Safeguarding e-Bulletin – 27th September 2019

Welcome to our Safeguarding e-Bulletin which will keep you up to date with the very latest safeguarding news.

Former HM Government lawyer convicted for Upskirting

Yesterday, Daren Timson-Hunt has become the fourth person to be convicted of upskirting since it was made a crime under new UK legislation in April this year.

The 54-year-old former HM Government lawyer, who was charged with using his mobile phone “for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification”, pleaded guilty last week to “operating equipment” beneath another person’s clothing while at Embankment underground station in July this year.

The first person to be prosecuted under the new legislation was Salim Ahmed, a 33-year-old shop worker. Police observed Ahmed filming over a two-hour period on his phone at the entrance to Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park in north London. Some 16 recordings taken under women’s skirts or dresses were unearthed when his iPhone was confiscated. 

The second individual, Michael Adjetey, was also convicted after CCTV captured him taking photos at a TK Maxx store in Hackney in east London on two consecutive days in July. After being caught, the 28-year-old confessed he had taken hundreds of upskirting pictures.

Thomas Hetherington, 21, was the third person to be successfully convicted after seeking out his upskirting victim at a bus depot in Wakefield. His victim confronted him and directly reported him to the police for the new offence. Hetherington plead guilty in August.

Timson-Hunt was given a 2-year community order which includes a court ordered 35-day programme, 30 days rehabilitation and 60 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to join the sex-offenders register for five years and pay £175 in court costs and victim surcharge.

Social emergency- rising levels of youth violence

Following a recent recommendation of the cross-party Home Affairs Committee to respond to the “social emergency” caused by rising levels of youth violence, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner is calling for police officers and youth workers to be based in schools to help protect pupils from violence.

The report, Guess How Much We Love You- a Manifesto for Children, features key recommendations, which Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield urges all political parties to include in their upcoming general election manifestos. The manifesto recommendations are in response to increased concerns that children are being exposed to serious violence. The report highlights that “in more and more areas of the country, gangs operate openly in streets and parks, and groom increasingly younger children“. 

In addition to the placement of police and youth workers, the report also calls for the next government to:

  • have a child and adolescent mental health counsellor in every school;
  • adequately fund SEND, including pre-statutory support;
  • open schools during evenings, weekends and holidays to provide high quality youth support;
  • establish a cabinet committee for children.

Longfield is also calling for a further extension of the Troubled Families Programmetargeted intervention for families with multiple problems, including crime, anti-social behaviour, truancy, unemployment, mental health problems and domestic abuse, or an equivalent family support system. (The current funding commitment is to April 2021).

Knife crime curfews

In line with new HM Government proposals, curfews could be imposed on children to steer them away from knife crime. Under the proposals, courts in England and Wales will get extra civil powers to tackle concerns about those suspected of carrying bladed weapons and serious violence.

New Home Office draft guidance, as part of the Offensive Weapons Act, reveal plans to introduce Knife Crime Prevention Orders (KCPOs). The planned orders can be imposed on any person aged 12 or over if police believe they are carrying a knife and on those who have a previous conviction for a knife crime. In addition to curfews, the proposed orders also include measures to stop persons over the age of 12 meeting or associating with certain people and geographical restrictions i.e. restricting which parts of the country or local areas they can visit.

HM Government has stressed that the proposed orders are aimed at preventing knife crime and are not a punishment. Home Secretary Priti Patel stated “We are cracking down on violent crime. Our Offensive Weapons Act will help to stop acids and knives making their way onto our streets and being used to carry out horrifying attacks.

The proposed orders also have the backing of senior police officers. National Police Chiefs’ Council series violent crime lead Jackie Sebire said: “Knife crime prevention orders will provide police with a further means to help deter young people from becoming involved in knife possession and knife crime. These orders will help to make young people stop and think about the choices and consequences of carrying a knife.

The Metropolitan Police’s violent crime task force lead, Ade Adelekan also stated that: “The Met supports the proposed knife crime prevention orders. We feel they will help to discourage more young people from carrying knives in a positive rather than punitive format, giving them support and pathways away from potential crime or negative influences.

Figures published by the Home Office show an 80% increase in the last five years of knife crime or sharp implement offences in England and Wales, with 43,516* offences in the 12 months ending March 2019. 

*Figures exclude Greater Manchester due to data collection issues.

Increase in child suicide rate prompts mental health “crisis” fears

The marked increase in the number of children dying by suicide has prompted a call for urgent action to address a “crisis” in young people’s mental health support.

Office for National Statistics figures reveal a rise of 13.9% in suicides among 10 to 19-year olds in 2018, 188 recorded, compared with 2017 statistics. Worryingly latest provisional figures indicate this rise is set to continue. Comparing the first 6 months of 2019 to 2018, the number of 15 to 19-year-olds who took their own life shows an increase from 37 to 56, bringing the total to 93 this year so far. Additionally, the number of 10 to 14-year-olds who died by suicide over the same period increased from one to four. Statistics confirm that boys continue to be the higher risk group. From April to June this year 39 boys aged between 15 and 19 took their own life, compared with 17 girls.

Campaigners including the charity Young Minds are calling for HM Government to develop a new strategy to address the causes of young people’s mental ill-health and prioritise early support mechanisms. A survey survey of more than 7,000 young people conducted by the charity cites school pressures, concerns around appearance, bullying and dealing with trauma as having a devastating effect on children’s mental health. The survey also found that two thirds of young people with mental health conditions had been unable to access support when they first needed it and that more than 75% are managing their mental health by themselves.

The Good Childhood report, published in August this year by the Children’s Society, also found that one in five children have concerns about their mental health, with those in living in poverty particularly worried.

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Every suicide is a preventable death and we are working urgently with partners across government, businesses and communities to tackle this problem. All councils have a suicide prevention plan in place backed by £25m and we work closely with them to ensure they are effective”.

Domestic Abuse Bill to be progressed

As the suspension of Parliament has now been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, this now means draft bills already in place may continue their passage through the House of Commons and House of Lords. Great news as this avoids the situation where they would have to be re-tabled, effectively starting the process again. The draft Domestic Abuse Bill, published in January this year, which includes proposals to introduce the first statutory definition of domestic abuse, new legal protections for victims and a range of measures to support women and children, will now continue its passage through the House of Commons. Great news as this legislation is needed and will be an effective safeguarding benchmark.

NCA director of investigations, Nikki Holland said: “Tackling county lines and the misery it causes is a national law enforcement priority”. Research suggests up to 800,000 children live in homes where domestic abuse occurs. Ofsted has previously warned that “far too little” is currently being done to prevent domestic abuse  and to repair the damage it causes afterwards.

Children’s experiences of online harm

Findings from a joint consultation conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Children’s Commissioner’s Office reveal children are being exposed to disturbing, abusive and potentially illegal content whilst online. The consultation set out to obtain the views of primary and secondary pupils on the proposals within the Online Harms White Paper and makes for interesting and informative reading.

Both groups were critical when asked how they learn about online safety, stating they felt disengaged by lengthy and repetitive talks. Of particular note the participants said they wanted more creative and engaging online safety sessions and teaching from individuals with relative personal experience. They also felt there should be more education around technical and legal issues e.g. reporting, data collection, privacy and how to interpret terms and conditions documents.

Crucially the findings revealed that online gaming environments were just as important to the children as social media and that they were less likely to report online gaming abuse. The Children’s Commissioner’s Office is currently working on a project looking at the benefits and drawbacks of online gaming which will be published later this year.

“County lines” and modern slavery

As part of the strategy to combat the phenomenon known as “county lines”, the police and National Crime Agency (NCA) officers are using modern slavery legislation to combat gang exploitation of young people. Gang leaders are being warned that they will be treated as child traffickers, not just as drug dealers, if they exploit young people to support their illegal activity.

NCA director of investigations, Nikki Holland said: “Tackling county lines and the misery it causes is a national law enforcement priority”.

As part of the national strategy to combat “county lines”, an operation run by the National County Lines Coordination Centre earlier this year resulted in officers taking action to protect more than 900 people, including more than 350 children, and helping more than 30 people thought to be at risk of human trafficking and modern slavery. 

Click here for more information on our “County Lines” training course (10% discount available on purchases before 30th September 2019).

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