This is the last bulletin this academic year. We’ll be back in September and hope you have a well-earned break.
Over the summer, our safeguarding courses will be fully updated in line with KCSIE 2019 ready for September. We will also be releasing Administration of Medication this week and adding our new County Lines course ready for September.
Response to High Court ruling on children’s centres
Campaigners, who have vowed to continue the fight to keep children's centres despite losing a High Court challenge over local closures, are considering appealing the ruling.
Alka Dass of Save Bucks Children's Centres, is calling for users to step up their campaigns to protect centres nationally. Following the judicial review ruling, Buckinghamshire County Council plans to go ahead with closing more than half of its Sure Start children's centres in September. The judge rejected the claim on all grounds, which included accusations that the decision had been made before the consultation ended, and a breach of the county's duty to ensure there are sufficient childcare services across Buckinghamshire. The judicial review was launched after concerns were raised over the decision to close Millbrook Children's Centre in High Wycombe.
Following a public consultation in 2018, the council announced it was restructuring provision as part of a drive to save money in the face of budget cuts. The number of children's centres in Buckinghamshire will be cut from 35 to 14 and the remaining buildings will become family centres and focus on children and young people up to the age of 19, rather than to age 5 as they are currently.
In her ruling relating to a claimed breach of the Childcare Act 2006, Mrs Justice Andrews said she was satisfied that the consultation had been fair. She stated: "I am satisfied that the material before the court is sufficient to establish that the council did assess the overall needs and locally based needs of families with young children, and of the children themselves, for children's centres; and that it did make a conscious and informed decision that the 16 centres at the selected locations would be enough to meet those needs."
Research, conducted by the Sutton Trust, revealed that more than 1,000 children’s centres closed between 2010 and 2018 and published Department for Education figures show that council spending on centres fell by £110M last year. Earlier this year, the DFE announced it was reviewing children’s centres and other delivery models to find out "what works well".
Norfolk County Council has also announced plans to close 87% of the locality’s children’s centres.
New AI technology to safeguard children & catch more predators
Police can now analyse indecent images of children in minutes with pioneering new technology.
Speaking at the Child Abuse Image Database hub, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that police forces across the UK will have access to new tools to speed up investigations of online child abuse and limit the number of indecent images of children (IIOC) police officers have to view.
Three revolutionary new technology tools will be rolled out to improve the capability of the Child Abuse Image Database (CAID), in a huge boost to bring child sexual abusers to justice and safeguard victims. CAID is a single database of IIOC which enables UK law enforcement to work collaboratively to safeguard children and bring people to justice.
The new tools consist of:
- a fast-forensic tool to rapidly analyse seized devices and find images already known to law enforcement
- an image categorisation algorithm to assist officers to identify and categorise the severity of illegal imagery
- a capability to detect images with matching scenes to help identify children in indecent images in order to safeguard victims
CAID was first introduced to police forces from December 2014. There are currently 13 million images on CAID and the number grows on average by half a million every two months. The Home Office has invested £18.2 million into the programme since 2014, with the new innovations costing £1.76 million.
In his speech, the Home Secretary said:
“Vile predators who are creating, viewing or sharing indecent imagery of children are constantly adapting their tactics to evade capture. We must move at the same pace and evolve to ensure we catch these paedophiles, bring them to justice and protect vulnerable victims. This game-changing tech will help us do this and will be vital in the fight against online child abusers.”
The fast-forensic tool will allow a more rapid analysis of a device against images on CAID, taking just 30 minutes to process when previously it would take up to 24 hours. Police officers currently grade up to 200 images an hour from grade ‘C’ to ‘A’ for the most extreme form of IIOC. The image-categoriser will sort these before officers have to see them and see up to 2,000 images an hour graded. Whilst officers will still have to look at the images, this use of computers will relieve them of the psychological pressures of viewing the imagery.
Importantly, the third innovation will help identify victims using scene matching technology in indecent images of children.
Commenting on the new technology, the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said:
“There have been year on year increases in reports of
people accessing indecent images of children and as a service, we are
searching more properties, arresting more suspects and safeguarding more
children than ever before.
The improvements to the Child Abuse Image Database will enable us to catch more offenders, rescue more children from harm and reduce the pressure and trauma on our officers from having to review every image manually.”
The tools were developed in partnership between the CAID Innovation Lab and UK-based companies Qumodo, Vigil AI and Cyan Forensics as part of the government’s efforts to tackle all forms of child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA).
Qumodo CEO, Benjamin Gancz, said:
“The level and extremity of this content can be truly
harrowing to investigate. Current practices expose police officers and
content moderators to it for unnecessarily long periods of time with
very little support. By teaming up with an AI we can moderate this
exposure and identify when staff may be struggling.
This will provide an entirely new capability to the world of child protection and forensics. We are proud to have developed a product that will directly support the police and help to safeguard children in the future.”
Last month the Home Secretary announced HM Government would be publishing a Child Sexual Abuse strategy to drive the improvement in tackling offenders and supporting victims, both online and offline.
Domestic Abuse Bill
Whilst not yet finalised, yesterday the Domestic Abuse Bill was introduced to parliament before summer recess to ensure the momentum of progressing legislation is maintained in the autumn legislative programme.
The Bill will place a legal duty on councils to offer secure homes for those and their children fleeing violence. Local authority spending on refuges for abuse victims fell from £31m in 2010 to £23m in 2017.
the key measures in the Bill include:
- The first HM Government definition of domestic abuse, which will include financial abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical behaviour;
- Proposals for a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to champion survivors and hold local and national government to account on their actions;
- Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, which would allow police and courts to intervene earlier where abuse is suspected;
- Prohibiting the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts;
- Automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts.
It is estimated that almost two million adults in England and Wales are victims of domestic abuse every year.
Carers of Margaret Fleming sentenced
Yesterday, the two carers of a murdered a vulnerable teenager whose body has never been found were each been ordered to spend more than 14 years in prison.
Edward Cairney (77) and Avril Jones (59) killed 19-year-old Margaret Fleming, whose learning difficulties were so complex she couldn't manage her financial affairs, sometime between December 1999 and January 2000. Jones then continued to claim £182,000 in benefits until it finally emerged Margaret was missing in October 2016.
Sentencing at the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Matthews told Cairney he must serve at least 14 years. Jones, who was additionally found guilty of benefit fraud as Margaret's benefit money (£182,000) was paid directly into her account, was also sentenced to a minimum life tariff set at 14 years. Margaret’s body has never been found and in sentencing the pair Lord Matthews told them: "Only you two know the truth. Only you know where her remains are."
The last independent sighting of the Margaret was on 17 December, 1999. Three weeks later, on 5 January, 2000, Jones told her mother that Margaret had run off with a traveller. The couple then embarked on covering up Margaret’s disappearance which involved them travelling to London to send bogus letters supposedly from her and erasing all trace of her from the cottage where she had lived. Despite a painstaking search of the dilapidated property and garden, no trace of Margaret has ever been found.
Margaret moved in with the couple following the death of her father in 1995. Cairney, a friend of her father, offered to help and took advantage of Margaret's strained relationship with her mother. All ties between Margaret and her mother were severed in November 1997, after an assault by Cairney when she arrived to see her daughter. The couple took control of the teenager's life and subjected her to what police described as a "living hell".
Detective Superintendent Paul Livingstone, who led the investigation, said Ms Fleming had been: "a very vulnerable young woman who was manipulated, abused, neglected and ultimately murdered by the two people who should have been looking after her". He went on to state that the couple kept the teenager in conditions that were "utterly disgusting and uninhabitable" before killing her.
Livingstone added: "We will never know just how Margaret was killed. What we do know is that she lived her last days in what can only be described as a living hell. She must have felt that she was alone in the world with no-one coming to help her, which is just heart-breaking to think of."
Trial evidence revealed that in June 2012, a benefits investigator attempted to visit the teenager but was told by Jones that Margaret would not see her. The investigator said a duty social worker should have visited the "totally chaotic" property to follow up on the young woman's welfare, but no-one did.
Four years later police were finally alerted as a result of an application for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which had been filled out by Jones. In the application Jones wrote that Margaret "needs constant care", had self-harmed and had been "caught eating out of a dog bowl".
Police Scotland subsequently launched a missing persons' investigation in October 2016. The couple maintained Margaret was still alive and often returned to visit them. In an interview, the couple also told a reporter that Margaret was a gangmaster organising and overseeing the work of casual manual labourers in Poland, highly unlikely given her known learning difficulties. From December 1999 there had been no record of her having seen a doctor, access her bank account or any social media presence.
Despite an exhaustive investigation, police have failed to find any trace of Margaret. Detectives have been unable to establish how she died or what happened to her body, although a former firefighter told the trial he once smelled what he believed was burning human flesh coming from a bonfire at Cairney and Jones' home.
Inverclyde's multi-agency public protection committees are now working with all the organisations involved in Margaret's case on a full, detailed examination of the events leading up to her tragic death.
Free food for FSM pupils
During prime minister’s questions yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that 50K children who qualify for free school meals will be provided with free food over the summer holidays at a cost of £9M from the DFE. Whilst welcome, concerns have been raised given that this only equates to a quarter of children attracting the pupil premium.
Luton man & woman charged with terrorism offences
A Luton man and woman charged with terrorism offences appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday. The brother and sister were arrested on 3rd July following a vehicle stop as part of an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command. The investigation is reported to have uncovered an alleged terror plot in its early stages against London Pride.
Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, 28, appeared charged with one count of preparation of acts of terrorism, one count of dissemination of a terrorist publication, and one count of possession of terrorist information. Sneha Chowdhury, 25, appeared charged with two counts of failing to disclose information regarding terrorist activity. Sneha Chowdhury was released on bail whilst Mohiussunnath Chowdhury has been remanded in custody.
Last year Mohiussunnath Chowdhury was involved in an incident outside Buckingham Palace and arrested. Chowdhury had driven his blue Toyota Prius at a marked police van. Officers sprayed him with CS gas when they saw him sat in his car with a sword and a knife sharpener. PC Ian Midgley and PC Gavin Hutt approached and managed to overpower Chowdhury, retrieving the sword. PC Hutt said Chowdhury started screaming 'Allahu Akbar' while wielding the sword. Investigators found Chowdhury had searched beheadings in Chechnya, Islamic State beheadings and Jihadi John on the internet. In a WhatsApp group chat Chowdhury was asked if his profile picture was an Isis flag. He responded: "It is an Isis flag. I support Isis," followed by a laughing emoji. He later told jurors it was all "in jest".
However, he was unanimously acquitted by jurors at the Old Bailey of one allegation of preparing acts of terrorism after a retrial. (The first jury had failed to reach a verdict in June). Chowdhury told jurors he only wanted to be killed by police and had no intention to hurt anyone himself. He said he had been feeling lonely and depressed and only wanted to get himself killed by brandishing the blade to police officers. After the Old Bailey jury cleared him, Chowdhury smiled and waved at them.
Further social media was revealed showing Chowdhury praising the Westminster Bridge terrorist Khalid Masood and claiming all the non-Muslim victims of the atrocity would go to hell. In a "suicide note" left on his sister's laptop Chowdhury urged his family to "struggle against the enemies of Allah" which included the Queen and British soldiers.
Mohiussunnath and Sneha Chowdhury will appear at the Old Bailey on the 29th of July.
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