More of the same

Jul 8, 2013 by

Over the years I have come across so much good and bad practice when it comes to how we protect our children. Today’s publication of the Jillings report just illustrates to me how we have all our priorities wrong and how we put other aspects of our society before the protection of children. 

I know that currently there are abuse enquiries by Mrs Justice Macur and operation Pallial but, as always, we are investigating things that occurred 10, 20, 30 years ago, and still not getting it right. What confidence does that give the general public that we are getting it right now? 

Insurance companies dictated whether or not we should protect out children because they were terrified of paying out money to victims and survivors of the systematic abuse that occurred in the North Wales children’s home. This pressure on Local Authorities and voluntary sector agencies where historic abuse has been alleged is not uncommon. 

Again, we are into the partial revelations of a redacted report today. It’s just not good enough. Sometimes you wonder if we treat animals in this country better than how we treat children. Social workers and police officers are criticised regularly for not protecting a child. I have no problem with social workers or police officers who have failed to come up to professional standards being challenged and disciplined if needed. But, when there appears to be institutional cover-ups, money before children’s health and well-being, self-interest and cowardliness before genuine welfare – it makes our systems very hard to swallow.

Is transparency too expensive?

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  1. Steve Livings

    We are in interesting times with the DPP consulting on interim guidelines in prosecuting child sexual abuse cases. The difficulties involved in prosecuting child sex offences have been well documented and reform in this area has been underway for more than a decade. Nonetheless, there is much that remains to be done to improve the court experience for child witnesses.
    I believe that the changes to the existing legal system could make a significant difference to the child’s experience of the court process. From a child’s perspective, I believe there is a need for certainty in the court process and active judicial case management to ensure that cases involving children are processed as efficiently as possible with the child to have control, as far as possible, about certain aspects of the court process and as far as possible to understand the proceedings I also believe in continuity of legal representation as far as possible through both the committal and trial process with appropriate independent support for child witnesses;
    What guidelines and policy can not achieve is the great need for a culture change with greater awareness by the judiciary and the legal profession of the developmental needs, behaviour and capacities of children generally.

  2. Tony Domaille

    When I worked in Malaysia I found that the courts were infinitely better at dealing with these cases than we are. Their processes were easier for children and their conviction rates very much higher. But whilst the Malaysians copy much of our legislation, they have stopped using juries in cases of sexual offences against children. Instead they have panels of judges who have been trained in child development and psychology and have a much better understanding of the effects of the crimes and the demands of a trial for a child.

    Barristers in this country know how to play a jury. Juries are wholly unprepared and unable to cope. Many judges have a complete lack of understanding of what is before them, focusing entirely on the academic elements of the law and missing the human effect. If we want real change, we need to take those who do not understand out of the process, though no one should hold their breath waiting for that to happen.

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