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
Howe & Co were instructed by BS to pursue a claim for Judicial Review against the Secretary of State for the Home Department following a considerable period of detention. The Claimant was a victim of torture, whilst detained in India including sexual assault. The Home Office accepted this was true, but refused the asylum claim on the basis of internal relocation. A rule 35 report also concluded the Claimant was a victim of torture, and so he was identified as a level 2 vulnerable person.
The Defendant was aware that the Claimant would not be retuned to India without a travel document. In December 2016, they became aware that this document would not be available for some time. This was not appreciated by the reviews of detention until the 26 January 2017, when this was realised the Claimant was immediately released from detention.
Following an order for disclosure a number of additional documents were disclosed, this continued over a length period of time, right to the day before hearing. At the hearing Deputy High Court Judge Mr Thomas QC determined that the Defendant had been unable to justify 38 days of detention and as such the Judicial Review was allowed.
Adam Tear appeared for the Claimant at permission, the full hearing and judgement with Christopher Jacobs of Landmark Chambers appearing for the full hearing.
The Roman Catholic Church will not reform itself - reform must be imposed. By Sam Stein QC and David Enright of Howe & Co
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) commenced its investigation into the Anglican Church on Monday the 5th of March, following its hearings into the Roman Catholic Church in December 2017.
David Enright (head of Howe & Co Solicitors Public Inquiry team) and Sam Stein QC represent a number of survivors of abuse by monks of the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC), the Comboni Missionaries and the Christian Brothers, who were Core Participants in the Investigation.
Parallels between Anglican and Catholic Church
The similarities between the recent Catholic Church hearing and the current Anglican one are numerous. The Catholic Church’s official media outlet, The Tablet, reported that as of August 2014, the number of Anglican Priests who had become Catholic Priests stood at 400; and now represent 10% of Catholic Priests in all of England and Wales.
The IICSA’s “Scope” of the Anglican Church Investigation and the Catholic Church Investigation are identical in large part. The parallels between the two churches and two investigations are obvious.
Below is an account of the three weeks of the Roman Catholic Hearings of the IICSA at which we represented a large group of core participant survivors. The evidence was deeply disturbing and revealing. The early reports from the current and ongoing IICSA Anglican Church hearings indicate that strikingly similar issues will arise.
During this hearing we heard of dark passageways leading to a secret room, police officers informed that monks had connections with VIPs, monks representing a potential danger to children kept at a monastery on school grounds, brown envelopes of complaints kept away from investigators, Abbots who apparently obstruct investigations by the police and who seek to keep back material about abusers. Also a past Abbot President of the EBC, Richard Yeo, who preferred the flawed wisdom of an Abbess who, on being asked to shelter a suspected abuser stated she did not want to know the details as she trusts the monk concerned.
Throughout the hearings the evidence pointed very strongly to a policy of “Church First” in cases of child abuse and how it was reported, investigated and responded to.
While we awaited the start of the Catholic Church public hearing we heard daily in the news of the trial and subsequent conviction of a “sadistic” former abbot who sexually abused young boys in the 1970s and 80s. Andrew Soper, 74, the former Ealing Abbot at St Benedict's School, was found guilty of 19 charges of indecent assault and buggery on December 6. St Benedict’s is another EBC school.
There appear to be many issues which underlie the prevalence of abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, and all of these have been addressed many times before. We are also all aware that the literal cradle to grave coverage of the Church, and its 2000 year history, compels the laity to treat priests and monks with greater respect or deference than we would anyone else.
In fact their very status in society would tend to mean for most of us that they should be held to a higher standard and show us the way. But respect must be earned and for the English Benedictine and the Roman Catholic Church from what we have seen in the IICSA’s three weeks of investigation there is a long way to go until respect can be their due again.
One of the problems with the Roman Catholic Church is its inflexibility and resistance to change caused by the lack of governance and line management. Of course there are many other difficulties caused by the confessional rules, inherent misogyny and other issues.
Father Paul Smith, current president of the Conference of Religious, which is a gathering of Religious Superiors, in his statement read on the 28th November 2017 said that “….the Conference of the Religious has no power over any Congregation of its independent leadership in any matter pertaining to their internal leadership”. Then later “….the Conference of the Religious does not have any regulatory powers over its membership” [p.24].
Dom Richard Yeo (recent former president of the English Benedictine Congregation) in his evidence described the EBC in the following way:
“Among the Benedictines, the basic unit is not the order as whole. The basic unit is the individual monastery and rather than having an order divided into provinces, you have monasteries which group together into congregations….I wouldn’t say they operate under the Abbot President. They operate and the Abbot President attempts to assist those monasteries where appropriate and where possible”
In our questioning of Abbot Yeo on the 28 November 2017 we learnt that the survivors of the abuse by monks at Fort Augustus, which included one of our clients, are due to be getting some compensation from the money gifted to the EBC flowing from the closure and sale of Fort Augustus. In his evidence it was made clear that the EBC recognises it has a moral, but not an actual or legal responsibility, to the survivors of child abuse by the paedophile monks at the now closed Fort Augustus.
But what of the survivors of abuse by the paedophile monks at Downside or Ampleforth or St Benedict’s Abbeys? Because of the claimed-for autonomy of the Monasteries nothing has been done by the EBC or the Roman Catholic Church to set up a fund or redress scheme for them.
Post-Nolan and Cumberledge
The National Catholic Safeguarding Commission and CSAS (previously COPCA) were put in place as a result of the Nolan Report and then Cumberledge. But if the culture and the type of men involved have not changed then all the systems and guidance in the world will not change them.
Mrs Eileen Shearer gave her evidence on the 30th of November 2017, former director of COPCA, a professional social worker with 37 years’ experience and for many years a manager and supervisor.
Mrs Shearer’s view was clearly expressed when she said:
“Priority seemed to be given, often, too often, to protecting the institution from open scandal and to dealing with things in-house, a mistrust of the statutory authorities and there seemed to be a lack of awareness of their own lack of knowledge in a way so that they were not open to acting on advice or receiving training and development. And a preference to acting locally. There is often a reference in the evidence I have read about the fact that the child protection polices nationally were not mandatory, which was not the intention, I believe of Lord Nolan…”
A Mr Molesworth gave his evidence on the 1st of December. He holds a master of science in Social Work, and is a child care social worker with huge experience of safeguarding. In his evidence he referred to other matters but perhaps most memorably he said that of Piers Grant Ferris, a paedophile monk, that in his view “we had four abbots who knew about his behaviour from 1975” and that they “didn’t get safeguarding, they didn’t get child protection”. This was despite the fact that Father Wright had commissioned the Mann’s (experienced psychologists) to do risk assessment and it was a “classic example of you need to take action, you need to take action now…..but for reasons I don’t understand he chose to ignore them”.
Three months into his work at Ampleforth Abbey Mr. Molesworth was motivated to write:
“Stepping further back, I find myself questioning whether the community has either the mechanisms, the understanding or even a basic willingness ….. To properly deal with child protection matters……”
How did Mr. Molesworth summarise matters? He said:
“There was no external accountability, no sanctions, a complex legal framework” and later he conclude by saying “a lack of effective oversight”
Former Detective Superintendent Honeysett give evidence on the 4th of December 2017 and put the matters in the following way that he:
“didn’t think that Abbot Timothy was applying the principle of Nolan as we understood them….The fact was that children were at risk because two priests were still in and around the school or the communities there weren’t proper risk measures in place and in terms of the principle of paramountcy for child welfare was not to the fore; that much of what Abbot Timothy was talking about in relation to the priests was about their rights and about looking after themselves..”
Jane Dziadulewicz who gave evidence on the 6th of December 2017 is a safeguarding consultant with over 30 years’ experience with many years of work as a child protection social worker and senior social worker for Local Authorities and London boroughs. She worked at the Clifton diocese not long after COPCA had been set up. This was the witness who was surprised by the hidden room which as she said:
“our suspicions were raised as why in such an opulent environment would two or three individuals wish to go down a concrete flight of steps through a dimly lit room have a key that other people did’ have access to and have two or three armchairs seated opposite a TV screen”
It is important to remember that Ms. Dziadulewicz was speaking from a much broader experience of the Catholic Church than just these two schools and that is what the IICSA is all about not just the EBC and from that perspective she, in summary, said:
The former first lay head of Downside Abbey School, Dr. James Whitehead, summarised the issues in the following way on the 7th of December:
“Accountability is the fundamental problem. The members of the monastic community are not accountable unless they commit a criminal offence, obviously. But they are not accountable to anyone…..I think that the points that were made in terms of the mandatory reporting I think are good ones and I think that the testimony that was given yesterday arguing for a body which oversees more accountability within this area, I think, I would fully support”
The evidence seen and heard by the Inquiry strongly indicated that Dr Whitehead was removed from his position as head of Downside as a result of his determination to improve safeguarding at Downside and to remove safeguarding from the control of the Abbey and its monks.
Detective Constable White suggested there should be a:
“Team to oversee religious sectors, to look at and deal with these” and he said “as much as we talk about the offenders in this and the suspects in this, there was clearly, over time, people that had knowledge of what happened. There is no repercussions on them at all”. He continued “we have the laws in place to prevent the incidents happening but it is about a way of trying to enforce the safeguarding and protection of the vulnerable and children that are the victims of these accounts.”
Adrian Child, another highly experienced social worker in the area of child protection gave evidence on the 13th of December and said:
“There is nothing mandatory and nothing enforceable, there is no accountability within safeguarding in the Catholic Church It is all on a goodwill basis”
He went on to say:
“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……I think there needs to be accountability in some kind of mandatory requirement”.
Father Aiden Bellenger’s comment in a letter is worthy of mention before moving on (he gave evidence on the 11th of December), he said: “At the heart of the darkness in the community is the issue of child abuse which was tolerated by all my predecessors as abbot” in this letter he also refers to what he called the attempt by Dom Richard Yeo, the former Abbot President of the EBC, to protect paedophile monks.
Survivors put it the following way:
“It really hurt that I have had to listen to the old boy network trash what I had been through…..There is a lot of anger out there about what happened in their communities, there is a lot of anger to the victims. There is a lot of anger to people like the safeguarding professionals and the police. These old boys and parents of children in the school should be grateful to these people. It is the police and the safeguarding that have made these children safer, not the men running these schools I believe you need third parties overseeing this and that safeguarding should be mandatory”
Another survivor said:
“Just to say that I hope this leads to something. I see on the Downside website that they have – they are declaring that they are welcoming the chance to scrutinise. Part of me thinks “well of course they would say that, because they are being hauled in front of an independent inquiry”. I just don’t want there to be just another raft of apologies”.
So what can we conclude from the first of the IICSA hearings into the Roman Catholic Church? The answer will not be found within the church as there is no evidence of any internal movement or desire to change its management and governance.
In fact the evidence was that the Church continues to cling to its historic structures in which senior members of the Religious communities in the monasteries and abbeys are autonomous structures run as independent fiefdoms of the Abbots and Abbesses, in the same way that within a diocese a Bishop rules supreme.
For Safeguarding and Child protection to have a chance of being effective within the Church we have argued that the IICSA must recommend that safeguarding is removed from the Church and put it into the hands of an entirely independent ‘non church’ body. This must be accompanied by mandatory reporting which will then be monitored, regulated and overseen by the new regulator. The funding for this will need to be paid for by the Church.
In the coming weeks the IICSA will hearing disturbing evidence of child abuse and cover up in the Anglican Church.
It is and will remain our position that in every institution in the UK, including the Churches, the bottom line must not be Church first, but children first.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has now published their first complete report into child sexual abuse in respect to child migration module.
The full report is here:
The IICSA report is quite critical of Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) and focuses on the policy of allowing children to be sent to Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe, where many were subjected to physical and sexual abuse and little if anything was done to protect them.
Most importantly, the primary recommendation is that there should be a financial redress scheme established and that redress should be paid urgently and within a year, as many survivors are now very elderly.
Howe & Co represents a very large proportion of the victim and survivor core participant in the IICSA. We have been pressing the Inquiry since March 2017 to make recommendations on reparations for survivors on an urgent basis, given the age of many victims and survivors.
The IICSA Child Migration Investigation Report recommendations are:
Recommendation 1: Financial redress
1. HMG was, over many years, the institution primarily responsible for the post-War child migration programmes: it established the legal framework within which the sending institutions operated, it provided essential funding, it facilitated relations with overseas Governments and it operated, to a very limited degree, a system of regulation and oversight.
2. However we have found that post-War child migration was a fundamentally flawed policy, and that HMG failed to ensure that there were in place sufficient measures to protect children from sexual abuse (as well as other forms of abuse and neglect). Thus the children were placed in environments where they were exposed to a range of risks, including the risk of sexual abuse, and where sexual abuse was less likely to be prevented, identified, reported or stopped. We have also found that HMG failed to respond appropriately to the reports it received about the welfare of the children, by either stopping migration and returning the children, or putting in place other measures to reduce the risks to the children.
3. HMG has not yet made any financial redress directly to individual former child migrants. Most former child migrants have died. This means that in many cases HMG has missed its opportunity to offer redress to those who were affected by its failure. However, around 2,000 child migrants are alive today, and the Panel considers it essential that all surviving former child migrants are offered such redress.
4. As a result, the Panel recommends that HMG establishes a Redress Scheme for surviving former child migrants, providing for an equal award to every applicant. This is on the basis that they were all were exposed to the risk of sexual abuse. Given the age of the surviving former child migrants, the Panel urges HMG to establish the Scheme without delay and expects that payments should start being made within 12 months.
5. We also propose that no regard be had to any other payments of compensation that have been made in particular cases. This is because we consider that this scheme is driven by the need for the HMG to make redress for its policy failings in this context, and it has not done so to date. Given that this is the rationale for the scheme, the establishment of the Redress Scheme should not be used as a reason for reducing funding for the Child Migrants Trust or the Family Restoration Fund, which funding serves different purposes.
6. The Panel has not specifically recommended that other institutions involved in the child migration programmes participate in the Redress Scheme. This is not because we do not consider that these institutions failed the child migrants: our report makes clear that we think they did. Rather, it is because we consider that HMG was primarily responsible and because we are keen to ensure that the Scheme is a simple one, in the hope that it can be effective soon, and make a real, immediate and lasting difference to the lives of the former child migrants. If HMG wishes to look to those other institutions for a contribution to the Redress Scheme, it will no doubt do so.
7. We make it clear that we are recommending the setting up of a Redress Scheme because of the particular context of the child migration programmes. One aspect of these programmes which makes them unique was that HMG failed to take steps to respond to the fact that the children were sent abroad, to countries where they would not have the protection of UK law. Different considerations may apply to contexts where the protection of UK law continues to apply to children.
Recommendation 2: Further institutional apologies
8. We are troubled by the amount of time it took successive British Governments to acknowledge the full responsibility of HMG for the fate of the child migrants. It has taken years for the former child migrants to have the truth of their experience recognised. This truth was clear from the Government’s own documents, kept in the National Archives.
9. Through the national apology given in 2010, the evidence provided to the Inquiry and the apologies repeated before us, the British Government has now accepted the failings of the child migration programmes including in part with respect to the risk of sexual abuse. We do not consider it appropriate to recommend that they make any further acknowledgement of or apology for the failings that took place.
10. However we do consider that implementing the Redress Scheme is an essential component of the British Government continuing to accept responsibility for the abuses suffered by child migrants, including sexual abuse.
11. As we have set out in the institution-specific sections of the report, some institutions have still not apologised for their role in the child migration programmes. We recommend that they do so, as soon as possible. We recommend that they make such apologies not only through public statements but specifically to those child migrants for whose migration they were responsible.
Recommendation 3: The preservation of child migrants’ records
12. As we have set out earlier in the report the Inquiry’s ability to investigate allegations or evidence of sexual abuse within child migration programmes was hampered at times by the failure of some institutions, notably the Royal Overseas League and the Sisters of Nazareth, to have preserved the contemporaneous documentation.
13. The inability to access their records in a straightforward manner, or at all, has caused some child migrants yet further distress and an ongoing lack of clarity over their identity.
14. We therefore recommend that that all institutions which sent children abroad as part of the child migration programmes should ensure that they have robust systems in place for retaining and preserving any remaining records that may contain information about individual child migrants, and should provide easy access to them.
Howe & Co welcomes this first IICSA report and its recommendations. We urge the Inquiry to move quickly to issue further reports and recommendations in the interests of children currently in care and in the interests of victims and survivors who were previously abused in care.