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BBC Panorama Programme Uncovers Evidence Of Cover-Up of Child Abuse

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BBC Panorama Programme Uncovers Evidence Of Cover-Up of Child Abuse

A BBC Panorama programme aired on 4th July 2017 has revealed further evidence of the “hushing up” of sexual abuse by well respected institutions.

The programme focussed particularly on abuse in the Sea Scout movement and highlighted how people who made complaints at the time either had their concerns brushed aside or were actively persuaded by people in authority not to report incidents to the police.

As a result, the victims were silenced and often left to deal alone with the psychological and sometimes physical consequences of the abuse until a time – often many years later – when they felt able to talk about their experiences. By this time, of course, the damage was done.

Child Abuse Cover-up

This kind of story is sadly only too familiar to survivors of abuse in other settings and those who work in the field of child abuse.

A clear pattern has emerged - and continues to emerge - of organisations and institutions being more concerned about protecting their own reputations than about the welfare of the very children and vulnerable adults they were supposed to have been protecting.

The broadcasting of the Panorama programme coincided with the publication of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry which was set up to look into the failings of the Jersey care system and, in particular, abuse that occurred in the Haut de la Garenne children’s home between 1947 and 2004.

The report sets out a truly horrendous catalogue of abuse within the children’s home. The report concludes that unsuitable people were put in positions of trust because of their connections.

With a degree of lawyerly understatement, it goes on to say that the Jersey States (the Local Authority) “proved to be an ineffectual and neglectful substitute parent”.

There was a culture of brushing difficult issues under the carpet – this, according to the report, was seen as being “the Jersey Way”.

Since the report was released, there have been calls for Haut de La Garenne to be torn down, as if to wipe away the memory of what happened there.

As a society we like to tell ourselves that this kind of thing is all in the past – that there is much more awareness now about the risks of abuse and that policies and procedures are in place to prevent it.

As the Jersey report makes plain however, there is no room for complacency.

The experience in Jersey is not unique, any more than the abuse within the Sea Scout movement is. The list of respected, well intentioned organisations becoming mired in allegations of historic abuse seems to grow by the year.

In an increasingly fragmented society, where established institutions decline and give way to different kinds of structures and organisations, it is not enough merely to learn the lessons of the past.

Tearing down the old structure misses the point.

An attitude of “that was then and this is now” runs the risk of a dangerous complacency and the emergence of abuse in new ways and in new settings in the future.

Richard Giles is a Personal Injury Solicitor with extensive experience of acting for the victims of abuse.

This literature is intended purely as an overview of this topic and does not constitute legal advice.

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