In view of the upcoming public hearings of Child Abuse in the Anglican Church before the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the recently settled case of abuse victim, ‘ARJ’, a civil compensation claim in respect of abuse of a child by a vicar in a London Diocese is topical.
In 2013, the Australian government set up a formal inquiry into how institutions had responded to child abuse. Terms of reference were established and 6 Commissioners were appointed chaired by the Honourable Justice Peter McClellan. Their brief was to enquire into institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters.
Yet another example of institutional abuse is unfolding.
Surrey Police have launched a large scale investigation into allegations of sexual abuse spanning three decades at a children’s home in Woking, Surrey.
In an effort to identify victims and witnesses, police have spoken to hundreds and state that there are over 1,500 enquiries in relation to this investigation.
An ever-prevalent example of institutional abuse is that which occurs in children’s homes. Children in care are especially vulnerable, requiring the highest standards of professional practice and care. Sadly, such children can sometimes be taken advantage of by those in positions of authority over them. Emmott Snell have represented many individuals who’ve suffered institutional abuse at the hands of those in charge of their care, helping them get the redress they deserve.
Sadly, in recent years we have almost become accustomed to stories in the press about individuals using positions of authority to sexually abuse those that are vulnerable, such as children. There has been much media attention on the wrongdoings of members of the clergy such as former Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball. An independent report into the horrific crimes he committed against children, over a period of 20 years or more, was published in June 2017. It accused the Church of England of “collusion and cover up”.
Three men who subjected a victim that we represent to sexual offences have been jailed for a total of 32 years.
Our client, who was a vulnerable child in care when the abuse started, was groomed by the group of men and found herself the victim of childhood sexual abuse. She was given alcohol and drugs by the group of men and made to be drug dependent, which was then used to sexually exploit her.
Instances of abuse in sport have hit the headlines in recent years, most notably in football, where allegations of childhood sexual abuse have become rife. Over 300 clubs in the country have been directly affected by the scandal. It has been claimed by those involved that we could be facing a crisis on the scale of the Jimmy Savile scandal – described as a ‘tidal wave’ by Greg Clarke, chairman of the Football Association.
Some convictions have already been secured – this firm acts for one of the victims of Johnathan Bedford, for example, a former youth football coach and referee of a local youth football club in Lincoln, who got over 11 years in November last year.
Other prosecutions are well under way. The latest instance to hit the news is that of Bob Higgins, former youth coach and scout with Southampton in the 1980s (who went on to other clubs including Peterborough). Higgins has been charged with 65 counts of indecent assault against 23 boys.
The media has brought to light the prevalence of, and opportunity for, such abuse within football and is forcing clubs to address potential safeguarding shortcomings in terms of protecting the safety of their young players.
Sexual offences committed in the context of the military have reached public awareness before: we remember the death of four trainees at Deepcut barracks, and the case of military police trainee, Anne-Marie Ellement, who was found hanged in 2011 after claiming she had been raped by two army colleagues in 2009.
My experience of representing such victims in civil compensation claims against the Ministry of Defence is that they suffer unspeakable shame and often lifelong damage.
When considering an amendment to the Armed Forces Act 2006 last year, Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Jolly, expressed the belief that men and women who serve in the armed forces deserve the same level of protection as civilians. She said, "sexual assault is a gross violation which can have serious, long lasting consequences on victims, and unfortunately the military has failed to acknowledge the seriousness of this crime until now".
For many the term ‘institutional abuse’ can conjure up images of huge Dickensian establishments, like Haut de la Garenne in Jersey, where unspeakable crimes were carried out on orphan children by the very people who were entrusted with their care.
But institutional abuse can also be much ‘closer to home,’ in that it is simply the mistreatment of children or vulnerable adults by any system of power.
In this blog post we explore common causes and examples of institutional abuse and offer advice on first steps for survivors seeking justice and compensation