INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE Accountability and Reparations Inquiry Opening submission of David Greenwood on behalf of Peter Robson.
- My colleagues and I have spent a fair part of our careers together debating these issues to find ways to improve the system. We have lobbied, campaigned, met opponents, used the law and the press to highlight the plight of our brave clients.
2. I have represented many survivors of child sex abuse who have for varying reasons been unable to recover compensation. Of course many have succeeded as they have found good and dedicated lawyers or have encountered benign opponents. Most who have been thwarted find themselves impeded by archaic laws on limitation, an uninsured defendant or an inability to put themselves through the immense pressure of litigation. 3. We must acknowledge that most survivors of child sexual abuse don’t come forward at all. They stay in the shadows, with their box of bad memories firmly shut, fearing the consequence of its opening. The present system doesn’t make it any easier for these individuals to speak up. We need to find a way for these survivors to participate in ways of achieving better quality of life. A redress scheme would be a start.
4. Defendants (usually their insurers) will say they didn’t bargain for having to meet claims when, many years ago, they agreed to look after a child, employed a care worker or agreed to insure an organisation. In a famous case in the Supreme Court in 2012 Lord Phillips explained that the organisation’s creation of the risk of child abuse is a very significant factor in the test for establishing responsibility. Despite this case insurers have still been able to use their deep pockets to create a hostile environment for Claimant litigants.
5. Resistance and prevarication of insurers doesn’t alter the fact that we need to find a way to help survivors get to their feet, find support and a decent quality of life.
6. The various Inquiries are likely to find that all institutions examined have turned a blind eye to child abuse or have done the minimum required by the (inadequate) law. My vision which is shared by numerous survivors and lawyers is for heavier regulation of organisations looking after children and to provide redress.
7. My recommendations to achieve better practice, accountability and redress are :-
8. The creation of a new independent statutory body to enforce basic standards of safeguarding, and to receive and deal with complaints of child sexual abuse in all institutions which are responsible for the care of children.
9. This new statutory body would police and enforce minimum national standards of child-safeguarding. This body would have similar powers to the Health & Safety Executive. The Health & Safety Executive operates for the safety of workers. Children are an even more vulnerable group. The absence of a powerful statutory body dedicated to their protection is a serious defect.
10. The new independent statutory body will: a. Establish a register of relevant Institutions that look after children. b. It will be an offence to look after children without being on the register. c. To be on the register institutions have to introduce a corporate structure. d. Registered institutions will be forced to adhere to minimum safeguarding regulations. e. The body will have the power to prosecute regulated organisations for breaches of these regulations (similar to prosecutions by the Health & Safety Executive). Fines will be imposed. f. All complaints are to be passed to the independent body by a receiving institution with a criminal sanction for failing to do so. g. The body will gather information from complainants, regulated institutions and third parties. It will have the power to compel disclosure of material. h. It will liaise with and assist civil authorities such as the police and social services. It would ensure the police and other statutory organisations are taking appropriate action within reasonable timescales. It will have the power to compel the police to investigate and refer cases to the CPS. i. It will provide coordinated support to victims, particularly those required to give evidence. j. The body will investigate the complaint using the balance of probabilities as the standard of proof. There will be no statute of limitations. It will have the power to make an award of compensation, similar to the CICA. It will decide the support to be offered to the complainant. A scheme will be established to provide adequate compensation for victims of child sex abuse which takes into account the effect on quality of life and a series of relevant factors (as opposed to the rigid CICA system). k. Complainants will be allowed to take advice from lawyers and a contribution towards legal costs will be awarded. l. The cost of the body’s work, support, reparations and legal costs are to be paid from a levy on the institutions with those found culpable paying the costs of dealing with individual cases in which they are involved. m. It will provide to Government regular reports on its progress and, inter alia, the extent to which its activity is promoting the UK’s obligations under the UN convention on the Rights of the Child.
11. The only submissions which Peter Robson has to make at this stage are that his experience of the CICA system has been that he has found it technical and disheartening, having been turned down for compensation. His case is currently under review. He has found the system complicated and cumbersome. He has been offered no professional support before being in touch with solicitors.
12. Additionally Peter finds the idea of civil proceedings with the commitment to potentially 3 years of legal wrangling off-putting. He suggests a system of no fault compensation along the lines of the CICA system but one which is less complicated and more suited to people of his socio-economic group with poor education and life chances. He would benefit from support and it is only by luck and persuasion that he received 8 sessions of counselling from a third sector organisation in Middlesbrough. He has at various times needed support with practical issues of housing and benefits.
13. The role of the police and CPS is worthy of note. A thorough investigation can not only achieve justice in the criminal justice system but will lay the foundations for good civil justice. In my view the decision making process within the various police forces and CPS offices requires scrutiny. I have experience of mixed decisions having been made by police and CPS. There appears to have been variation depending on resourcing, education and willingness of senior officers to commit to relatively complex inquiries.
14. The ability to challenge police and CPS decisions is not publicised. In relation to decisions made prior to June 2013 a panel now exists to enable decisions to be reviewed. This is little known among even lawyers. Post June 2013 the “Right to Review” legislation effectively allows the CPS complete discretion as to whether to change its own decision. The statistics (if obtained by the Inquiry) on successful challenges to CPS decisions would be of interest.
15. This Inquiry is considering particular case studies. Many more examples of very bad practice have and will emerge and are worthy of full inquiry. We ask the panel to recommend that the Inquiry’s work is extended indefinitely to allow the investigation of other institutions.
David Greenwood (Solicitor for Peter Robson)
19th November 2018