Howe and Co we very pleased to be nominated, short listed and highly commended in the Law Society Excellence awards in the firm of the year , and pro bono firm categories. We congratulate all firms who were shortlisted and especially those who won in their categories.
The delivery of excellence in law is central to the core concepts of Howe and Co, we continue to strive to deliver the highest standards of service.
In both the categories that we were nominated in, we were shortlisted and highly commended in our work, we are grateful for the recognition from our peers that our work is at the highest level of excellence.
We will continue to deliver services to our clients with the quality of service they come to expect from us. We pride ourselves in having repeat business from our clients when they need legal services.
We are proud that we continue to offer legal services funded under the Legal Aid Agency, in Immigration and asylum, Actions Against the Police, Public law, and other related matters such as trafficking, inquests and other matters.
If you need legal assistance please contact us to discuss how we can help. Even if we are unable to help, we will assist to signpost you to someone that can.
David Enright, along with the other solicitors representing all of the survivor core participants in the Nottinghamshire councils investigation today expressed outrage at the failure of Nottingham city council to send any senior representative to hear the accounts of abuse of the victims and survivors.
Although senior representatives of Nottingham county council and Nottingham police attended to hear the harrowing accounts of the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, Nottingham city council failed to send a representative.
David Enright (Head of Howe & Co's Inquiry Team) said:
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse Ampleforth and Downside Investigation report 9 August 2018
On the 9 August 2018, the IICSA published the Ampleforth and Downside Investigation Report, as part of the Roman Catholic Church Investigation. David Enright and Sam Stein QC attended a preview meeting this morning where they were able to read the report before publication. Below is a review from David and Sam of the contents of the report. A fuller analysis will follow, but this is our first impression of its contents.
If you have any questions please call or email Howe & Co’s IICSA team at IICSA@howe.co.uk
David Enright (head of Howe & Co.’s Public Inquiry’s team) and Sam Stein QC of Nexus Chambers, the Chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, attended a preview of the IICSA’s report into Ampleforth and Downside Abbeys and schools.
This investigation forms part of the IICSA English Benedictine Case Study, which in turn forms part of the wider ongoing IICSA Roman Catholic Church Investigation. Today’s report arises from the public hearing, which was held from 27 November 2017 – 15 December 2017. David Enright and Sam Stein QC appeared at that hearing representing their core participant clients. A link to their opening submissions in that public hearing can be found here. David Enright’s submissions begin at 58:16: https://www.iicsa.org.uk/video/iicsa-english-benedictine-congregation-case-study-day-1-271117-am1
Overview of Ampleforth and Downside investigation report
The chronology of child sexual abuse of children by persons associated with Downside and Ampleforth Abbey (including monks and staff) set out in the report is truly shocking. Not only is the scale of child abuse shocking, but how long the abuse continued, that it was widely known at the highest levels of these monasteries and Schools, and that child abusers routinely went unreported, unpunished and were allowed to abuse again.
It is difficult to describe the appalling sexual abuse inflicted over decades on children aged as young as seven at Ampleforth School, and 11 at Downside. Ten individuals, mostly monks, connected to these two institutions have been convicted or cautioned in relation to offences involving sexual activity with a large number of children, or offences of pornography. The true scale of abuse however, is to be considerably higher. (Paras 3 and 4 of executive summary of Ampleforth and Downside investigation report)
“In addition, there have been allegations of a wide spectrum of physical abuse, much of which had sadistic and sexual overtones” (Executive Summary p.iii)
Destruction of records
It is clear from the report that there is strong evidence that evidence relating to child sexual abuse the Abbey’s response to it may have been destroyed. The Inquiry made scathing findings regarding the destruction of records. It found:
In common with other Inquiry investigations, the issue of destruction of records arose. Recently, he thought possibly in 2012 (when he was headmaster of Downside School), Dom Leo Maidlow Davies spent some time removing files from the basement of a Downside building. He made several trips with a wheelbarrow loaded with files to the edge of the estate and made a bonfire of them. These files were reported to be primarily the personal records of individual monks and staff stored over a lengthy period of time, which were required to be disposed of to create more storage space. It is impossible to say whether these files contained either potentially incriminating information or, indeed, information which could have enabled victims to have a better understanding of what happened to them. Regardless of the motivation for the destruction of these records, it adds to the perception of cover up on the part of Downside.
The very real concern is that persons, including the leaders of these Abbeys and schools may have allowed records to be destroyed, or even destroyed them themselves, to shield the Abbeys and the Church from full and proper scrutiny.
Howe & Co’s impact on Inquiry’s report and recommendations
It appears that submissions made by Howe & Co on behalf of its clients have had a significant impact upon the report and recommendations.
All of our clients within this investigation have made it abundantly clear that one of the main issues confronting the Catholic Church, as a whole and demonstrated in the governance structure of the English Benedictine Congregation, is that it lacks any type of corporate management structure. Because of this profound structural flaw the implementation of any recommendations as to change and compliance with child protection systems has no organisational effect. The Inquiry adopted submissions, strikingly similar to those made by Howe & Co, as can be seen:
“The EBC is not pyramidal in structure; it has no recognisable line management oversight. Each abbot or abbes has responsibility for their own community, which is autonomous.”
On behalf of our clients Howe & Co pressed the inquiry to understand that the English Benedictine Congregation had not faced up to their responsibilities, nor adequately acknowledged the abuse within its institutions and that these central failures and flaws were reflected across the Catholic Church as a whole. We are therefore pleased to see that the report is cutting in its findings regarding the actions of leading members of the Abbeys in relation to the wide spread and widely known child sexual abuse that was being perpetrated at both Abbeys.
Those who have followed the hearings will recall that, in cross examination of Dom Richard Yeo (then president of the EBC) Sam Stein QC pressed the Abbot on the lack of progress regarding acknowledgement of abuse and the failure to provide any compensation scheme or even agree that the wider EBC should be responsible for the payment of compensation to survivors.
As regards these issues the Inquiry found:
“Time and again within the public hearing the most senior clergymen in the EBC and in the two Abbeys, including past presidents of the EBC Dom Richard Yeo and Dom Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard, admitted wrong-headed judgments, and expressed regret at past failures to protect children. This was necessary but not sufficient. It was not accompanied by a full acknowledgement of the tolerance of serious criminal activity, or the recognition that previous ‘misjudgments’ had devastating consequences for the lives of the young people involved.”
‘Nor has any comprehensive redress scheme been offered to victims” (Executive Summary p.v).
What were the Inquiry’s conclusions?
In a word, damning.
In relation to Ampleforth Abbey and School the Inquiry concluded:
The [Charity] Commission’s statutory Inquiry announced its findings on 3 April 2018. In summary, the Commission was not satisfied that AAT [Ampleforth Abbey Trust] and SLET’s [the School’s education trust] current safeguarding policies, procedures and practices are adequate and working properly. This includes concerns about their compliance with established safeguarding procedures...As a result, on 3 April 2018, the Commission announced that it had stripped Ampleforth and SLET of their safeguarding oversight and appointed an interim manager for both charities…
It is clear to us from all the evidence we have heard during this Inquiry that several systemic child protection and safeguarding challenges remain at Ampleforth to this day.
In relation to Downside Abbey and School the Inquiry concluded:
Dom Leo told us that Downside is currently working towards the school becoming separate and independent from the monastery. We are not convinced by this statement, but we now understand that after our public hearings a consultancy firm was appointed in April 2018 to manage the separation. It took nearly 10 years to organise this separation, which is yet to be complete.
As with Ampleforth, the evidence that we have seen and heard during the course of our inquiry, outlined above, indicates that a number of systematic child protection and safeguarding challenges remain at Downside to this day.
Nolan and Cumberlege – the Downside connection
It is important for readers of this report not to think that this report represents the first time the Catholic Church has been examined in relation to child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church undertook two major reviews of child safeguarding; the Nolan Report in 2001 and a major nationwide follow up, the Cumberlege Commission in 2006 – 2007.
The Inquiry found that following the Nolan report
“By 2002/3 the Catholic Church had appointed diocesan safeguarding officers who were expected to be involved in handling any allegations or disclosures. There was hostility to the Nolan Report in both institutions for some time after its formal adoption. They seemed to take the view that its implementation was neither obligatory nor desirable. This failure to comply appeared to go unchallenged by the Catholic Church” (Executive Summary p.iv).
The Cumberlege Commission (which was the five year review of progress following Nolan) produced its report in 2007 entitled “Safeguarding with Confidence”.
It is beyond irony, and readers of this report will be astonished, to note that the Cumberlege Commission held its concluding sessions at Downside Abbey and that one of the Commission’s members was Dom Richard Yeo, recent former Abbott of Downside and the then president of the English Benedictine Congregation.
This investigation, the Abbey’s and the Church’s attitude to Child Sexual abuse may well be summarised in the words and evidence of Mr Adrian Child (former director of the national Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service) to the Inquiry on 13 December 2017 (page 136 – 137 of the transcript):
… If I could just, I suppose, add to that that I think the Catholic Church has had two excellent opportunities, through Nolan and Cumberlege, to get safeguarding right on a kind of, as I said, goodwill, internal basis, and whilst I think there's been a huge amount of effort by a lot of people, a lot of very good people, within the church, and I include some bishops and religious leaders in that, they haven't got it right, and that's in a 15-year period. So I don't see any value in tinkering around the edges and saying, "Here you are. Here is a third opportunity. Go away and sort this out yourself", so that comes back to my point I made a few minutes ago: I think there needs to be accountability and some kind of mandatory enforcement.
Thus, the former head of the Catholic Church’s own safeguarding advisory body believes that the Catholic Church has had its chances to prove that it can keep children safe, the Church has failed in that duty and should not be given a third chance. In his expert view, child protection needs to be taken out of the hands of the Catholic Church.
In November the Inquiry will hold a hearing into the Archdiocese of Birmingham. As a result of submissions made by Sam Stein QC and David Enright, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nicholls, will give evidence to that hearing.
In February 2019 the Inquiry will hold a further hearing into the English Benedictines (Ealing Abbey and School). As recently as 21 December 2017 that former Abbott of Ealing, Lawrence Soper, was convicted of 19 charges of indecent and sexual assault of 10 pupils of Ealing Abbey School.
The Inquiry has indicated that it will be holding a further and final hearing in the Roman Catholic Church Investigation in late 2019.
Howe & Co will be representing core participant victims and survivors at all of these hearings.
The report provides the most deeply troubling account of long term, wide spread child abuse, perpetrated at these Abbey run Catholic Schools. The child abuse that was being perpetrated at these Abbey’s and Schools was widely known of within the Church. Abusers were not reported, they were sheltered and were allowed to be free to continue to abuse again.
The report paints the starkest picture of the apparent inability and unwillingness of these institutions (The Benedictine Congregation) and the Catholic Church in England and Wales to confront child abuse and child abusers:
“We agreed with Dr.Whitehead’s views about the safeguarding challenges still facing Downside. He talked of a ‘massive issue’ in relation to structure and governance, with a culture of ‘monastic superiority’, ineffective governance and a lack of transparency as to who was actually running the organisation. He said they needed to ‘wake up’ to the realities of modern compliance.
David Molesworth, a safeguarding specialist with the local authority, gave his contemporary assessment of child protection at Ampleforth: ‘I do not currently believe that the origination a whole understands or accepts their responsibilities for child protection issues….., we appear to be dealing with denial or downright obstruction’” (Executive Summary pili).
Whilst many aspects of this report are commendable, in that IICSA recognises both the scale of the abuse within the EBC and the failure of the EBC to live up to its responsibilities to protect children within its care, the report shies away from making recommendations as to change. Despite the fact that within this investigation David Enright and Sam Stein QC repeatedly called for urgent recommendations to be made immediately the Inquiry has decided that it will await the conclusions of the others parts of the Catholic Church investigation and potentially other investigations as well.
It is difficult to understand why there is a delay to making some obvious recommendations. As an example, why wait until the final part of those investigation to come to the obvious conclusion that the seal of the confessional cannot be absolute? Instead this report says we shall have to wait:
“This case study has given rise to a number of issues which have wider implications than for the English Benedictines Congregation. These include issues of self-governance relating to safeguarding, ‘failure to report’ and ‘position of trust’ offences, and the extension of statutory procedures governing state schools to independent schools. We shall address these in future Inquiry reports”
It remains our central submission, on behalf of our clients, that the Catholic Church in England and Wales has (directly or indirectly) within its care almost a million school children and hundreds of thousands of other children and vulnerable adults in crèches, churches, care homes etc.
An organisation of such size and national importance must be held to the same standards of child protection, as we would expect from any other organisation. As matters stand it remains the case that experts, including those who have headed up the Catholic Church’s safeguarding bodies, do not believe the Church is structurally capable of safeguarding children.
In the face of this evidence, the Inquiry must act more decisively.
David Enright – Howe & Co
Sam Stein QC – Nexus Chambers
9 August 2018
Howe & Co has been shortlisted for two of the Law Society’s prestigious Excellence Awards, the highest accolade for law firms in England and Wales.
Howe & Co has been shortlisted in the categories of law firm of the year (small), and Excellence in Pro Bono awards.
Howe & Co continue to delver high quality legal advice to all of its clients ranging from local residents to senior politicians. The firm attracts and keeps its clients through its dedication to high quality work and exceptional client handling.
The firm have not only committed to providing the highest level of client excellence, but to also ensuring that a very signficant amount of pro bono work is undertaken by the firm, including attending meetings with the Law Society to ensure that this important provision is supplied to those that need it.
Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: “There are more than 9,000 firms and 140,000 solicitors in England and Wales, so to be shortlisted for an Excellence Award is to be recognised as being among the best of the best.
“All the firms and solicitors who are shortlisted should be congratulated for the work they do day-in day-out to support their clients, many of whom are navigating complex and challenging legal problems.
“At a time of immense pressure on the justice system, the incredible work being done by solicitors across the country should be applauded.”
Winners are announced at the Law Society’s Excellence Awards ceremony in London on 17 October.
Howe & Co’s dedicated team continue to represent victims and survivors across many of the investigations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
For the past two weeks Howe & Co’s David Enright played a leading role in the Children in Custodial Institutions investigation.
This week, the IICSA begins a further week long hearing into the Anglican Church; in particular into former Bishop Ball and his purported relationship with the then Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prince of Wales and other high profile figures. Justin Welby (former Archbishop) was examined today by the Inquiry and a statement from Prince Charles will be read into the record on Friday. Today’s Times reports:
Links to reports regarding this weeks hearing can be found here:
The Times reported:
If you are affected by issues related to child abuse, particularly in an institutional or religious setting, contact Howe & Co’s dedicated team at IICSA@howe.co.uk
Why the UK needs a public inquiry into extraordinary rendition
In the light of revelations about scores of incidents when UK security agencies knew that detainees were being mistreated by other agencies the government looks increasingly likely to call a long overdue and vital public inquiry into ‘extraordinary rendition’. ‘Who guards the guardians’ is an age-old question. All of us need to know what our security services do when no-one is able to monitor them.
Ken Clarke MP, the former justice secretary, asked an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on July 2nd, repeating his calls for such an inquiry, to which government minister Alan Duncan confirmed “the Government will give careful consideration to whether a judge-led inquiry is necessary.”[i]
This followed last month’s publication of the three-year investigation of the Intelligence Security Committee (ISC), which found that British agencies continued to supply intelligence to allies despite knowing or suspecting abuse in more than 200 cases. The Committee’s chairman Dominic Grieve MP said agencies knew of incidents that were "plainly unlawful".[ii]
The Security Committee’s report detailed 128 incidents where UK agencies knew of mistreatment of detainees by other intelligence services and highlighted 31 examples where Britain planned, agreed or helped pay for rendition flights.[iii] The report was highly critical of the British Agencies’ involvement, which went far beyond turning a blind eye to abuse of detainees. Indeed two of the report’s conclusions demonstrate direct involvement by the British Agencies in the rendition programme and in mistreatment of detainees:
C. We have found what we consider to constitute evidence of two cases in which UK personnel were directly involved in detainee mistreatment administered by others. This is completely unacceptable. While one case has been investigated by the Metropolitan Police, the other has not been fully investigated. Had our Inquiry continued, we would have sought to interview all those concerned. There must be a question as to whether the Service Police investigation should be reopened.
Z. The Agencies also supported the US rendition programme in other ways: endorsing rendition plans and providing intelligence to enable renditions. They were active in their support for the programme. They also condoned renditions through their conspicuous failure to take action to prevent renditions – in particular of British nationals and residents.
It also has to be noted that the report could and should have investigated further as it notes within the conclusions that “Had we been given access to the interviewing officers, we would have wished to explore this highly unsatisfactory situation further”.
What is extraordinary rendition - and is it lawful?
Extraordinary rendition (in plain English, kidnapping) is the process by which a detainee is transferred from one state to another, outside normal legal processes (such as extradition or deportation). In many cases these detainees are transferred to secret detention centres or to a third country for the purposes of interrogation, and are often then tortured.
Used as a tool by the United States in the ‘War on Terror’, in order to bring people believed to be insurgents or involved in terror groups to ‘black sites’ or extrajudicial areas such as Guantanamo Bay, where ‘enhanced interrogation’ (again in plain English, torture) could be carried out without the detainees benefiting from the protection of US law.
Torture is prohibited in British law. The UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Article 3 prohibits torture and ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’. The Human Rights Act 1998, which came into force in 2000, incorporated the ECHR into the UK's domestic law, placing a positive obligation on public bodies, including the security services, to prevent torture from taking place.
“Rendering” (unlawfully removing) any detainee in the UK’s control (or assisting in their rendition by another state) to a jurisdiction where their rights under the European Convention are likely to be violated is itself a violation of the Convention and the Human Rights Act.
Why is a public inquiry being considered?
Extraordinary rendition was practiced by previous governments, but none have been held accountable for that policy.
In 2005, Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, said “there simply is no truth” in claims of UK involvement in rendition. But three years later, his successor David Miliband admitted: “I am very sorry indeed to have to report to the House [of Commons] the need to correct those and other statements on the subject.”[i]
Howe & Co Solicitors Public Inquiry team have been calling for a judge-led public inquiry, with the powers of the Inquiries Act 2005, which would be able to compel witnesses such as former government ministers to give evidence about what they knew, and when. David Enright (who is leading Howe & Co’s child abuse public inquiry team) said:
Britain is, at its heart and at its best, a country built upon laws and respect for the rule of law. There is growing evidence that our security service, senior officials and Ministers may have turned a blind eye to kidnapping, unlawful detention and treatment amounting to torture. If that has happened, it fundamentally undermines who we are as a nation and what we are seen to stand for as a nation internationally. The truth about these matters must be pursued, no matter where the search leads.
What is the difference between a statutory inquiry and other inquiries into extraordinary rendition?
There have been a number of inquiries into extraordinary rendition, with the ISC’s report only the latest. A public inquiry called by the government using the Inquiries Act 2005 would have special powers that other investigations have not benefited from.
Under section 21 of the Inquiries Act, the Chair can compel any individual to provide documents or other materials to the inquiry – and then disclose them to participants or use them in public hearings. Failure to comply can result in imprisonment.
In 2016 it emerged that the government were suppressing the publication of 12 documents in the possession of the US State Department; documents that related to extraordinary rendition and were not made available to either the Chilcot Inquiry or the 2007 ISC investigation into rendition.[ii] A public inquiry would have the power, under section 21, to compel disclosure of that evidence from government agencies.
A public inquiry can also compel anyone to appear as a witness, under oath, and give evidence, under rule 9 of the Inquiry Rules 2006, and could allow victims of extraordinary rendition and their families to cross-examine former Government Ministers, under Rule 10.
Dominic Grieve MP, Chair of the Intelligence Security Committee, stated, upon publication of their report last month, that:
“We needed to hear from the officers who were involved at the time. The Government has denied us access to those individuals. The Committee has therefore concluded – reluctantly – that it must draw a line under the Inquiry.”
The conclusion of the Intelligence Security Committee could not be more troubling and this cannot be allowed to go un-investigated.
David Enright (Partner – Howe & Co) said:
Only a public inquiry can uncover the evidence. A judge would have the statutory powers to compel witnesses to give evidence and to compel the production of evidence of what actually happened to the scores of people who were subject to cloak and dagger ‘rendition’. Survivors of rendition and the public at large are entitled to know why these actions were taken or permitted. As Dr Martin Luther King said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Crucially, a public inquiry can allow victims or those affected by extraordinary rendition to apply to become ‘Core Participants’, and gain access to evidence, call witnesses, and potentially being able to cross-examine and put questions to those who need to be held accountable.
Howe & Co are currently engaged in representing a very large proportion of the victims and survivors in both the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (which is the largest public Inquiry in British legal history). The IICSA is investigation matters including child abuse at the very highest levels of public and political life. Howe & Co has and continues to champion the right of victims and survivors to achieve truth, justice and accountability.
Given the nature of extraordinary rendition, and the involvement of the security services, victims will have to fight even harder and smarter to achieve justice in any public inquiry that is called.
What happens next?
If an inquiry is called, then interested parties will begin making submissions on the Terms of Reference, which will be set by the Government and determine what an inquiry can or cannot look at. Then, people and organisations will have an opportunity to apply, via legal representatives, to become Core Participants and play a role in shaping the inquiry.
A source from within the security services recently told the Financial Times, when asked about rendition:
“We were simply not prepared for the work we became involved in following 9/11. There were deficiencies in capability and understanding and therefore in the guidance and training that we gave to staff. Today, we do things differently.”[iii]
Whether the security services currently behave differently is impossible for the public to know.
Only a public inquiry can tell us what happened, why it happened, who ordered it and allowed it; and whether methods like extraordinary rendition are still in place today.
If you are or know someone who is affected by issues connected to extraordinary rendition, the security services, unlawful detention and torture you can speak to a member of our Public Inquiry team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling our Public Inquiry Team on 0208 840 4688
David Enright JP
Howe & Co
 Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition: 2001–2010
@HoweandCo commend J D Wetherspoon PLC on reports in the @guardian HERE that the pub chain is backing a campaign to stop discrimination against Travellers and Gypsies. Howe & Co has acted in Equality Act claims brought by Travellers and Gypsies who have been discriminated against by service providers such as pubs, clubs and hotels. Martin Howe, Senior Partner at Howe & Co, the solicitor’s firm which represented Gypsies and Travellers in the two discrimination claims against J D Wetherspoon referred to in the report, and whose firm currently acts in other discrimination cases for and Gypsies Travellers said:
“This is very positive news and I commend Tim Martin and J D Wetherspoon for taking a lead in the hospitality industry in relation to the fight against racism towards Travellers and Gypsies. I hope other pub chains and other service providers will follow this excellent example. By such public condemnation of discrimination that has been described as the ‘last bastion of acceptable discrimination’ real change is possible and long overdue”
On the 5 June 2018 Howe & Co’s lead counsel, Sam Stein QC, made his powerful opening statement on behalf of the victims and survivors of Grenfell Tower that Howe & Co represent. Mr Stein’s opening submissions highlighted the “vertical village” that was the Grenfell Tower Community. Thereafter Mr Stein conducted a forensic examination of the failures that led to the loss of so many loved family members, neighbours and friends.
A link to the transcript of the hearing can be found here. Mr Stein’s submissions on behalf of Howe & Co’s clients begin from 02:03:43 here until 02:50:58.
The Inquiry will continue to hear opening statements on behalf of Core Participants until the end of Thursday 7 June 2018. Howe & Co’s team will be in attendance at the hearing centre every day to support our clients and to make sure their views and priorities are heard loud and clear.
This followed the opening of the Inquiry, with commemorative statements from the 21 May 2018 until 30 May 2018. The commemorative hearings were an incredibly moving tribute to those that did not survive the fire. The hearing started with the youngest loss of life, Logan Gomes, whose parents are represented by Martin Howe, and finished with another of Howe & Co’s clients, the Choucair family who lost six family members.
The tributes were moving and often distressing. The powerful words of the family members fundamentally changed the way the Chair and legal team of the Inquiry viewed the victims and survivors and the loss they had suffered.
On the 4 June 2018, Counsel to the Inquiry made his opening statement, and specifically identified the submissions of Howe & Co, as part of the group of three solicitors submissions. Counsel to the Inquiry stated that:
“G3 group of bereaved, survivors and residents assert at paragraph 68 that it is "beyond argument" that many more would have survived than did survive if the stay-put policy had been abandoned at 1.26 am, or at any rate long before 2.47 am. “
Whilst Counsel to the Inquiry has stated that he does not agree with this assessment Howe & Co are confident that this is correct and will maintain in argument this position that the stay put policy should have been abandoned sooner rather than later.
Howe & Co are determined that the lives of those lost in Grenfell will not be forgotten and that the victims and survivors of Grenfell Tower will be placed at the very heart of this Inquiry.
The Inquiry have asked that when Core Participants attend the hearing they sign in with the Inquiry so that they can arrange for subsistence payments to assist with your attendance at the hearing.
We will return to the Inquiry on the 6 June 2018, and continue to listen to the opening submissions. In the next few days we will start to hear from the Corporations Core Participants. A number have already been criticised for failing to be clear, and use due candour in their opening, and so might use the oral submissions to set out their positions.
A direct approach to the Hackitt Review by lawyers representing a large number of Core Participant victims in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry was rebuffed by the Hackitt Report Review team. Repeated requests for access to documentation and evidence from industry groups gathered by the Review team behind closed doors were met with a blanket refusal, effectively silencing any fully-informed and meaningful input from the Grenfell victims and preventing their voices from being adequately heard by the Hackitt Review.
Ignored own findings
In refusing meaningful and informed engagement with victims of Grenfell, the one group of people most directly affected by issues concerning cladding and regulation, the Hackitt Review has ignored one its key, highlighted findings in the Interim Report of December 2017:
“Residents’ voices are not heard – there are inadequate channels for residents to have a voice on fire safety...”
Lawyers representing the group were allowed only a 30 minute slot with officials from the Review team ‘due to diary pressures’ to put the case for the Grenfell victims’ full participation in evidence- gathering for the Review, despite several requests for an adequate opportunity for discussion.
Martin Howe, senior partner of Howe & Co Solicitors, representing Grenfell victims said:
“The Hackitt report places emphasis on the importance of victims’ voices being heard but has shown a stark lack of meaningful commitment to that process.
The call for evidence by the Hackitt Review was made when Grenfell survivors were traumatised by the awful events; they were scattered around London in emergency and temporary accommodation; some were in hospital struggling to breathe let alone speak due to smoke inhalation and toxic poisoning. The families of those killed were deep in grief trying to pick up the pieces of broken families. The Grenfell victims were simply not in a position to respond to the call for evidence in anything like the same way that institutional and industry bodies were able to contribute. The victims’ voices were once again ignored.”
David Enright (Howe & Co.’s child abuse team lead) attended a preview meeting to review the IICSA’s interim report this morning (25th April) along with Sam Stein QC of Nexus Chambers who represents many survivors before the Inquiry. The following is their initial reaction to the Inquiry’s Report; a further and more in depth response will follow.
Shocking Scale of Child Abuse
The Interim report pulls back the veil on the shocking scale of child abuse in England and Wales. The Report reveals, at pages 30 and 31 that:
“According to the 2015 – 16 Crime Survey for England and Wales, 7 % or people aged between 16 and 59 reported that they were sexually abused as a child…. latest police data shows that the number of sexual offences against children under 16 in England and Wales more than doubled between 2013 and 2017, increasing from 24,085 to 53,496”
However, the Report goes on to find that, “…the operational data will always underestimate the scale of child abuse. …. the Children’s Commissioner for England, which found that only 1 in 8 sexual offences against children come to the attention of the police or local authority.”
Therefore, if only 1 in 8 offences are reported, this means that there were at least 425,000 child abuse offences in 2017.
Howe & Co.’s impact on Inquiry’s recommendations
Chapter 7 of the Interim Report sets out the Inquiry’s current recommendations. It appears that submissions made by Howe & Co on behalf of its clients have had a significant impact upon the Inquiry’s recommendations.
Howe & Co has repeatedly and publicly argued that the Inquiry should make recommendations for a redress scheme for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, where local or national government failed in their duty of care for children.
The Inquiry, in its recommendations in the Child Migrant Programme Investigation, recommends
“…establish[ing] the financial redress scheme without delay and expects that payments should start being made within 12 months…”
In relation to the Inquiry’s recommendations on the much needed overhaul of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme; the three recommendations are all consistent with recommendations that Howe & Co have repeatedly called for including:
These and other recommendations, for example in relation to the recommendation that Department of Health and Social Care, Education, Home Office and Ministry of Justice work together to establish current levels of public expenditure, and the effectiveness of that expenditure on services for child victims and adult survivors of child abuse in England, are to be welcomed. However, there are some areas where the Inquiry could and should have done better at this stage.
What is this Report
This interim report is exactly what it says, and perhaps could be retitled as a ‘stop-check’ or a ‘work in progress’. Although the report contains a number of compelling findings and some excellent recommendations, which we will return to below, the Report has missed opportunities to make important recommendation now. For example, the Inquiry did not tackle the operation of the Limitation Act 1980 in child abuse case in this report but has put this off till a later date. At page 56 of the Report the Inquiry finds:
“The Limitation Act 1980 was identified as an obstacle to accessing justice as some victims and survivors of child sexual abuse are prevented from making a civil claim because too much time has elapsed since the abuse took place. This is an important issue that the inquiry will consider further, particularly as other jurisdictions, including Scotland, have legislated to exclude limitation considerations from child sexual abuse claims”.
Roman Catholic Church
The Inquiry has clearly felt that it cannot set out any conclusions in the areas where there have been some public hearings but these are incomplete. For example the Inquiry says of the English Benedictine Congregation hearing into Ampleforth and Downside Abbey Schools that (p.45):
“The inquiry is still considering its findings in relation to this public hearing and these will be published in a separate investigation report later this year”.
Although the Inquiry has a number of further hearings on the Catholic Church in which we are representing many of the survivors; we do feel that the Inquiry could have indicated some findings now and trailed recommendations that may follow.
The overall theme of this interim report can be found in its emphasis on the “need for a culture change in relation to attitudes towards child sexual abuse, the role of leadership in supporting this culture change and issues relating to staff practise and safe recruitment”.
We have found from working within this area for many years that the survivors of abuse agree with the need to refocus on abuse, understand better that the abused child’s life can be destroyed, or at least very badly affected by the abuse, and that stopping the abuse requires putting children first, and always first.
The Inquiry’s emphasis on a need for a change in culture can clearly be seen throughout the Interim report and the Report’s recommendations. This is to be welcomed.
Within the area of child migration the Inquiry recommends that an apology be provided by the Institutions who have failed the child migrants. The Inquiry recommends that a compensation scheme be established for child migrants without any regard to any other payments of compensation.
This may be a helpful pointer in the direction of a wider compensation fund which Howe & Co have and will continue to argue for within the Accountability and Reparations investigation which is due to start it public hearing this year.
Civil Justice System
The Civil Justice System is targeted by the interim report, which recommends that all witnesses in the civil courts have the same level of vulnerable witness protection, as they would do within the Criminal Justice system. Perhaps the interim report should have gone further and recommended that the be a joint scheme for the civil courts and criminal courts so that evidence which should be given by the Survivor should only be given once and used in both civil and criminal cases.
The police service is considered by the Interim Report. Some of the Inquiry’s recommendations are welcome. For example, the proposal for a better recognition of the importance of having worked within the area of CSA and that such work and training should be a pre-requisite for advancement into senior ranks in the Police. This is a very sensible recommendation and should serve to guarantee the importance of understanding CSA throughout the ranks of the police service.
Clearly there is more work to be done in this area as the report is ‘light’ on the need to ensure that complaints to the police are dealt with carefully and added to by appropriate referrals to the support services that may be suitable. This again will need to be developed in future submissions that Howe & Co will make on the question of police engagement with survivors, first contact with the police and any other agency who received complaints; plus the shameful lack of funding (and withdrawal of funding) for the support networks who assist people who have been abused, such as refuges.
The Report’s theme of making sure that there is an increased awareness of the prevalence of abuse and the need to take steps to protect children is also strong in the Interim report. The Report argues for a referral of any adverse finding on fitness to practise in any area to be kept by a central register. This again will be a point Howe & Co will be taking up on behalf of survivors; as the question of whether there has been an adverse finding needs to be considered across the board and into areas where there is not a professional body that can act or intervene. Further there is a need to understand and agree what is an adverse finding? Often evidence builds up and across employment areas. It may be that an adverse finding might be made or a conclusion reached without there being a formal hearing. This question of sufficiency of evidence and build up of likelihood requires further work and attention.
In the short time we have had to consider the Report we see positives, negatives, good intentions and further work to be done.
We can appreciate the work that has been done by the Inquiry and we can applaud the clear good intentions to make changes that the Report signals. However, the pace of the this Inquiry’s work remains too slow, and we recognise that for many survivors that the frustration of having this ongoing and lengthy inquiry brings back such difficult memories and a burning desire for action and change.
Funding is not targeted by this Interim Report despite its recommendation for changes and changes in attitude towards CSA. There needs to be an up front recognition that without adequate funding and resources being provided then recommendations will remain just recommendations.
However, our view is that this report provides the foundations for our future submissions; including that anybody who works with children must be better trained, better recognised and better supported. There is a need to recognise that some people want to work with children because they want to abuse children. So far this report has not identified best practise in identifying potential abusers before they gain access to children.
If we stitch together the themes from this report we can see that it is beginning to grasp the need, which all survivors have understood for too many years, that children must be protected first and always. However the end game for this Inquiry is still some time away.
We must welcome the positive elements of this report, point out where it is lacking and press on to get the very best outcomes, protections and support for child victims and adult survivors.
The full interim report can be found here
David Enright – Howe & Co
Sam Stein QC – Nexus Chambers