3 March 2016 | Firm news | Article by Alan Collins
The UK Child Sex Abuse People’s Tribunal (UKCSAPT) has found that Governmental institutions failed to provide survivors of sexual abuse with meaningful opportunities for either healing or justice, and that the mental health needs of survivors in the UK are not being met.
UKCSAPT was established by survivors of child sex abuse and members of civil society to investigate historic cases of institutional sex abuse.
The independent inquiry, led by a panel of four judges, listened to evidence spanning four decades from 20 survivors and eight witness experts. A common theme throughout these accounts showed that a series of institutional failures prevented abuse from being reported; and that there are clear links between children being rendered vulnerable by these failures and predatory abuse on an organised scale.
It made a series of recommendations including the establishment of a permanent and open forum for victims to share experiences and give evidence, better links between mental health services and police investigations, and training for police and judiciary professionals on the effects of undisclosed sexual abuse.
The main findings of the UKCSAPT report were:
- There are clear links between children rendered vulnerable by institutional failures and predatory abuse on an organised scale, even if these links often remain obscure
- Governmental institutions have failed to provide survivors with meaningful opportunities for either healing or justice
- The vital mental health needs of survivors are not being met and this undermines both their psychological recovery and access to justice
- Police and other authorities often lack the training to understand the complex reasons for the inability of survivors to immediately disclose a history of abuse
- Without far-reaching changes in institutional culture and practices, the sexual abuse of children will continue to be a significant scourge in the United Kingdom.
The report also outlined a series of recommendations for improving reporting and mental health provision, and access to justice for victims were made, including:
- A permanent, government-funded popular tribunal should be established to enable survivors to come forward and tell their stories.
- Survivors giving evidence should be assigned an advocate to assist their access to justice
- Mental health services should be linked to police investigations to help victims disclose abuse.
- Victims who fear reprisals should be provided with a channel though which to give evidence anonymously.
Alan Collins, partner in sexual abuse litigation at Hugh James solicitors, and legal adviser to the People’s Tribunal, said: “The People’s Tribunal’s preliminary findings reveal that there exists a widespread underreporting of sexual abuse, which is the result of inadequate systems and safeguards which, if in place, would undoubtedly have led to a greater number of victims coming forward to report historic or ongoing abuse.”
“The Tribunal’s ability to have gathered the amount of evidence it has in just a year is testament to the fact that by having a proper forum in place that victims feel comfortable participating in, crimes and abuses can be effectively reported, and victims can start to move on with their lives following these extremely traumatic experiences.”