Survivors welcome abuse inquiry report, but experts warn law changes fall short

Legal experts have said recommendations around mandatory reporting would still allow for “Rotherham type abusers” to avoid being reported.

20 October 2022

Survivors have welcomed the recommendations from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, although legal experts warned that proposed mandatory reporting rules do not go far enough.

Lucy Duckworth and Chris Tuck, both members of the inquiry’s Survivors and Victims Consultative Panel (SVP), waived their right to anonymity and spoke to the PA news agency after the final report was published on Thursday.

Ms Duckworth said: “I think today’s report is fundamental in making historical changes that the children of future generations and adult survivors today need.

“We have known what to do for a long time and we have consistently ignored the recommendations and the warning signs, and this report today is irrefutable evidence that we have to change the system from the very start.”

Ms Tuck said she felt as if the inquiry listened to her contributions.

“I have been with the inquiry since its inception,” she said.

“I, like my SVP colleagues, helped to get the inquiry up and running along with millions of other survivors like us.”

Ms Duckworth welcomed the inclusion of mandatory reporting.

“Today we have finally heard that mandatory reporting has been a recommendation,” she said.

“I’m really hopeful that the Government will take that on without delay. It’s shameful that in this country there is no requirement by anybody in a position of trust to report known child sexual abuse.

“That means that laws haven’t changed in the 30 years since I was abused.”

She added: “There will be many survivors here today that will be listening to this knowing that if mandatory reporting was present when they were abused they would have had immediate intervention.”

While the response to the final report’s publication was largely positive, legal experts warned that the proposed legislation for mandatory reporting did not go far enough.

The final report recommended that the UK and Welsh Governments should introduce legislation which makes certain individuals “mandated reporters”, under a statutory duty to report child sexual abuse.

However, the experts argued that some offenders could still slip through.

Richard Scorer, head of abuse law at Slater & Gordon, who represented the single largest group of victims at the inquiry, said it “falls short of what we need”.

He said: “We strongly welcome mandatory reporting. However, the inquiry’s recommendation falls short of what we need. The lack of any criminal penalty for failure to report abuse which is reasonably suspected creates a real risk that institutions can still turn a blind eye.

“Children rarely disclose abuse, perpetrators almost never do. Mandatory reporting can only work if the requirement to report reasonable suspicion of abuse has teeth in the form of criminal sanctions.

“As currently worded the inquiry’s proposal could end up being mandatory reporting in name only.”

Alan Collins, partner in the sex abuse team at Hugh James Solicitors, warned that the proposed law has “loopholes” that could see “Rotherham type abusers” not being reported.

“The proposed (mandatory reporting) law is not as tight and comprehensive in my opinion as it should be because what is proposed has potential loopholes which could see Rotherham type abusers not being reported,” he said.

“There should not be exceptions – all child abuse or risk of abuse should be reported. Always. It should be left to the police and social services then to investigate.”

Sunday Morning
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper reacted to the publication of the final report (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Beyond the inquiry, Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper reacted to the publication of the final report, calling on the Government to “respond positively and swiftly”.

“Child sexual exploitation remains a stain on our society and devastates lives. Yet the report is clear that systems are still failing to keep children safe. The Government must respond positively and swiftly to this report with major reform.

“We called for the mandatory reporting of child abuse eight years ago, and this is now the first recommendation of the inquiry so we urge the Government to take this forward immediately to prevent known cases of abuse being disguised or covered up by powerful institutions.”

The Church of England’s lead bishop for safeguarding, Jonathan Gibbs, said they were taking its recommendations “very seriously”.

“The Church was one of the first institutions to call for this inquiry and we are taking its recommendations very seriously.

“The Church’s main focus in response must first and foremost be recognising the distress caused to victims and survivors, we are truly sorry for the hurt caused by the Church and by our failures in safeguarding and we thank them for courageously coming forward to the Inquiry and sharing their experiences.

“We acknowledge our poor response to victims and survivors. We must ensure that our response to victims and survivors is meaningful, compassionate and personal.

“A major programme of work is under way addressing each of the specific recommendations for the Church. We will now consider today’s recommendations in detail and respond fully to the inquiry in due course.”

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