to working with children, particularly those with the likely background expected in such institutions. The Inquiry were alarmed at the high incidence of serious abuse, and it is no wonder.
Recommendation 9 – Greater Use of the Barred List
The UK government should enable anyone who hires people to work or volunteer with children on a frequent basis to check if they have been barred by the Disclosure and Barring Service from working with children. This should also apply where the role is supervised.
It appears that some activities do not make it compulsory for potential employers to undertake searches of the disclosure and barring service due to the overly complex definition of what is a “regulated activity”, nor is the availability of regular follow up checks publicised widely enough.
Recommendation 10 – Improving compliance with the statutory duty to notify the Disclosure and Barring Service
The UK government should take steps to improve compliance with the duty to notify the Disclosure and Barring Service. The National Police Chiefs’ Council should work with regulators and inspectorates to make sure that the arrangements are clear for referring breaches of the duty to the police. The Disclosure and Barring Service and the regulators and inspectorates should put in place an information-sharing protocol.
Again it is remarkable that there is not more legal obligation upon those who employ children to refer offenders or suspected offenders to the DBS when incidents occur or there is an incident that leads to resignation or dismissal. There are protocols established with some employers such as the British Medical Association but more needs to be done in this area.
Recommendation 11 – Extending disclosure regime to those working with children overseas
The UK government should enable the Disclosure and Barring Service to provide enhanced certificates with barred list checks of those not allowed to undertake certain work with children, including on a voluntary basis. These certificates would be for people from or living in England and Wales applying to work with children based outside the UK in particular circumstances.
I think the recommendation speaks for itself. There is an unintended loop hole in the system whereby paedophiles convicted in the UK can seek employment with children overseas without having to disclose their conviction or complaint and due to limitations, overseas employers cannot check the UK Disclosure and Barring Service from overseas. Criminal offences have been extended to cover offences committed overseas by British Citizens to enable them to be prosecuted in this country, so the DBS should mirror such legal provisions.
Recommendation 12: Pre-screening
The UK government should require regulated providers of internet search services and user-to-user services to pre-screen for known child sexual abuse before material is uploaded.
There is an ongoing dialogue/battle between Social Media Platforms and those acting on behalf of victims. Arguably this is the most prevalent, and widespread form of abuse now. The Internet Watch Foundation work consistently with Social Media Platforms who are taking steps to stop abuse online, but not enough if one is to believe the headlines.
Recommendations 13: Mandatory Reporting
The UK government and Welsh Government should introduce laws requiring certain people to report child sexual abuse. These people are called ‘mandated reporters’. These laws would apply where a child or an abuser tells a mandated reporter that a child is being sexually abused, as well as if a mandated reporter witnesses a child being sexually abused or can see signs that indicate that a child has been
The Inquiry’s final Report sets out further detail about this recommendation including that it should be a crime to fail to make a mandatory report in certain circumstances. People who work in regulated activity in relation to children (under the Safeguarding and Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, as amended) and people in positions of trust and also police officers should be mandated reporters. Mandated reporters should make these reports as soon as possible to local authority children’s social care or the police
I have been campaigning for Mandatory Reporting now for many years, in fact I am responsible for coining the phrase right at the beginning of the campaign. For more information look at my Campaign Page. Despite a consultation on this subject, the Government responded by refusing to change the law.
Recommendation 14: Compliance with the Victims’ Code
The UK government should arrange for a joint inspection of compliance with the Victims’ Code in relation to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. The Victims’ Code sets out the minimum level of service to be provided by the criminal justice system. (A similar recommendation was made in the Inquiry’s April 2018 Interim Report.)
This recommendation is familiar in that we frequently come across Police Investigators not informing a Victim of their right to bring a civil claim following a prosecution of their abuser. The police are familiar with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme but not Civil Justice, something which was admitted under questioning in the Accountability and Reparations Module which I attended both as a witness and client representative. Special Measures also come in for criticism in that, unlike child witnesses, adults only qualify if the are “suffering from a mental disorder”. Generally all complainants of abuse should be entitled to Special Measures. I have to say that in my experience they are offered.
Recommendation 15: Limitation
The UK government should change the law to remove the time limit for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to make a legal claim for compensation. These provisions should apply whether or not the current three-year period has already started to run or has expired, except where claims have been dismissed by a court or settled by agreement. The right to a fair trial should be expressly protected.
These changes should not apply to claims brought on behalf of the estates of victims and survivors.
Time Delay is the Civil Lawyer’s biggest bugbear in that it is used tactically by Defendants to destroy many valid claims for abuse. Thankfully, the unfairness and double jeopardy of Limitation or Time Delay was recognised by the Inquiry and disapproved of. My own client was the best example of this. After 14 years of litigation all he got out of it was a £10 bus fare for going to Court as his case was defeated on Limitation grounds. Again, I have been campaigning for the recommended change in the law for many years. See my Campaign Page for more details
Recommendation 16: Specialist therapeutic support for child victims of sexual abuse
The UK government and the Welsh Government should guarantee that all child victims of sexual abuse will be offered specialist and accredited therapeutic support. Children in all parts of England and Wales should be able to access support when they need it if they have been a victim of child sexual abuse.
For many years arguments have been made by those defending sex offenders that if a complainant of abuse against them goes for therapy that the process has tainted the genuineness and purity of their evidence such that it has become unreliable. The argument gained some traction in the early days of abuse prosecutions. The same argument is sometimes made in civil cases. The point is that the victim of abuse must not only be free to have counselling as soon as possible, but Defendants in civil cases should offer it notwithstanding any arguments over liability. Similarly the Crown Prosecution Services should not feel inhibited by any potential on purity of evidence. There is also a wide variation regionally in the availability of the correct form of therapy to victims of all ages.
Recommendation 17: Access to records The UK government should direct the Information
Commissioner’s Office to introduce a code of practice on keeping and accessing records which relate to child sexual abuse. The code should require records about child sexual abuse and allegations of child sexual abuse to be kept for 75 years, with appropriate review periods.
Access to Care Records has been a long campaign for me ever since I took the leading authority on the subject to the Court of Appeal which established that in civil litigation the Defendants cannot hide behind Data Protection to produce heavily redacted Care Records to Claimant Solicitors. I then teamed up with the Care Leaver’s Association in order to try to produce better access outside of Litigation as well. To read more about my Campaign read my page on the subject. I have also designed and edit the Access to Care Records Campaign Group website
Recommendation 18: Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme
The UK government should make further changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
- It should include other forms of child sexual abuse, including online-facilitated sexual abuse.
- Victims and survivors with unspent convictions should not be automatically excluded where the crimes are likely to be linked to the sexual abuse they experienced as a child.
- The time limit to apply for compensation should be increased to seven years. This period should run from the date the offence was reported to the police or from the date that the person applying reached the age of 18, where the offence was reported while the victim was a child. In both situations, the discretion to extend the time limit should remain.
I started complaining about the prejudicial and iniquitous rules of the Scheme as long ago as 1997 when the rules were far more generous in the areas highlighted, namely convictions and time delay, than they are now. A good example of the unfairness of the conviction rule is quoted in the report where a child who was homeless stole a chocolate bar for food, was convicted, then many years later disqualified by the scheme from claiming compensation. To make an un-extendable time limit for a victim of abuse is like punishing him/her twice particularly where the reason for the delay is the psychological inhibitions that are typical, and caused by the very abuse complained of.
Recommendation 19: Redress scheme
The UK government should set up a single redress scheme for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
The detailed rules and funding for this redress scheme should reflect the following key points.
- The scheme should be for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation that occurred in England and Wales, including sexual abuse by other children.
- There should be a clear connection between the child sexual abuse and institutions in England and Wales, whether State or non-State.
- The scheme should apply to child sexual abuse that took place before its establishment and should be open for a period of five years.
- The scheme should not allow an applicant to receive money twice for the same matter.
- The scheme should make payments through a two-tier system. The first should be a fixed flat-rate recognition payment. Victims and survivors who wish to provide more details and evidence could apply for a second-tier payment.
- The process must be accessible, straightforward and sensitive to the needs and vulnerabilities of victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
- Central and local governments should fund the scheme. England and Wales may carry out and pay for the schemes differently. Non-State institutions should also be asked to contribute.
The implementation of an alternative scheme of Redress that enlarges the number of eligible applicants is to be welcomed. Statistically, lawyers attrition rate is between 60% and 70%. There are thus many survivors/victims of abuse who are wrongfully turned away because there is no room in the Redress System for them. Usually the issue is Time Delay/Limitation. The detail in the report clearly recommends that any survivor/victim who has failed in his claim due to Limitation, should be able to apply to the scheme. This is obviously welcome. This item on its own commands a separate article = so watch this space
Recommendation 20: Age verification
The UK government should change the law to make sure that internet companies that provide online internet services and social media introduce better ways to check children’s ages. (A similar recommendation was made in the Inquiry’s March 2020 The Internet Investigation Report.)
This recommendation will be welcomed by the likes of the Internet Watch Foundation, who complain that although the legal age limit for joining Social Media Platforms is 13, many children under that age manage to join them due to the inadequate entry rules which simply consist of a declaration. There is evidence of sex offenders persuading young children to perform lewd acts online for their gratification. It is the new danger, which has been created by the now strict rules in institutions. Abuse is like a bar of soap. If you squeeze it out of one area it appears in another location.