21 October, 2022
On 20th October 2022, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) published its long-awaited final report, including 20 concluding recommendations. In 2018, the Inquiry released its Interim Report which included 87 recommendations to Parliament. The Inquiry discovered failings across both State and non-State institutions, suggesting many victims and survivors have been let down by the institutions that should have protected them.
The recommendations are intended to provide a comprehensive response by the State, as well as organisations and institutions that work with children, to address problems in reporting, responding, and preventing child sexual abuse.
At the forefront of recommendations, which could affect the Justice System are:
The Inquiry has addressed the need for a joint inspection of compliance with the Victims' Code in relation to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. It should be noted that there is currently a draft Victims Bill, dated 25 May 2022, awaiting approval from Parliament which intends to legislate the current Victims Code, with focus on improving support for victims and survivors of sexual abuse by placing a collaborative duty on Local Authorities, the Police and Integrated Care Boards.
The Inquiry has recommended that the current three-year limitation period for personal injury claims of survivors and victims of sexual abuse, should be removed, meaning that there should be an express protection on a right to a fair trial, with the burden ultimately falling upon defendants to demonstrate that a fair trial is not possible.
The Inquiry suggests further changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme such as including other forms of child sexual abuse e.g., online-facilitated sexual abuse, an increase in the time limit to apply for compensation to 7 years and victims and survivors with unspent convictions not automatically being excluded where the crimes are likely linked to sexual abuse.
The Inquiry recommends the UK Government introduce a single redress scheme for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation that occurred in England and Wales, as well as sexual abuse committed by other children. The redress scheme would include a payment scheme through a two-tiered system. The first tier would include a fixed flat-rate recognition payment. If the victims and survivors wished to disclose more details and evidence, they could apply for a second-tier payment.
The Inquiry encourages that there should be greater public awareness of campaigns relating to child sexual abuse, including how to spot it and how to report it through a variety of public information mediums.
A large proportion of the recommendations will require government involvement including the establishment of Child Protection Authorities for England and Wales and a cabinet level Minister. Further recommendations are the need to amend the Children Act 1989, such as looked after children or those acting for them, being given the opportunity to apply to the family courts for orders to mandate or limit a local authority's exercise of its parental responsibility.
The Inquiry also suggests creating a more protective environment for children through its recommendations for the Disclosure and Barring Service, such as making greater utilisation of the barred list through frequently checking anybody who is hired to work or volunteer with children, even if the role is supervised and extending the disclosure regime to those working with children overseas, not just in the U.K. The Inquiry has further suggested improving the protection of children through encouraging registration of staff by an Independent Body for those working with children in children's homes and young offender institutions, which may already be in place.
In relation to how technology and data is utilised, the Inquiry has recommended that there should be a single core data set for data covering both England and Wales, which should be published regularly at national, regional, and local levels. In terms of monitoring content on the internet, the Inquiry also recommends that age verification should be used on the internet and social media. In addition, internet search services should be pre-screened for known child sexual abuse material before it is uploaded.
The Inquiry anticipates in their report that the Government will enact these recommendations as a matter of urgency in response to their report, however, given the current state of the Government, it is unknown how quickly these recommendations could be realistically established.
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