Chair says abuse of children under 4 has risen by 45 percent and recommends register of care workers
LONDON—The UK government should introduce a system for registering all staff who work in care homes and should also appoint a Cabinet-level minister for children, says the final report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
Professor Alexis Jay, who chaired the seven-year inquiry, said, “For too long, child sexual abuse has been considered a problem of the past, despite life-long impacts on its young victims.”
She said, “The sexual abuse of children is an epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake and some will never recover.”
Unveiling the IICSA’s report on Thursday, Jay said: “The latest statistics suggest that the age at which children become victims is getting younger. The number of sexual abuse offences, recorded by the police, where the victim was a child under the age of 4 has risen by 45 percent in recent years.”
The IICSA was set up by the then-Home Secretary, Theresa May, in 2015 to look at the extent to which institutions in England and Wales, including the police, the NHS, and the BBC, “failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.”
It followed the emergence in 2012 of a string of allegations about child abuse by famous people, including TV presenter Jimmy Savile and former MPs Cyril Smith and Greville Janner.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided against bringing charges against Smith in 1970, 1998, and 1999. He was knighted in 1988 and died in 2010 aged 82.
In 2014 Janner—who was knighted in 1997—was charged with 22 offences against children, which dated back to a period between the 1960s and 1980s, but he died in December 2015 without coming to trial. His son, Daniel, later described the inquiry as a “witch-hunt of dead politicians.”
In October 2021 the IICSA concluded complaints against Janner “were not properly investigated by Leicestershire Police” but did not adjudicate on whether or not he had been guilty of abuse.
The final report, taking in all 19 strands of the inquiry, “sets out the devastating scale of child sexual abuse” and presents a “horrifying picture that underpins the inquiry’s recommendations.”
Among the 107 recommendations in the report are:
- That a Child Protection Authority for England should be set up, and a separate one for Wales, which would inspect children’s homes and other facilities.
- That the British government create a Cabinet-level minister for children.
- That a single database of paedophiles should be created in England and Wales.
- That the government should ban all “pain compliance techniques” for detained children.
- That all staff working in care roles in children’s homes should be registered and could be struck off if found guilty of misconduct by an independent body.
- That official records of child sexual abuse allegations should be retained for 75 years.
- That a system of “mandatory reporting” be introduced.
The report also recommends changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and says victims who have criminal convictions themselves should not be automatically excluded if their crimes are “likely to be linked to the sexual abuse they experienced as a child.”
Convicted Criminals Could Be Entitled to Compensation for Child Abuse
If the government agrees to the recommendations it could potentially mean convicted murderers getting compensation for child abuse they suffered.
The IICSA also called on the Metropolitan Police to “consider whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation into Lambeth Council’s actions” in the wake of the death of a boy known as LA-A2, who was found dead in the bathroom of the Shirley Oaks care home in 1977.
The council had not informed the coroner that LA-A2 had alleged he had been abused by care worker Donald Hosegood, who died in 2011.
In 2018 Brian Altman, KC, lead counsel for the inquiry, said the final report would not rule on whether or not allegations against senior figures in Westminster were true and he later said that some had already been shown to be false.
In July 2019 Carl Beech—a fantasist whose allegations about a murderous VIP paedophile ring centred on Dolphin Square in central London led to Operation Midland, a massive and ultimately fruitless police investigation—was jailed for 18 years.
But Jay made it clear the IICSA’s role was not to decide on the guilt or innocence of individual perpetrators but to comment on the response of the authorities and recommend ways of improving this in future.
The report found that one in six girls and one in 20 boys experience sexual abuse before the age of 16 and Jay said: “The nature and scale of the abuse we encountered was horrifying and deeply disturbing.”
She said: “As a society, we simply cannot file it away and consider it as historical aberration when so much of what we learned suggests it is an ever-growing problem, exacerbated by the current and future threat of the internet.”
Millions of Child Sexual Abuse Images ‘3 Clicks Away’
The IICSA report said, “Millions of child sexual abuse images can be accessed within just three ‘clicks’, many of which depict young children and babies.”
Jay said: “Offending on the dark web involves a level of depravity that it is hard to comprehend, such as the rape and violent abuse of babies and toddlers. This can be live-streamed on some sites by predators who can dictate the abuse they want to watch for very little money.”
The report said, “The UK government should change the law to make sure that internet companies that provide online internet services and social media introduce better ways to check children’s ages.”
That recommendation comes only a week after the coroner at the Molly Russell inquest suggested separate social media platforms for children and adults.
Molly Russell, a 14-year-old girl from Harrow, northwest London, took her own life on Nov. 21, 2017 after viewing online content related to depression and self-harm in the months prior to her death.
Earlier this year Jay said there was a “flawed assumption that child sexual exploitation was on the wane.”
More than 7,000 survivors of child sexual abuse engaged with the IICSA and 700 gave evidence at public hearings or provided statements.
One of them, Hollie, said, “I can now say I’m finally being heard, and can … grieve for the person I might have been if I had not been a victim of child abuse.”
The new Home Secretary, Grant Shapps, said the government would respond in full within six months, but he added, “I am incredibly grateful to the thousands of victims and survivors who have bravely come forward to share their experiences with the inquiry, their bravery will not be forgotten.”
Shapps also said: “I want to give assurances—where we can act quicker, we will. I will use all available levers to protect our children, to improve the law enforcement and criminal justice response, provide the support victims and survivors deserve and ensure all institutions and leaders are properly held to account.
“To date, we have already taken action to tackle this abhorrent crime and learn from the lessons of the past, but I know there is much more to do. This is the start of a new chapter in our efforts to put an end to this terrible crime,” Shapps said.