Non-Current Childhood Abuse Victims – Current Human Rights Victims???

This is an incredibly difficult piece to write, but possibly a profoundly important one to the debate as to how victims of childhood abuse should be treated. Victims, like others, have rights, but without expensive practitioners in law, it is very difficult to exercise these. It is even more difficult in the area of Human Rights, which enshrines the states responsibilities to take positive steps to ensure that the rights of the individual are protected. I write this as a lay person, with no legal training, but having sought some advice on this issue.

The Human Rights Act outlines core principles which should be protected – no matter what – and places the burden of responsibility to act – clearly upon the state and its agencies.

Victims are vulnerable, and the protection of their rights is critical to confidence in the Criminal Justice System. If Victims are being Victimised again – then the entire Criminal Justice System is unfit for purpose. The implications of this are huge, and lead to a two tier state – with a legal system for those who are fortunate, and frustration and mistrust for those who are not. It is where we are heading, and if we do not change our path, it is certainly where we shall end up!

In the area of childhood abuse, the difficulties become profound, given the emotional impact involved. This is compounded further in historical cases, where victims have created safety, and a world in which they can survive. It is pretty much universally recognised that the investigative and legal process is harrowing at best for victims. Suicides are not unknown – personal impact is huge – and well recorded. The court process is adversarial, and people have taken their own lives as a result – even in cases where guilt has been proven, and before the verdict has been delivered. Francis Andrade repeatedly said ‘I can see why nobody comes forward. I can see how people crack under the pressure.” Recently, Tracey Shelvey fell to her death following a rape case retrial. Stephen Quinn ended his life last October just weeks before he was due to testify about the the abuse he’d suffered as a 13 year old.

It is clear that the system is not working. It is clear that the emotional impact is often unbearable and it is clear that this will happen again and again if nothing is done! “Grandstanding” about “Victim’s Codes” and “National Groups” has no relevance other than to provide the illusion of action!

So….what of the Human Rights of Victims? …….and the Human Rights Act 1998? http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/schedule/1

The Act sets out general principles for application in a variety of circumstances, but gives a clear framework within which the state must manage its activities. Some provisions are absolute, and others have triggers at differing points – however, it is the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of individuals.

A summary of the key points can be found here:-

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/human-rights/what-are-human-rights/the-human-rights-act/

 

Some Relevant Highlights follow:-

Article 2 – Right to Life

The Human Rights Act requires the government to protect human life.

This means that nobody – including the government – can try to end your life. It also means that you have the right to be protected if your life is at risk.

Similarly, public authorities should consider your right to life when making decisions that might put you in danger or which affect your life expectancy.

The real question being whether authorities “know or ought to know of a real or immediate risk to life.” It is well established that this risk need not come from third parties, but a risk of suicide is included also. I refer you to the deeply saddening deaths outlined earlier.

If, the adversarial nature of the court process is such that people may take their own lives, then there is an obligation to deal with this. The court process itself, follows months or years of suffering for the victim, their family, and even those investigating the case.

Remember – the state has the responsibility to take positive action to protect its citizens from this!

 

 

Article 3 –Protection from torture and mistreatment

The Human Rights Act protects you from:

  • torture (mental, physical or both);
  • inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and
  • deportation or extradition (being sent to another country to face criminal charges) if there is a real risk you will face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Public authorities must not inflict such treatment on you, and they must also protect you from this treatment where it comes from someone else. For example, if they know you are suffering inhuman or degrading treatment, they must intervene to stop it. 

So, given our understanding of the impact of historical investigations, it is the responsibility of the state to put in place proper support to deal with this, otherwise it is culpable for the outcomes and in breach of the most fundamental of Human Rights. This is not optional, but a universal Human Right

 

Article 8 – your private and family life

You have the right to respect for your private life, your family life, your home and your correspondence. But at the same time you must also respect the rights of other people.

Your private life

The right to a private life means that you have the right to carry on your life privately, without government interference, as long as you also respect the rights of other people.

The courts have interpreted the concept of ‘private life’ in a very broad way. It covers things like your right to choose your sexual identity, your lifestyle, and the way you look and dress.

It also includes your right to control who sees and touches your body. For example, this means that public authorities cannot do things like leave you undressed in a busy ward, or take a blood sample without your permission.

The concept of private life also covers your right to develop your personality and to develop friendships and other relationships. This includes a right to participate in essential economic, social, cultural and recreational activities of the community.

In some circumstances, public authorities may need to take steps to support you to realise your right to a private life, including your ability to participate in society.

The right to private life means that the media and others can be prevented from interfering in your life.

It also means that personal information about you (including official records, photographs, letters, diaries and medical records), should be kept securely and not shared without your permission, except in certain circumstances.

Many Victims find relationships and family life impossible – and are thus denied their right to family life. Often, privacy is taken away, and again personal choices removed – authorities have an obligation to act! Borderline or Dissociative Personality Disorder is common amongst people who have been abused, and thus agencies may have a commitment to ensure re-integration.

 

Article 14 Protection From discrimination

Discrimination occurs when you are treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation and this treatment cannot be objectively and reasonably justified.

It is important to understand that the Human Rights Act does not protect you from discrimination in all areas of your life. Instead it protects you from discrimination in the enjoyment of those human rights protected by the European Convention of Human Rights. This reflects the core idea that all of us, no matter who we are, enjoy the same human rights and should have equal access to them.

There are other laws that protect you from discrimination more generally.

The protection against discrimination in the Human Rights Act is not free-standing. In other words, in order to rely on this right, you need to show that your ability to enjoy one or more of the other rights in the Human Rights Act has been affected by the discriminatory treatment. However, you do not need to prove that this other human right has actually been breached.

The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on a wide range of grounds including ‘sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status’.

The case law relating to this right has shown that the term ‘other status’ includes, among other things, sexual orientation, illegitimacy, marital status, trade union membership, transsexualism and imprisonment. It can also be used to challenge discrimination on the basis of age or disability.

 

If Victims are part of a group which is not afforded these basic human rights – this is likely to apply!

 

 

It is unusual for any large group to have issues amongst a number of Articles,however, Keir Starmer’s comments highlighting the possible incompatibility between the Criminal Justice System, and The Human Rights Act might possibly have some substance!

 

Comments welcomed! 

A Victim’s View Of the Judicial Process

theneedleblog

For obvious reasons  the person who created this schematic must remain anonymous for now but it is a valuable insight into the effects of anyone seeking justice.

That the public and the police are are more open and receptive to allegations regarding child sexual abuse is very welcome but the real change that needs to be made is related to the support that those victims receive during the process.

Everyone knows it is insufficient, from the charities like NAPAC, to the police dealing with these investigations, to MPs.

Everyone knows.

How would you feel if you received a knock on the door after 30 years ?

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Victims Need A Level Legal Playing Field With Their Abusers.

theneedleblog

On Monday 3rd February The Guardian published an article written by Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the CPS, entitled ‘Britain’s criminal justice system fails the vulnerable. We need a Victims Law’. This profound article penned by one of Britain’s top law men, a man who spent 5 years at the sharp end of British justice, appears to have passed both the public and politicians by without the consideration it deserved. For within its text which contained many important insights borne of Mr Starmer’s long experience of dealing with child sexual abuse prosecutions was a tantalising allusion to the possibility that the UK’s criminal justice system is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

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The principles and practices that underpin our justice system were developed long ago. There are good reasons for protecting those suspected of or charged with criminal offences – the answer to the…

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A Victims’ Journey Through the CJS

Met Police Victim Support Matrix.pngIn the pages of this blog you will find the evidence to support that no-one is doing anything to support victims of historical child sexual abuse. It is not limited to this category, but is relevant to all victims of psycho-sexual trauma, and particularly relevant for early-life trauma.

The CPS outline a “Full Assessment of Needs” – by a “properly qualified person” – and thus the benchmark is set! This is what should be happening, but who is responsible for making it happen…..and how…..and paid for by whom?

It is recognised that Victims are re-traumatised by investigations and put into a place of terrible vulnerability akin to, and probably worse, than the time of their abuse. This is compounded by “Secondary Wounding” – which is triggered by denial of assistance, which the victim might feel entitled to. Thus if we do not have a support plan in place, which provides Victims with a pathway to an assessment and appropriate therapeutic intervention – the system is abusing those Victims all over again.

We then expect Victims to participate in a lengthy legal process, with the “Sword of Damocles” hanging over their heads. Is this really what the Solicitor-General means when he says “Having a properly supported witness who feels confident in giving evidence is key!”

…….and this is all before you get to court!!! ……and there the adversarial nature of the British Criminal Justice System gets its’ teeth in! Do we seriously expect that a screen, or a “familiarisation visit” is going to overcome the traumatised state in which Victims are likely to find themselves? They have suffered abuse linked to power – how is this any different?

So…..how can a Victim help themselves? …..Apparently this is what they should do, having been given a Victim Referral Leaflet. How do they get the “Full Assessment of Needs by a properly qualified person?”……….and how on earth do they fund it? They can try the NHS, but the referral gateways just do not exist, and it is reliant on an understanding of Complex Trauma along the way. If they can access any support, it is likely to be limited, and require the determination of a “super-human” to get it! The role is left to the “Third Sector.” Are these organisations funded appropriately to provide this level of support? A proper assessment alone is likely to cost a minimum of £300 let alone the therapeutic support to follow – say a minimum of 26 sessions @ £200……..or £5,500 per person for starters! (This would be for the most straightforward of intervention – but figures are likely to be far greater!) The numbers just don’t stack up, however, you crunch them……the system is failing people badly!

The annual cost of child abuse to the UK economy is estimated at between £20-40 Billion – surely our investment in proper support would offset this and facilitate the proper execution of  Justice?

Oh…..and in case you are in any doubt about this being “an oversight” –

In 2002 a Home Affairs Select Committee published its findings in relation to historical trawls of potential victims of child sexual abuse.

David Cameron MP sat on that Committee and signed up to its findings, which included:-

THE CONDUCT OF INVESTIGATIONS INTO PAST CASES OF ABUSE IN CHILDREN’S HOMES

60.  A number of victim support organisations have made the point that trawling provides an opportunity for victims to speak up if they feel ready to do so.[102] However, these organisations expressed a general concern over the level of support available to victims during and after a ‘trawl’.[103] The Government guidance on complex child abuse investigations recommends that “An unequivocal victim support strategy and protocol should be established at the outset” of the investigation to avoid any subsequent strain on counselling services.[104]

61.  We endorse the view that, where a trawl is conducted, complainants should be offered appropriate victim support services, such as counselling, from an early stage of their involvement in the investigation.

It is time for the tide to turn, and for resources to be put in place to provide proper support. Society as a whole is paying a very high cost – but Victims are paying with their lives and their quality of life – over and over and over again!

OMG! – The MoJ Media Machine Shifts into Overdrive!

What a pleasant surprise – the MoJ accepts that male rape exists! Like internet porn, it is taking the higher ground! ……Lord….this Government is good!

On the day that the “cornflake” gets acquitted, the government announces £500,000 to provide advice and counselling to the estimated 72,000 men who need it each year. This is clearly a step in the right direction – but let us examine those numbers a fraction more closely:-

By my reckoning £500,000 across 72,000 people amounts to approximately £7 per head.  In reality, this might just about cover the administration for booking the first appointment, but any meaningful support is going to cost a minimum of £5,000 per head to have any really profound impact (say 26 sessions at £200), and thus the budget looks a bit thin (almost pathetic) for 72,000 people this year! Additionally this “one-off” budget is meant to deal with “historical victims under the age of 13 at the time of the offence…….!”

You absolute complete idiots! 

If this is meant to deal with the history of abuse of males, and include paedophilia, you are insane……….! Let us say 50 years, at an average of 36,000 offences per year (reported or otherwise) equates to……..(hang on grabs calculator……)……1,800,000 offences.

I calculate that on that basis it works out at 28p for therapy and counselling per offence.

Now it gets better…….why on earth would you limit this to historical cases where boys are aged under 13 years – what on earth is your thinking? …….this merits further explanation!

Nonetheless, the numbers appear to be ill conceived, given the limitless budgets allocate elsewhere!

I am confused…….and further wounded…….aged 14  some time ago……..

The point being…..why limit this to historical cases under 13 years of age??? Either it is universal, or it is under-funded!!!!????

Really Mr Greene….are you sure?

Victim’s Code – More Window-Dressing???

The Police clearly have a difficult job in investigating allegations of historical abuse.

These people are specialists in this area, and spend much of their time wading through the filth of our society. Their focus is on apprehending criminals, but they are human beings, and generally trying to make the world a better place. The time spent working in this area is limited, mainly due to the huge personal impact on them. Spare a thought for the officers who pursue allegations, aware that there is insufficient support for victims, but who do their utmost to make the best of a bad situation. Like a tanker, they leave a huge wake, and they know this but try to control this as best they can.

The Police do not have access to proper support for victims – and they know this! They understand that this is a force-wide issue, and people within the Met Police Paedophile Unit have tried to raise this with ACPO – but with no support???

I have a papertrail to support this, but in one of the greatest ironies of all, I will not publish it, because I do not want to put any of those people in a difficult position!! To paraphrase an email…….”you are totally right! I had 25 handicapped victims in a historical sexual abuse case – and no help to give them, and nowhere to refer them…….I felt useless!” ……I have changed the exact words to prevent internal document searches!

Why have ACPO done nothing about this? Their response is detailed separately. 2013 was a huge year for changes to prevent a repeat of Savile, or so it would appear!

Moreover, despite the “New National Group on Sexual Violence against Children & Vulnerable People,” new CPS guidelines and a new “Victim’s Code” – there is “no known change in Police policy or procedure at an operational level !!!”

Victims’ experience of the Criminal Justice System will remain unchanged!!

Support Strategy??? ……or Strategy to Undermine?

Is Support for Victims of Child Abuse Going Back in Time?

In 2002, in the wake of the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal, a Home Affairs Select Committee made several recommendations, but one of which is being so clearly ignored today, that it will inevitably lead to victims of historical abuse taking their lives.

The recommendation that in the event of historical trawls, a comprehensive victim support strategy should be put in place, is particularly relevant post Savile, Smith et al, given that thousands of people are being contacted about allegations of historical child abuse by the Police. – These historical trawls are not instigated by the victims or witnesses, but rather by the Police in response to a changed climate where the hitherto impossible is now believed to be possible.

Victims and witnesses have lived their lives with the impact of abuse – some have been terribly harmed, most have buried the memories of what happened to them and others – but the effects are profound nonetheless. Amongst the consequences of this early life trauma are; an inability to trust anyone or form any form of close relationship – thus many victims are sentenced to a life without the most simple but critical thing – emotional intimacy. Family life is made very difficult, and it is no wonder that so many victims are single. Moreover, it is likely that they will have issues with certain categories of people – such as school teachers, the police, male or female authority figures and the like (– this is not helpful when re-contacted by these people later in life!) Naturally this is also going to blight their career prospects somewhat – and their reactions to some situations can be seen as extreme – demonstrating the full range of “flight or fight” responses, but also the unusual reaction of paralysis, learned through an inability to stop the abuse they endured in their early years. It is also likely that victims will not fully integrate with those around them, tending to operate on the fringes. Many, many victims will use alcohol or drugs as a means of blanking what has happened to them, others may become workaholics or engage in extreme risk-taking activities. Personal identity may be a major issue if their trauma did not allow them the scope to truly find out who they are. It is true that the prison population is massively over-represented by child abuse victims – and it is no wonder given the above! In short – the effects of childhood abuse are profound and lifelong – look around and you will see the signs everywhere.

Each of these victims carries with them a black box of horrors – marked “do not open – ever!” – it is the only way they can exist with the terrible events of the past – and exist in safety and peace – the most fundamental human right (according to the Human Rights Act.)

The impact of historical trawls is equally profound! The Police knocking at your door is daunting at the best of times – but when they want to open your box of horrors – it is a horrific place to find yourself. It returns victims to a place of total vulnerability in an instant – all safety is gone – the world is a cruel place once more! They are placed right back at the centre of abuse. It is for this reason that the need for a “comprehensive victim support strategy” was outlined in 2002.

It becomes especially important when the media become involved, and as there seems to be a veritable feast of “B-List” celebrities to feed on, many people are being caught up in show trials where their secrets are being made public through no action or desire of their own. There are even cases where names of alleged victims are being left on the internet for months on end – what prospect for emotional safety exists when this is allowed to happen?

But surely if society did not help these people at the time of their abuse, it would help them now?

Anyone who has been stopped by the Police for speeding, or caught doing something at school, who doesn’t know what is going to happen to them, can understand the feeling of dread that lasts for a few minutes – the fight or flight response where your body equips you to run or fight. If you can’t do either it turns to a feeling of dread. Sadly, this feeling does not go away for Victims of Child Abuse, when it is brought up years later – they are left with permanent fear, paranoia and above all dread. This state lasts for months even years -they are abused all over again!

Perhaps they will become known as someone abused as a child. Perhaps they have to tell family members before they find out some other way? Perhaps they have to tell the people they work with? Perhaps the have to disengage with groups of people for fear of how they might respond? Perhaps parents might think that their own children are at risk from someone who has been abused? It is certain that it will create a shift in how they are perceived – but how?

And…..all the time, for the victim, their safety has gone, and there is a need to put their lives back together again, but with the contents of their “black box of horrors” now very public!

Surely – if society didn’t help them when the abuse happened – then it would now – particularly given the 2002 findings.

The reality is very different! Whilst the Government make grand statements about stopping abuse and bringing the perpetrators to justice – the comprehensive victim support strategy involves nothing more than handing a Victim Referral Leaflet to the person who’s life has been turned upside down again. – No More – No Less – a leaflet with some phone numbers of voluntary agencies.

For those that then get interviewed, and charges raised, the deep dark mystery of the Crown Prosecution Service kicks in – “protecting public interest”, and keeping victims in the dark. Imagine that someone is charged with “intent to commit buggery with persons unknown” after 30 plus years, against you! They attend court, twice in relation to these charges and others, and then at the eleventh hour the charges are dropped, not because of insufficient evidence, but to simplify the conviction – and with no plausible explanation to the victim! Can anyone comprehend how a “Justice” system can do this to a vulnerable human being? He has been sought out, and put through hell…….again…….and what for? Is this part of a comprehensive victim support strategy?

Many people will tell you that many people are doing many things – there are reviews after reviews after reviews – but the reality is quite clear in relation to Victim Support – it is not the job of the Police, nor the CPS, nor even the Criminal Justice System to take care of victims – it is up to the voluntary sector – who quite simply do not have the funds to do this job properly.

A document prepared by the London Assembly, Mayors Office of Policing & Crime, called Duty of care – Improving support for victims of crime , published in January 2013 makes this clear. 

http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/13-01-23-victim-care-final-report-NON-Embargoed.pdf

Taken from the Appendix

The Police

The police’s role involves: dealing with the report of the crime; identifying vulnerable or intimidated victims; ensuring the victim has access to information about local support services; gathering evidence; and providing follow-up information to the victim about the progress of the case.

CPS and Joint Witness Care Units

The police work with the Crown Prosecution Service in Joint Witness Care Units. These units aim to provide the main point of contact for victims and witnesses, from the point where a defendant is charged through to the conclusion of a case. The CPS also has additional responsibilities about informing victims if a decision is made to drop or substantially alter charges.

Court Service

The Court Service has a role in ensuring victims’ visits to court are as straightforward and positive as possible. They must ensure that victims are directed to a separate waiting area and seat in the courtroom away from the defendant’s family and friends, and that special measures are in place if requested.

Probation Service

The Probation Service has a duty to inform and consult victims of serious sexual or violent offences where the offender is sentenced to 12 months or more in custody, about the timescale for the offender’s release, and the conditions of their release.

Third sector agencies

Third sector organisations provide a range of practical help and support for victims throughout their journey through the criminal justice system. These roles include: provision of refuge places, counselling, help with benefits, and help in making homes safe. Some agencies provide advocacy services to support victims on their journey through the criminal justice system.

Thus it can be seen that the role of support for Victims (ie counselling) is left entirely to the voluntary sector. This is quite interesting, given that the CPS have recently issued new guidelines in relation to Child Abuse cases. Whilst the guidelines have taken positive steps in relation to “de-bunking myths” about abuse, they have also taken a massive step backwards in terms of support for Victims. No longer does the CPS have any role in ensuring that the victim has any support whatsoever, other than if it would help support a prosecution. However, the guidelines do refer to Pre-Trial therapy for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. They make it clear that the CPS should not prevent this!! A legacy of the old CPS guidelines, is that it identifies that victims and witnesses might need therapy, in which case A Full Assessment of Needs should be carried out, by a properly qualified person – and this would be the start point for any form of treatment by any doctor. However, who is this to be carried out by? Where is the funding for this? Do voluntary organisations have the budget, remit, or resources to provide this? Or is this simply wishful thinking?

So, who has the role of organising an assessment of needs? – it would appear that this is the role of the victim, along with securing the funding for it, and establishing the referral pathways to enable it to happen – at a time when they are probably suffering like never before – a comprehensive victim support strategy indeed!!!

There is no help for victims, the Criminal Justice System does not serve them well. Instead it serves its political masters and the goals of the privileged. Shame on those who have not put a comprehensive victim support strategy in place. The members of the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee were:

Mr Chris Mullin MP (Labour, Sunderland South) (Chairman)
Mr David Cameron MP (Conservative, Witney)
Mrs Janet Dean MP (Labour, Burton)
Mr Humfrey Malins MP (Conservative, Woking)
Bridget Prentice MP (Labour, Lewisham East)
Mr Gwyn Prosser MP (Labour, Dover)
Bob Russell MP (Liberal Democrat, Colchester)
Mr Marsha Singh MP (Labour, Bradford West)
Angela Watkinson MP (Conservative, Upminster)
Mr Tom Watson MP (Labour, West Bromwich East)
David Winnick MP (Labour, Walsall North)

The measure of a society is how it deals with its’ most vulnerable. David Cameron is standing by, watching people suffer terribly, whilst “grandstanding” about child pornography – Why?

If we do not provide proper support to the Victims, we are by default providing support to the perpetrators of such terrible crimes.

The cost of Child Abuse to the UK economy is estimated at between £20-40 billion per annum! 

Victims are being let down……..by everyone around them…….and then again by the Criminal Justice System.

Children are being fucked by people in positions of power – then being handed a piece of paper……….This is neither right nor just!

Where is the “Comprehensive Victim Support Strategy?”