The abuse team at Hugh James, led by partner Alan Collins, recently obtained a judgment in the High Court of England and Wales against notorious child sex offender Douglas Slade in a landmark decision which ought to pave the way for victims of child sex abuse abroad to seek civil justice in England and Wales.
The Defendant, Mr Slade, was ordered to pay the five Claimants £127,000 in damages for sexual abuse committed in the Philippines. This marks the first case where Claimants in a foreign country sued their UK abuser in the English courts for offences committed abroad. The decision creates a welcome avenue for victims of sex tourism to hold their abusers to account, and as a due warning to travelling sex offenders that their illegal actions are not immune from the reach of the English courts.
The Defendant, Mr Slade, was a founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, known as PIE, which advocated for abolishing the age of consent. Mr Slade fled England in the 1980’s when the authorities began charging members of PIE for public order offences. Mr Slade set up a business in Angeles City in the Philippines and remained there until 2014.
The Claimants, all anonymised due to the nature of the proceedings, are Filipino children in the Angeles City area who attended a local school. The school was next to Mr Slade’s then residence and Mr Slade preyed on the relative poverty of the Claimants and their families by luring the Claimants into his house with the promise of money, chocolates and drinks. Reprehensibly, Mr Slade took advantage of the vulnerabilities of the local children and sexually abused them when they were present in the house.
Throughout the 1990’s and into the 2000’s, Mr Slade’s offending did not go unnoticed. Father Shay Cullen, the founder of PREDA Foundation Inc, assisted police in collecting evidence against Mr Slade leading ultimately to his arrest and charge. However, Mr Slade managed to escape conviction in the Philippines each time he was arrested and charged, despite convincing evidence of the offences having been committed.
In 2014, Mr Slade’s luck in the Philippines ran out and he was forced out of the Philippines and flown to England. On touching down at Heathrow, Avon and Somerset police arrested and charged him with historic child sex offences committed in England. Mr Slade was ultimately sentenced to 27 years in prison for the offending. Despite this, his victims in the Philippines were left without justice for the offences committed against them as children. As such, Father Cullen contacted Hugh James and Mr Collins flew to the Philippines with a view to pursuing the matter.
The matter was handled by the specialist abuse team at Hugh James, comprising Mr Collins and Australian solicitor, Samuel Barker and with the expertise of counsel, Justin Levinson. The team built the case up from scratch, involving two trips to the Philippines, extensive investigation and navigating difficult logistical issues arising from Mr Slade being in prison, the Claimants being in the Philippines and His Honour Judge Mark Gargan hearing the case in London.
Mr Levinson presented the case clearly, concisely and convincingly over three days, during which time the lies of Mr Slade became obvious and many, and his denials more untenable. Judge Gargan agreed, noting the various lies told by Mr Slade and recorded in affidavits submitted in his defence of the criminal matters in the Philippines.
Judge Gargan dealt with the voluminous documentary evidence and the witness evidence with balance and clarity and ultimately found for the Claimants. This result is the first time these Claimants have had an official body recognise the suffering they had endured at the hands of Mr Slade.
The learning from this case is a firm message to travelling sex tourists who seek to take advantage of children living in desperate conditions abroad. You are not out of reach and ultimately, the courts of England and Wales can hand out due justice. If you are a charity assisting survivors, or a survivor of abuse at the hands of a UK national abroad, the abuse team at Hugh James can help you to understand your options.