End secrecy of confessionals ‘to protect Catholic children’
Child sexual abuse inquiry is told that not reporting suspected incidents should be a crime
Mandatory reporting of sexual misconduct and abolishing the secrecy of the priest’s confessional box are needed to protect children at Catholic schools, the national inquiry into child sexual abuse has been told.
At the opening of a three-week hearing into Benedictine schools, lawyers representing scores of victims have called for fundamental changes to the way the church handles complaints and deals with suspected offenders.
Richard Scorer, of the law firm Slater and Gordon, who represents 27 core participants at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), said the failure to make reporting suspected abuse a crime had allowed clerics to evade responsibility.
“A mandatory reporting law would have changed their behaviour,” Scorer told the hearing. “At Downside Abbey, abuse was discovered but not reported and abusers were left to free to abuse again and great harm was done to victims.
The courts are making it hard to report on child abuse in boarding schools – and children will suffer the consequences.
Boarding schools should be forced to report child abuse, a leading headmaster has said, following revelations that Winchester College students had suffered horrific beatings during summer holidays at the hands of John Smyth, a leading QC, in the 1970s.
Leo Winkley, the chair of the Boarding School Association (BSA) has urged the Government to make the mandatory reporting of abuse a legal duty for all teachers and youth club workers.
Addressing headteachers at the BSA annual conference, he said that institutions must “face up to the failures of the past” adding that there have been “too many times when our schools have failed to keep children safe”.
[But do the boarding schools get to decide what is “child abuse”, missing the point about Boarding School Syndrome created by abandonment, emotional abuse, sending young children away to board, homesickness? All are forms of child abuse and have no place in the 21st century….]
A prestigious public school was last night accused of covering up child abuse allegations against a senior Christian barrister later linked to the death of a teenager.
Morality campaigner John Smyth QC was accused by young victims of beating them so violently that they had to wear adult nappies to staunch the bleeding, after he recruited them at a Christian youth camp where the Archbishop of Canterbury once worked.
The alleged four-year campaign of ritualised violence in the late 1970s was reported to the trust which ran the camps for pupils from some of Britain’s leading public schools – but appears not to have been reported to police for more than three decades.
Winchester College said it banned Smyth, 75, from contact with its pupils in 1982 but did not go to police in order to spare his alleged victims from ‘further trauma’.
Meanwhile, Smyth moved to Zimbabwe, where he was alleged to have continued his violent abuse of children at more summer camps. He was also reportedly accused of culpable homicide over the death of a 16-year-old boy, Guide Nyachuru, who was found naked in a school pool, but the prosecution was dropped.
The married father of four – who once worked with campaigner Mary Whitehouse – has refused to respond to accusations he abused 22 boys and young men in Britain in attacks of escalating violence which drove one to attempt suicide.
More than 35 public [fee-charging boarding] schools have been embroiled in sex abuse allegations in the past three years amid claims that the private sector has been adopting a “cavalier” attitude to the problem in order to protect its reputation.
An investigation by The Sunday Times has also found:
● Suspect teachers have been allowed to leave and been given references helping them to teach elsewhere rather than face investigation
● Schools have been refusing to tell parents or pupils that an investigation is under way because of “confidentiality”
● Schools have demanded gagging clauses in compensation settlements to prevent damage to their reputations.
The Sunday Times (paywall)
A married boarding school teacher groomed one of his students and had sex with her on his wife’s wedding dress, a court heard.
Music teacher Simon Ball, 42, would also ‘sneak’ into one of his victim’s homes at night and had sex with her while her parents slept in the same house, it was alleged.
Prosecutors said Ball had sex with two of his ‘talented’ students at the same time and took one of them to get the morning after pill after a condom had split.
The allegations that Ball abused three schoolgirls aged between 13 and 16 were made during the opening of his trial at Peterborough Crown Court.
Ball, 42, denies four counts of indecent assault against former students and five counts of engaging in sexual activity while in a position of trust between 2001 and 2004.
The court was told that Ball worked at a private school in Yorkshire from 1999 to 2004 as a music teacher.
The jury was told how Ball pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual activity by person in a position of trust in May this year at a different school.
He had received an oral warning in 2001 for ‘inappropriate behaviour‘ and left the school to work at another while an investigation was taking place into allegations made against him.
Home Office unenthusiastic about bringing in a system that it fears would lead to an increase in referrals, say campaigners.
The Home Office has been accused of burying a long-awaited consultation that could recommend that people who work with children should be forced to report concerns of child abuse.
Documents seen by the Observer confirm that an impact assessment, necessary for the consultation to begin, was signed off last October. But the consultation, which concludes next month, did not begin until 29 July, the last day of parliament, when it was published along with 30 written statements.
This consultation seeks views on the possible introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect or a duty to act in relation to child abuse or neglect.
Consultation Documents link