Welcome to this week’s Safeguarding e-Bulletin which will keep you up to date with the very latest safeguarding news.N
New PSHE education framework gets Upper House approval
Following a long debate, the House of Lords has given its backing to the new Health Education and Relationships Education (primary) and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) aspects of PSHE education (secondary) which will be compulsory in all schools from 2020. Whilst the upper chamber gave approval to new government guidance a month after the proposed framework passed through the House of Commons, the debate has raised key issues around the complexity of implementing the new requirements. Click here to see our Safeguarding Director Sam Preston’s blog on the contentions and implications for practice.
Proposed new powers for monitoring school exclusions
Last week we reported former head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw’s views on exclusion. This week the Chair of the Parliamentary Education Committee, Robert Halfon (MP for Harlow), is urging HM Government to give Local Authorities extra powers to scrutinise school exclusions.
In a letter written to Education Secretary Damian Hinds, Halfon says this action is needed to help tackle knife crime and help promote early support to keep young people in mainstream education and deter them from knife crime. In line with the former Ofsted chief, Halfon highlights a “clear correlation between exclusions and knife crime”, citing young people not in mainstream education being at greater risk of becoming involved in gangs and other criminal activity. The new powers would help Local Authorities track disadvantaged young people with special needs as they pass through the education system.
Halfon has called for improved guidance to assist teachers supporting children at risk of exclusion and becoming involved in crime, together with improvements to the quality of alternative provision. Although the Department for Education has allocated £4m through the alternative provision innovation fund to improve standards, Halfon stated “we (the committee) are concerned that the department is not moving urgently enough to improve the quality of alternative provision. In a number of Local Authority areas in England, no state-maintained alternative provision place has been rated good or outstanding.”
The Education Committee has previously raised concerns about the quality of alternative provision and schools approaches to tackling knife crime in its July 2018 report Forgotten Children: Alternative Provision and the Scandal of Ever-increasing Exclusions. A government review on school exclusions is currently in process and is due to report findings later this year.
Girls’ gang involvement overlooked and failed by authorities
That’s the view of Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield who is to write to HM Government and Local Authorities, to call for a review into support provision for female gang members who, she states, are “not getting the help they need”. In a recent BBC interview on the Victoria Derbyshire programme, the Commissioner stated that half of children involved with gangs are girls and they “desperately need help to get out. So many are trapped with nowhere to go”. According to London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing, Sophie Linden, girls’ gang involvement often remains under the radar. They are often used to carry knives or drugs because they are less likely to be stopped by police. Girls are also sexually exploited by senior gang members.
In response the Local Government Association said “limited funding” meant Local Authorities have to prioritise those at immediate risk. “Councils are being forced to divert the limited funding they have left away from preventative work, including young offenders teams and youth work, into services to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.”
Two-thirds of children in England assessed by Local Authorities as being involved in gangs are boys (66%) and one third girls (34%), figures analysed by the children’s commissioner’s office suggest. However, estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggest a higher figure – that as many as half may be girls. The Metropolitan Police Service’s gangs matrix database lists 3,000 male gang members known to the authorities in London with just 18 female gang members known.
Ofsted grades to be retained
HM Government released a report yesterday setting out the arguments and evidence for keeping Ofsted’s existing 4-point grading system in the proposed new inspection framework
Rise in alcohol and drug exclusions
A study compiled by the drugs policy think tank Volteface and drugs education charity Mentor has revealed that drug and alcohol-related exclusions in secondary schools have increased by 57% in the past five years. A far higher rate than any other reason for exclusion, the figures coincide with increased conviction rates among teenagers for involvement in selling class A drugs. The study, revealed exclusively to Sky News, warns that the increasing rate of exclusions has put Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) under “significant strain”.
This week the Home Office has released an updated version of Victims of modern slavery- Competent Authority guidance.
Whilst this guidance is designed for staff in the Single Competent Authority to help them decide if a person is a victim of modern slavery, the document contains really interesting content which might be useful for you to use as a staff resource.
Following a long debate, the House of Lords has given its backing to the new Health Education and Relationships Education (primary) and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) aspects of PSHE education (secondary) which will be compulsory in all schools from 2020. Whilst the upper chamber gave approval to new government guidance a month after the proposed framework passed through the House of Commons, the debate has raised key issues around the complexity of implementing the new statutory requirements.
The new framework is designed to ensure PSHE delivery meets the current needs of children and young people and reflect the world they live in. As the new framework states, children and young people are “growing up in an increasingly complex world”, particularly online. As a former Local Authority PSHE strategic lead, I am in no doubt that children today are exposed to greater emerging potential dangers, particularly in contextual safeguarding scenarios, therefore the way we prepare them to meet these challenges does need to change. In essence we need to prepare them to understand the world around them and make good choices. All sounds reasonable, so where does the contention lie?
The new statutory guidance sets out the PSHE topics which legally schools must cover. (This will also now apply to academies and independent schools will also be expected to draw on the framework to guide their curriculum content). This content includes topic areas that may contradict with parental views / beliefs and this is where we have the first area of contention.
There can be no doubt the new framework fundamentally alters the relationship between the state and parents. Under the new legislation, parents will have the right to withdraw their children from SRE up to three terms before they are 16. At this point, if parents wish to continue withdrawing their child they must request to do so, a request that may be denied.
This brings us to the second area of contention. In such situations where withdrawal is requested, it will be the responsibility of the Head Teacher to decide if the child should receive SRE or support the parent’s request. Such decisions may conflict with parental or indeed the Head Teacher’s own personal views. Where this becomes problematic for me is that the guidance falls way short of offering Head Teachers support in this decision making process. As we’ve already seen in Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, the impact of decisions deemed unpopular can have a huge impact on the relationships between a school, parents and communities, no matter how sensitively managed. Both parliamentary houses have recognised the challenges the new withdrawal arrangements will bring but have not included a yardstick to assist and support Head Teachers making such decisions. In the Department for Education consultation process, 54% of respondents felt the guidance re the right to withdraw was not robust enough however, no changes were made to improve this content. The cynics amongst us may suspect the failure to address these concerns is to limit potential litigation cases against the DFE.
The next area of contention is one close to my heart- ensuring teaching skillsets can meet the challenge of delivering all aspects of the topics in the framework. The £6M fund allocated for teacher training is woefully inadequate. No other government department has allocated funding to support staff training or delivery of the new curriculum, which to me seems remiss. I know how heavily I relied upon health staff and other professionals in my practice.
Much emphasis is being placed upon learning from the early implementer pilot schools (who will be delivering the new curriculum from September this year). This will be informative, its always good to share best practice, but cannot and should not be relied upon to fully develop an implementation structure fit for all. Just as we differentiate for pupils, we must have an implementation structure with the same flexibility.
PSHE is a really challenging curriculum area to teach, some would argue given the breadth of topic areas one of the most difficult to teach well. Many years ago I conducted a research project examining the impact of PSHE teaching by comparing the outcomes of delivery where staff had bespoke training to a control group who delivered a spiral curriculum without bespoke training. Based on those findings I would argue that, if we are to have meaningful lessons that meet the framework’s desired outcomes, we must invest more in developing PSHE teaching skills not just subject knowledge. We need to enable teachers to teach this challenging subject well, particularly to SEND children.
This leads me to my final area of contention, that of inspection. The proposed new Ofsted inspection framework comes into force a full year before the new Health Education and Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education become compulsory, raising the question- how will inspection interpret delivery and judge outcomes? To date Ofsted have not committed to review the proposed inspection framework following the House of Lords decision, which is very worrying. I fear we may see a raft of contradictory judgements, similar to what happened when safeguarding became a limiting judgement, and nobody (including Ofsted) wants a repeat of that debacle.
be absolutely clear, I highlight the above contentious areas not to
undermine the move towards a new PSHE structure. For me, safeguarding
the wellbeing of children and young people is paramount and these new
statutory requirements do just that. But let’s
be clear- we are introducing new measures, some of which bypass the
parental right to direct their children’s values and upbringing,
and in undertaking this these contentious areas will need to be
Sam Preston is Safeguarding Director at SSS Learning and a former Local Authority Strategy Manager for School Improvement. The House of Lords debate can be accessed here.
Here are the relevant online courses we provide that
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Welcome back! We hope you all enjoyed the Easter break, a great opportunity to recharge the batteries with the added bonus of such fabulous weather. Its been an exciting time here at SSS Learning with the launch of our new courses to support your ongoing CPD programme. Our new courses include:
If you are a suite customer you will have full free access to these courses from your administration dashboard. Non-suite customers can purchase through the above website links.
Also, as you may be aware, new laws introduced under the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 came into force this month so we’ve updated our Prevent Duty course to include the latest changes. The key highlights introduced are:
Increases in maximum sentences for terrorism offences;
Obtaining or viewing terrorist material over the internet is now an offence;
It is now illegal to recklessly express support for or publish images of flags, emblems or clothing in a way that suggests membership or support of a proscribed organisation. (The Home Secretary may proscribe an organisation if they believe it is concerned in terrorism, and it is proportionate to do. This means that the organisation commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism, promotes or encourages terrorism (including the unlawful glorification of terrorism) or is otherwise concerned in terrorism);
Entering or remaining in a designated area is now an offence. (The Act gives the Home Secretary the power to designate an area outside the UK to restrict UK nationals and residents from entering or remaining in that area. This power is subject to parliamentary approval);
Greater powers to enter & search the homes of convicted terrorists.
In contradiction with the recent statement made in the House of Lords (previously reported in our newsletter), former Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned a committee of MPs that excluding children from school places them in “great danger of being drawn into crime”.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, part of a panel of witnesses who gave evidence to MPs, reflected on his own experience as a Head Teacher highlighting that better resources were needed for schools to support earlier intervention and reduce the number of exclusions. Giving evidence he stated that many children excluded from school have “difficult, often dysfunctional, chaotic homes” and spoke of the impact of exclusion saying it was a painful decision to make as it “sent negative messages to that youngster and their family about themselves”. Wilshaw was also stated that children may carry knives “for all sorts of different reasons including self-defence” and said that “if they had behaved well in school and had a pretty good record, there’s no reason why they should be excluded.” He also cautioned that many exclusions involve children with special educational needs and known difficulties, suggesting that Local Authorities should be able to track them through the key stages to make sure they “don’t fall through the net.”
The evidence session was convened to explore a possible link between the rise in exclusions and increase in knife crime. To date, this year there have been 41 fatal stabbings in England and Wales, 10 of whom were aged under the age of 20. Ministry of Justice statistics for 2018 show that 21% of students who committed a knife possession offence were excluded from school.
Scotland’s approach to tackling knife crime over the past decade has seen a cultural shift away from school exclusion. Will Linden, deputy director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (who also gave evidence), highlighted the need to consider the “unintended consequences” of taking a young person off-roll as essential. In Glasgow there was only one permanent exclusion last year.
Reflecting on the witness evidence, our Safeguarding Director Sam Preston, commented “Clearly schools have to focus on risk management and often face the difficult safeguarding choice between protecting pupils and excluding children that might then face a more detrimental situation. Given the upward trajectory we have seen in all forms of youth serious violence in England and Wales we must develop a multi-faceted approach that acknowledges the dilemmas schools face over exclusion. Legislators need to think contextually, by really questioning the effectiveness of current early intervention processes, the methods used to prevent escalation into serious crime, together with how we enable young people to move out of such behaviours. Simply doing what we’ve always done or adding more of the same resources will not facilitate change.”
Council fined for GDPR breach
Newham Council has been fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sharing sensitive personal details about alleged gang members. The council was fined £145,000 after a Youth Offending Team manager forwarded an unredacted version of the Metropolitan Police “gangs matrix” database to council departments, Children’s and Education Services, the National Probation Service, the charity Fight for Peace and the Department for Work and Pensions. The unredacted database contained personal details including names, nicknames and addresses of over two hundred people. A photograph of a page from the unredacted database, which revealed the personal details of fifty people, later emerged on Snapchat. The incident was of particular concern to the ICO as the information was obtained by rival gang members and, following the breach, there was a series of serious gang violence which included victims named on the breached list. This included one named teenager who was shot and killed. Whilst the ICO report does not draw a direct link between the data breach and the violence it states that the incidents “are highly relevant to the nature and extent of the harm that could result if personal data of the type contained in the redacted database was not processed under strict controls”. The report is also critical of the council investigation into the breach, as no investigation report was produced and the investigation had failed to establish what had been done with the unredacted database.
In a statement, Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz apologised personally to the mother of the teenager who was killed following the data breach and stated “On behalf of Newham Council I accept the seriousness of the unredacted gangs matrix list being distributed on this single occasion in January 2017 and am sorry that it happened. While there were information sharing protocols in place at the time, clearly they could have been better. The council is committed to working with our trusted multi-agency partners to make Newham a child-centred borough where young people can feel safe and protected.”
The incident serves as a stark reminder to us all to ensure our staff remain GDPR aware and compliant with our information sharing policy and protocols.
Pupil mental health
A survey carried out by the National Education Union (NEU) has found that children as young as nine are talking about suicide. The poll of more than 8,670 school leaders, teachers and support staff reports an increase in pupil mental health difficulties which include anxiety, self-harming and talking about suicide. The survey cites increasing child poverty, “over-testing” and insufficient resources for supporting vulnerable pupils as impacting on pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. The survey shows that 64% of those polled also cited that the strain on external support services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), specialist SEND assessments and educational psychologist support as adding to support difficulties.
NEU joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said government policies on education and funding were contributing to a “growing crisis” for mental health. He also said “Teachers are also witnessing an increase in child poverty and its terrible effects, which can all too often impact negatively on mental health.”
The Department for Education has described children’s mental health as a “key priority” for HM Government. “We are investing more in mental health support – with an additional £2.3bn a year being spent by 2023/24. This means that by 2023/24 an extra 345,000 children and young people up the age of 25 will benefit from a range of services, including new support teams that will provide additional trained staff to work directly with schools and colleges.”
Ex-pupils raise £5000 to support banned teacher
A fundraising page has been set up by former pupils of St Columba’s College, St Albans to assist with the legal fees of former Assistant Deputy Headmaster, Dr Stephen Jones, who was banned for life from teaching for inappropriate relationships with three male pupils.
Dr Jones, who taught religious education and became Assistant Deputy Headmaster at the college, was dismissed without paid notice for gross misconduct in 2015 and barred from the profession by a Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) panel in April this year. The complaints centred around concerns that Dr Jones had crossed professional boundaries in his interactions with the pupils.
Following consideration of the evidence presented the finding of the TRA report states “Dr Stephen Jones is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. Furthermore, in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proved against him, I have decided that Dr Stephen Jones shall not be entitled to apply for restoration of his eligibility to teach.”
Dr Jones has a right of appeal to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court within 28 days from the date he is given notice of the order.
The fundraising page, which seeks to collect up to £10,000 to assist with Jones’ legal fees, has been set up by a group of students (anonymous) he formerly taught. The page, which currently has £5000 funds pledged, describes the barred teacher as an “amazing” man who “helped students find work after leaving the school, counselled students, assisted families in need, took students on amazing trips and retreats, and was always there for anyone who needed help”.
A statement released by the barrister representing the parents of one of the three pupils (the subject in the case known as “Pupil A”) said: “The parents of Pupil A are not alone. Other parents also gave compelling evidence of Dr Jones’ insidious hold on their children. He repeatedly took impressionable boys on unauthorised school trips without their parent’s consent or knowledge. He showered them with gifts and stayed with them in hotels. He controlled their thoughts and behaviour. Dr Jones continues to be a menace to every child. That is why he was banned from teaching for life by the Secretary of State.”
Head Teacher barred over safeguarding deficiencies
Peter Smalley, former Head Teacher of Southglade Primary School in Nottingham, has been barred from teaching for at least five years. A professional conduct panel of the Teaching Regulation Agency found that Smalley did not provide staff with regular or effective safeguarding and child protection training, and did not have an adequate system in place to identify and record safeguarding and child protection issues. The deficiencies in safeguarding at the school contributed to a pupil not being identified as high risk early enough. The seven-year-old pupil (known as Pupil X) died away from school premises.
The panel heard that Smalley collaborated with another staff member to prepare a referral form for the pupil in September 2014 for an incident which happened in July that year. The referral was inaccurate and not approved by the teacher who wrote the original form, which was also missing.
Smalley admitted all the counts against him except that he had acted dishonestly in preparing the substitute referral form. The panel accepted this and cleared him of dishonesty however it held that the other matters amounted to unacceptable professional conduct that may bring the professional into disrepute.
Smalley, who implemented a safeguarding system led by a newly appointed learning mentor, was found to have instigated a system where there was a lack of feedback to concerns raised and from which staff members disengaged due to perceived and actual lack of support. The findings concluded: “If it had not been for those extensive systemic failures in Mr Smalley’s management of safeguarding issues the chance to intervene in Pupil X’s case would have been greatly increased. Pupil X would have been identified as high risk at a much earlier stage.”
The panel took into account Smalley’s good record as a teacher and his admission to the counts against him, recommending that he be allowed to apply for reinstatement as a teacher after a five-year period.
This week, HM Government announced plans to introduce pioneering laws for internet safety with the aim of protecting children online.
A new Online Harms White Paper proposes to introduce laws where online companies will face fines if they fail to adhere to a mandatory duty of care to protect users. This includes ending the sharing of content about child abuse or terrorism on their platforms. Under the proposed new statutory duty of care, online companies will be required to publish annual reports revealing the amount of harmful content on their platforms and how they have responded to such content.
A new regulatory body will be appointed to enforce measures such as issuing fines and blocking access to sites. It is also proposed the regulator would have the authority to impose liability on individual employees of the online companies.
In response to the introduction of the white paper, Anne Longfield (Children’s Commissioner for England who has campaigned for internet companies to be bound by such a statutory duty of care) said “Social media companies have spent too long ducking responsibility for the content they host online and ensuring those using their apps are the appropriate age. Any new regulator must have bite. Companies who fail in their responsibilities must face both significant financial penalties and a duty to publicly apologise for their actions and set out how they will prevent mistakes happening in the future.”
We will keep you updated on the progress of the white paper.
Alesha MacPhail killer lodges appeal
Aaron Campbell, the teenager convicted of abducting, raping and murdering 6-year-old Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute, has lodged an appeal against the 27-year minimum sentence served on him.
Last July Campbell stated he went to Alesha’s father’s flat, where he had previously bought cannabis, with the intention of obtaining drugs. Campbell however took the opportunity to abduct the sleeping 6-year-old, stating in a pre-sentencing background report “All I thought about was killing her once I saw her.” The post-mortem examination recorded 117 injuries on Alesha’s body. Campbell was convicted by a unanimous verdict.
Following sentencing it was revealed that Campbell told a psychologist that 12 months prior to the murder he had thought about “doing something excessive” including rape and was “quite satisfied with the murder”. He also stated he was “mildly amused” that it took police two days to arrest him after the discovery of Alesha’s body and that he had to “zip his mouth”) to stop himself laughing during the trial.
Campbell, described by his mother as “addicted to gaming”, had from an early age posted disturbing footage on his YouTube channel. This included footage where he provided commentary on Slender Man clips, a game where a tall, faceless character lives in the woods and stalks children. Following his conviction YouTube has taken down the footage as “a mark of respect for Alesha and her family”. Other disturbing social media use included a 2017 Facebook Messenger chat where Campbell wrote “Might kill 1 day for the lifetime experience”.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service this week confirmed that Campbell, described by the trial judge (Lord Matthews) as a “cold, callous, calculating, remorseless and dangerous individual”, had lodged a notice of appeal against his sentence. Currently Campbell is being held at HM Young Offenders’ Institute Polmont until he turns 21 when he will then be transferred to the adult prison system. He will not be eligible for parole until 2045.
DfE faces legal action following suicide attempt
The mother of the daughter who tried to kill herself whilst in an isolation booth at a Kent academy is to take legal action against the Department for Education. Her daughter, who has autistic spectrum disorder and mental health problems, spent every school day in an isolation booth from mid January through to mid March, when the practice ceased following the intervention of lawyers. During this time the child had to remain silent and had no directed teaching. The girl took an overdose whilst in the isolation booth.
The unregulated use of isolation booths has been criticised in recent months. Unlike fixed-term exclusions, currently there is no automatic mechanism for schools or academies to report the level of isolations to their governing bodies. HM Government guidance states that isolation rooms should only be used for a “limited period” and that “use of isolation that prevents a child from leaving a room of their own free will should only be considered in exceptional circumstances”.
The legal firm are taking action against the DfE on behalf of the girl, and a pupil of another school, for failing to review its guidance to schools about the use of isolation.
Breck’s Last Game
The film Breck’s Last Game, an innovative collaboration between Leicestershire Police, Northamptonshire Police, Surrey Police and Essex Police, is now publicly available as teaching resource.
14-year-old Breck Bednar was murdered in 2014 by 18-year-old Lewis Daynes, someone he only knew through online gaming and had never met in person until he was eventually coerced to visit Daynes’s flat. Daynes was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison for Breck’s murder. The film, made with the active support of Breck’s mother Lorin LaFave (who appears in the film), raises the awareness of the dangers of online grooming among boys. It is designed to make young people think about who they are in contact with online. Highlighting how a young person can be groomed and manipulated online, become distanced and isolated from friends and family, its purpose is to “protect children now and in the future and to stop another family losing a child in this way”.
The short film, which would be rated 15 if shown in cinemas, has references to grooming, coercive behaviour and violence and includes the real 999 call made to police by Daynes who murdered Breck. A resource pack designed to be delivered to secondary age pupils, developed with the support of the Breck Foundation, supports the film. It includes suggested lesson plans, fact sheets and supporting material and information.
Serious Youth Violence Summit
Following last week’s Serious Youth Violence Summit, it has been announced that youth sports projects are to be expanded to help tackle knife crime. The measure is one part of a renewed government commitment to use the sector to reach those young people most at risk. Schemes will be extended into areas affected by serious violence.
Suicide awareness and self harm
In case you missed it, new Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education guidance was published Feb 2019 which includes the teaching of emotional well being. The publication also includes guidance for teachers on the topics of suicide awareness and self harm.
The Safeguarding e-bulletin will be back following the Easter break on 25th April.
After a seven-week trial at the Old Bailey a jury was unable to reach a unanimous or majority verdict that Jack Renshaw, the 23-year-old from Lancashire convicted of planning a terrorist plot to murder Rosie Cooper MP, was an active member of the neo-Nazi group National Action, a banned group under anti-terror laws.
During a previous Old Bailey trial last year, Renshaw admitted planning a terrorist plot to murder the Labour MP Rosie Cooper with a 19in Gladius knife. He also pleaded guilty to making a threat to kill detective Victoria Henderson, a police officer involved in investigating him for sexual offences. Renshaw also planned to commit “suicide by cop” by advancing on armed police wearing a fake suicide vest in an attack he described as “white jihad”, a slogan used by National Action. He is due to be sentenced next month.
Previously Renshaw was convicted and jailed for 16 months last year for the grooming of two adolescent boys online for sex by using a fake Facebook profile and in a separate court case also received a three-year prison sentence when he was found guilty of stirring up racial hatred. He had called for the genocide of Jewish people.
Father pleads guilty to manslaughter of baby Alfie
The 30-year-old father who was due to stand trial for the murder of his baby son Alfie, has admitted the manslaughter of the four-month-old by violently shaking him. Alfie’s mother Caitlin McMichael found her child unconscious when she returned from a doctor’s appointment in September last year. Alfie, who was taken to hospital with significant traumatic head injuries, died two days later.
The court heard Sam Gildea had a history of involvement with mental health services and that blood samples taken the day after his son’s death showed traces of cocaine and cannabis in his system, consistent with recent use. Admitting to the offence described as an “act of deliberate and unlawful violence”, the court accepted the alternative count of manslaughter and sentenced Gildea to a term of 13 years.
Gildea, who had previously been subject to a domestic violence prevention order, also admitted to a charge of controlling or coercive behaviour towards Ms McMichael during their relationship. He received two additional years for this controlling behaviour, bringing his sentence to a total of 15 years with an extended licence period of four years to be served on his release.
Met failing to tackle online child sexual abuse and exploitation cases
An inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, and Fire and Rescue Services, has found that the Metropolitan Police Service is failing to effectively tackle online child sexual abuse and exploitation cases. Their report, based on an inspection of 34 cases involving online abuse and exploitation of children in October last year, found that 29 of them were either “inadequate” or “required improvement”. Failures were found to be so severe in 15 of the 34 cases that they were sent back to the force for review. Concerns included failure to follow child protection procedures and leaving children potentially at risk of harm.
Whilst the report found the Met had improved some areas of child protection practice, the force’s response to online child sexual abuse and exploitation had worsened since the previous 2017 inspection. The report states:
“We found that the current arrangements for investigating online cases involving indecent images of children and sexual exploitation are not working”
It also criticises the Met for the small size of its team investigating online abuse cases and examining digital devices, work which is blighted by backlogs and resource issues resulting in some devices being returned without being checked. The report does acknowledge that the Met has been “overwhelmed” by a surge in online child sexual abuse and exploitation cases. In some areas of London, officers are managing more than 100 registered sex offenders.
The report highlighted that the levels of cases dealt with by non-specialists “result in notably poorer outcomes than those that are dealt with by specialist teams”. The report concludes that “As a result, investigations may be poor, victim confidence undermined and safeguarding opportunities missed” and calls for the Met to review its responses to online cases of abuse and exploitation as a matter of urgency. Under a planned restructure, Basic Command Unit (BCU) Safeguarding Teams are to be introduced with each unit having a dedicated Superintendent Safeguarding Lead.
The inspectorate will revisit the service within the next 12 months to assess progress.
New legal duty to tackle knife crime- have your say
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has launched an eight-week consultation on the new proposed multi-agency public health duty for public sector workers which includes teachers, health workers and social workers. In a statement on addressing violent crime, the Home Secretary said:
“It’s essential that all public bodies work together to treat the root causes”.
The proposed public health approach, similar to those already in use in Scotland and Wales, is focused on the delivery of long and short-term solutions such as identifying the warning signs that a young person could be in danger of offending, becoming a victim or being groomed. This includes demonstrating worrying behaviour in the home, at school or presenting at A&E with a suspicious injury. The approach could also include organisations jointly funding early intervention services to improve their co-ordination.
If the findings from the 8-week consultation lead to the proposed model, legislation will be tabled to ensure professionals in health, education, police, social services, housing and the voluntary sector work together to make “targeted interventions” and are held accountable for preventing and tackling serious violence. If approved, the Home Office states that the new statutory duty will underpin the multi-agency approach detailed in The Serious Violence Strategy.
Initial commentary and feedback on the proposed model and introduction of the new statutory duty have, in the main, been positive but also cautions that the responsibility for solving knife crime should not solely rely on frontline staff. As the evidence we have recently reported through our bulletins indicates, there must also be a focus of developing resources to deal with the deeper causes that lead young people into serious crime. The success of the proposed public health model, designed to identify more young people at risk, will be reliant on all agencies having the capacity to respond effectively to this increase.
The consultation launch coincides with a series of HM Government summits this week, designed to gather the views of professionals from law enforcement, health, the voluntary sector and education. Young people with experience of living in communities impacted by serious violence will also contribute.
Police & MI5- Tackling the terror threat
“Britain is one of the safest and most prosperous countries in the world. Nonetheless, the complex challenges we and other countries face from terrorism and malign acts by foreign states are all too real. As we saw in Christchurch, attacks can happen at any time and in any place.”
Read the full statement by Andrew Parker DG MI5 and Cressida Dick Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Increased Poverty- a vulnerability indicator
Statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions show a record 2.9 million children from working families in the UK are living in poverty after housing costs have been paid. The official statistics show that 70% of all poor children were in working families last year, up from 67% on the previous year, and that the face of child poverty is also getting younger with 53% of poor children aged under five.
The high cost of housing in the UK is taking more working families over the poverty line. Compared with 2010 figures, nearly a third more children (193,000) now live in meagre circumstances due to spiralling rents and mortgage costs.
The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, is calling for HM Government to urgently invest more money in social housing. In a statement, Chief Executive Kate Henderson said:
“Year after year hundreds of thousands more hard-working families are falling into poverty – forced to choose between feeding and clothing their children, or providing a roof over their heads. The lack of affordable homes is exacerbating in-work poverty.”
Police officers to be placed in London schools
Last week the Metropolitan Police revealed their ambition to place nearly 600 officers to work in London schools. Reporting to a HM Government inquiry into knife crime, the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons told MPs:
“We need young people to see the police not just as the person who stops them in the street and searches them… but also as someone who can become familiar to them, who can be approachable, who can engage with them day to day within school.”
A teaching union representative has said that it is better that one child is stabbed than to have schools erect knife detector arches. In response to an announcement re plans to introduce knife arches and detecting wands in schools made by an East London council borough, Redbridge National Education Union joint divisional secretary Kash Malik stated (in an interview with the Ilford Recorder and confirmed to the Tes) “Knife arches are not the answer. I have never been in favour of them and schools shouldn’t have to worry about it, it should be an environment where you should be focusing on studying.” Malik went on to say “It is better to have one child stabbed at school than to have an environment where no one is stabbed at school and everyone carries knives outside of school.”
Malik’s argument that knife arches would “normalise carrying knives
except at school” and comments have been met with much criticism on
social media. Sean Harford, HMI and National Director, Education of
Our Safeguarding Director, Sam Preston, also contributed questioning “Where is the evidence base that introducing arches & wands in schools would increase the number of incidents elsewhere or that more knives would be carried? Let’s look at why children are carrying knives – sometimes it’s because they don’t feel safe – and work to change the culture.
Following his much-publicised comments, the National Education Union (NEU) has suspended Malik. Fewer than half of London’s secondary schools and FE colleges have taken up the Mayor of London’s offer of free knife-detecting wands, indicating that the strategy of such equipment as part of safeguarding strategies is still a subject for debate.
Lessons from London
Following on from the blog by our Safeguarding Director (We know what works, we need capacity now, 13/03/19) Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s regional director for London, has said that too few schools are brought around the table to deal with knife crime. Sheridan’s statement follows the publication of Ofsted research, which looked at how children are protected from knife violence in school and taught to be safe outside school settings.
The research findings, based on survey responses from over 100 secondary
schools, colleges and pupil referral units across London, found that
stronger multi-agency partnerships are needed to support schools to deal
with knife crime and to iron out inconsistencies in the approach to
counter the complex societal problems which lie behind the rise in knife
The report also identified that no single body has a clear grasp of “managed moves”, a process which involves moving pupils who carry knives to other mainstream schools or pupil referral units. In order to help monitor this process, the report calls for the DfE to collect and publish data to evaluate what happens to these children, if the process keeps them safe and to measure their educational outcomes.
Whilst identifying that the valuable role schools, academies and colleges can play in local partnerships is not being realised, the report falls short from identifying how capacity issues to enable this participation by staff from educational settings may be achieved.
Serious Violence Summit
Yesterday in the House of Commons Prime Minister Theresa May announced that a Serious Violence Summit will convene next Monday to gather evidence, which will then be examined in a series of round table discussions, to develop the Serious Crime Strategy. We will be following and reporting on the outcomes from the summit and subsequent discussions.
Contextual Safeguarding – is our Child Protection system fit for purpose?
As promised in last week’s bulletin, we are keeping you up-to-date with evidence presented to the Home Affairs Committee on subject of serious violence. This month, Dr Carlene Firmin (MBE Principal Research Fellow at University of Bedfordshire), Dr Simon Harding (Professor in Criminology University of West London) and Junior Smart (Business Development Manager at St Giles Trust) gave evidence outlining their thoughts on the increase in serious violence in the last few years.
The panel heard evidence highlighting the intersecting factors thought to be responsible for the escalation in serious violence and gang membership which included the lack of resource to respond, the loss of youth services as community guardians (which also impacts on safe spaces for young people) and contextual safeguarding which places young people at risk of exposure to violence. The evidence presented identified the different forms of serious violence now experienced clearly as child protection issues however, it highlighted the failings of using the current child protection system which is designed to deal with abuse within families not outside family situations. The current child protection system has not been resourced or equipped to cope with contextual safeguarding and manage or protect children.
In 2007-09, following an increase in knife crimes and shootings, children were moved out of urban spaces into care placements in rural counties. Many of these rural areas were, and still aren’t, equipped to manage and support the relocated children who have been groomed into violence. It is also pertinent to question if this relocation model has contributed to the phenomena known as “County lines”, as many are relocated within easy travelling distance to their original areas and, with access to mobile and social media networks, remain in contact with those putting them at risk.
It is clear that the current safeguarding framework is ill equipped to adequately support teenage children and that the “referring in” system simply isn’t working. Current assessment processes do not adequately access or reflect the child’s lifestyle and way of thinking e.g. evolution into gang culture, and referrals are compromised by secure family assessments. The result is that vulnerable children who have such secure family assessments do not meet thresholds for intervention and, because of this, there is no process to resolve the contextual risks of exposure to abuse and involvement in serious / violent crime.
We are featuring a blog on gang evolution in next week’s bulletin and will continue to keep you up-to-date with the further evidence presented to the committee in future bulletins.
Cuckooing, closely linked to the phenomenon of County Lines (where gang members, or vulnerable people under their control, cross the border of their county into another county with the intention of selling drugs). It is a relatively new term used to describe how criminal gangs target the most isolated, vulnerable members of a community, befriending them with the intention of taking over their homes to create bases to deal drugs and carry out other criminal activities. There is no age limit to those being targeted however, older adults that are socially isolated can become easy targets with tactics of befriending, moving in and then taking over.
Cuckooing can take on many forms. Common used tactics are:
To befriend a socially isolated older person who lives alone with no family or friend support network. The older person is made to believe they have gained a friend who they then allow to stay at their home. They don’t realise that drug dealing activity is taking place or that they are being taken advantage of;
Where a female befriends a vulnerable male to become their “girlfriend” and then introduces “friends” into the vulnerable adult’s home, where drug dealing activity then takes place. The so called “girlfriend” may be a victim of exploitation used by the drug dealing gang;
Targeting a vulnerable person and supplying them with drugs to build up a debt they cannot repay enabling exploitation, threatening behaviour and violence. The vulnerable person becomes too frightened to seek help whilst their home is used by the gang.
Cuckooing is an exploitative practice directed at the most vulnerable in society which can also include current and ex drug users, socially isolated individuals, those with mental health difficulties, physical or learning disabilities.
Local Authority rated “inadequate” due to Child Protection concerns
A damning Ofsted report has downgraded Stoke-on-Trent Local Authority Children’s Services to “inadequate” citing that “poor leadership” is failing to protect children.
Downgraded for overall effectiveness due to a raft of child protection failures during an inspection in February, the report specified that leadership, support for children in need of help and protection and support for care leavers and children in care were all inadequate with ineffective management of risk and thresholds not being consistently applied. Inspectors warned that “vulnerable children are not safeguarded in Stoke-on-Trent”.
The lack of foster placements was a particular area of concern with 56 children at the time of the inspection being placed in unregulated placements, some of which had not been fully assessed or approved by the authority and were known to be “unsafe”. Inspectors found that the rationale and management decisions of such placements were “missing from all children’s case records.”
Previously rated “requires improvement” in 2015, and despite a focused visit in 2018 which highlighted concerns about high social worker caseloads and the quality of record keeping, this latest Ofsted inspection found that most of its recommendations had not been acted upon stating “Children are not being protected, and they experience serious and widespread delays in having their needs met across children’s services.”
In a Local Authority response to the report findings, leader Ann James said they ” take the ruling by Ofsted extremely seriously and are very concerned by the findings. It means that our practices are not robust enough to provide the best protection to meet the needs of our city’s vulnerable young people. This is unacceptable and we are committed to improving our service at pace for our children.”
Despite the widespread criticism of Instagram following the sad case of Molly Russell, the 14-year-old who took her own life after viewing self-harm images, a BBC investigation has found further evidence of children swapping graphic images of weight loss and advice on how to make their illnesses more extreme.
The BBC investigation found posts, hashtags, images and search terms promoting and glamorising eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia to be common on Instagram despite the platform, which is owned by Facebook, stating they were committed to removing all graphic self-harm images. In a statement Instagram said it does not allow content encouraging or promoting eating disorders and removes it when aware.
NHS Digital data shows a rise of more than 130% in those aged 19 and under suffering from eating disorders being admitted to hospital in England since 2011. In 2018 there were more than 2,000 admissions for children aged 15 or under – an increase of 163% on 2011 admissions.
In addition, on this subject, Children’s commissioner Anne Longfield recently tweeted: “In February, we searched Instagram using #selfharm and it brought up 640,000 results. Today the same search brings up 700,000 results.
It is clear that despite concerns and commitment to action, this issue is spiralling with vulnerable young people finding peer groups supporting their behaviour online. Together with warning young people and reinforcing the message that this is a form of online abuse, we can also safeguard children by recognising some of the signs of an eating disorder. The charity Beat recommends being mindful of behaviours which can include:
becoming obsessive about food
changes in behaviour
distorted belief about their body size
being often tired or struggling to concentrate
disappearing to the toilet after meals/ eating
starting / maintaining an excessive exercise regime
Safeguarding – holiday / ‘after hours’ provision
In the run up to Easter holidays when children may be accessing sports and other activities clubs, it’s very tempting to assume they meet safeguarding standards. But much publicised cases e.g. football coach Barry Bennell, tennis coach Daniel Sanders have shown that even clubs governed by national organisations can fail to meet statutory and best practice standards.
So, if your school / academy is contracting holiday activity provision, or looking to extend your after-school club provision, robust service level agreement checks are essential. Click here to see the 6 key things to consider before entering into contractual arrangements.
Welsh Government plans to ban smacking
The Welsh government plans to introduce a new ban on smacking children by ending the legal defence of “reasonable punishment” which may be currently used to counter common assault charges.
Currently it is illegal to hit a child in England and Wales however, parents or persons acting as parents have a legal defence that allows them to cite reasonable force unless the physical punishment leaves a mark on the child or if the child is hit with an implement. The introduction of the ban follows research published by the Welsh government in 2018 which found that 81% of parents disagreed it was sometimes necessary to smack a “naughty” child.
The Bill is due to be presented to the National Assembly and, following scrutiny by the Children and Young People’s Committee, findings will be debated by the full Assembly. If passed by the Assembly, the Bill could be still be halted though by referral to the Supreme Court or if the Secretary of State for Wales bans it being sent for Royal Assent.
Contracting holiday activity provision, or looking to extend your after school club provision? Here are 6 key things to consider before entering into contractual arrangements.
Does the club / organisation have a Safeguarding policy in place? It is essential to compare their policy with your governance arrangements to ensure all your expectations will be met. If the club / organisation doesn’t have a policy in place you may wish to build the relevant key areas of the school / academy’s policy into your service level agreement. This is important to not only protect the children attending, but your organisation, from potential litigation.
Do you have the details for the club / organisation who you can contact if you have any concerns? Its important to have contact with the main organisation, not just the person providing the activity.
Are safer recruitment procedures being adhered to? Its highly likely service provider staff will be working in “regulated activity” so check appropriate DBS vetting checks have been completed. (This should be recorded on your contractor section of the Single Central Record). Note: we would only recommend statements of assurance re DBS vetting are accepted from key agencies e.g. the Police, Local Authority or Health staff. All other providers should submit full DBS details for your records.
Have the service providers completed safeguarding training? This should be accredited and meet all statutory requirements.
Have service provider staff completed first aid training? If not and delivering services on your site, you will have to ensure this support is available.
Are there written procedures on how any accidents or injuries will be managed? This includes both procedures for immediate response to accidents / incidents and reporting to you / parents.
Here are the relevant online courses we provide that
relate to this article:
To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click
Monday saw CSE Awareness day, the annual event to raise awareness of
this issue within everybody’s child protection remit. CSE is a form of
sexual abuse where people under 18yrs are manipulated / coerced into
sexual activity in exchange for money, gifts, accommodation, affection,
status or under threat.
This abuse exists online too through the use of social media platforms and also on Dark Web sites (the unindexed part of the internet only accessible by means of special software which allows users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable). Only 2% of Dark Web sites are attributed to contain sexually exploitative content however, more than 80% of all Dark Web users access this area, which has content including the cataloguing of sexual images of children categorised by age and characteristics.
CSE can happen to any child, anywhere, in many forms- do you and your staff know the signs? Click through to our checklist.
Music teacher spared prohibition order
A music teacher has avoided a ban from teaching after a professional conduct panel found that his touching of pupils was “not for sexual gratification”.
Simon Marsh, a former teacher at St Mary’s Catholic Academy, Blackpool, was accused of having massaged a pupil’s shoulders during a lesson, having placed his hands on or near a pupil’s waist whilst she was near a piano keyboard and having played with a pupil’s hair. He was also said to have commented “I’m glad you’re wearing shorts” when a pupil’s skirt blew up. Marsh denied all of the allegations.
Despite being aware Marsh had previously been given a formal warning for inappropriate proximity to a female student, the professional conduct panel of the Teaching Regulation Agency found that, whilst the accusations in their view had been proven, they considered them to fall short of unacceptable professional conduct stating “there was absolutely no evidence that Mr Marsh’s actions were in pursuit of sexual gratification”. The panel did find the proven actions to be “misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession”.
Even though concerns had been raised with Marsh as part of formal disciplinary procedures, the panel did not consider he had in response adapted his behaviour in accordance with the advice given. However, the panel felt that publication of their report was “sufficient to send an appropriate message to the teacher, to demonstrate the standards of behaviour that are not acceptable and meet the public interest requirement of declaring proper standards of the profession” and recommended that no prohibition order should be imposed.
Plea for financial support for adult CSE survivors
Tuesday saw a question in the House of Commons which asked “what steps are being taken to improve the experience of victims giving evidence in court?” Whilst the Victims Strategy published last September includes measures for victims giving evidence in court and there are further commitments in draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Sarah Champion MP raised the issue that there was no current statutory duty for adult survivors of CSE to get paid leave to give evidence. Currently they have to take unpaid leave or holidays placing them at a financial loss or not being able to give evidence. Champion stressed that not hearing the evidence of CSE victims had a direct impact on securing convictions and that no victim should be financially at a loss for seeking justice. Edward Argar MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice agreed to meet with Champion to discuss the issue.
Terrorist attack prompts doubling of funding
Following the terrorist attack in Christchurch which claimed the lives of 50 people and injured a further 40, here in the UK HM Government are to double next year’s Places of Worship fund to £1.6 million in order to reassure communities and provide further protection for worshippers. Home Secretary Savid Javid said “The horrific events in New Zealand are a direct attack on the values of tolerance and freedom of worship that unite us all. Nobody should ever fear persecution of their faith and it’s vital we stand together to reject those who seek to spread hatred and divide us”. To increase uptake in the fund and ensure it reaches those most vulnerable to hate crime, the bidding process will also be simplified so organisations no longer have to prove they have previously experienced a hate crime incident directly. In addition, a new £5 million fund (over 3 years) is to be opened to provide security training.
Court appearance for peer charged with historical sexual offences
Lord Ahmed, the former Labour peer who was charged last month with
two counts of attempted rape and one count of indecent assault in the
1970s, appeared in court on Tuesday. The charges against the
61-year-old peer relate to two complainants – a boy and a girl – and to
alleged incidents between 1971 and 1974, when he was a teenager. The
indecent assault charge relates to a boy under 14. His solicitor stated
Ahmed would be pleading not guilty to all charges.
Ahmed appeared at Sheffield magistrates court alongside his two brothers, Mohamed Farouq (68) and Mohammed Tariq (63). Farouq is charged with four counts of indecent assault against a boy under 14 and Tariq is charged with two counts of indecent assault against a boy under 14. All three men were granted bail to appear at Sheffield Crown Court on 16th April 2019.
Repercussions for Facebook user
Jo Campbell, Executive Head Teacher at Shaw Wood Academy has announced that the member of staff who posted content described as “abhorrent” on Facebook is no longer employed by the academy. The member of staff at the Doncaster school posted “Oh how the tables have turned, how does it feel being on the receiving end” beneath an article about the Christchurch terrorist attack. In her initial response to being alerted to the post, Campbell stated “I would like to reassure you that I, our staff and our governors share your abhorrence at the content of the Facebook post and that it is no way reflective of our school or the community it serves”.
This incident serves as a reminder to all schools, academies and colleges to ensure social media usage is addressed in their organisation’s ICT Acceptable Use policies and user agreements. These documents are a crucial element for governance to state their expected behaviour of employees and volunteers.
In our child protection remit we must be aware and vigilant to identifying the signs and symptoms that may indicate CSE. Whilst not solely attributed to CSE (some of the signs listed could be typical teenage behaviour) these physical, psychological and behavioural indicators should prompt practitioners to consider that this form of abuse may be happening. So here’s a quick reminder:
Injuries that are unexplained or where the explanation is not plausible;
Substance misuse (including drugs and alcohol);
Rapid changes in appearance;
Repeat miscarriages or pregnancies;
Health / Sexual health related problems including sexually transmitted infections;
Disassociation with friends, family or other individuals /groups;
Being secretive and / or withdrawn;
Displaying feelings of helplessness;
Self harm activities / overdosing;
Post traumatic symptoms;
Receiving money or gifts- this may be as a reward in the grooming process or as a reward for recruiting others into CSE;
Regularly arriving late or going missing from home;
Being known to regularly travel from their home area to other locations (County Lines model) / having knowledge of locations they have had no previous connection with;
Staying out at night with no explanation of where they were or what they were doing;
Non/ low attendance, unexplained absence and school exclusions;
Demonstrating defensive behaviour when questioned about where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing;
Aggressive behaviour / conduct problems;
Reduced contact with family, usual friends or other groups;
Known or reported to be in a relationship with a much older adult;
Associating with an unknown adult and / or new groups of friends;
Association with a series of unknown adults;
Association with other young people at risk or known to be sexually exploited;
Frequenting pubs / bars with unknown adults;
Being seen in known hotspot areas;
Involvement in criminal offending;
Repeat criminal offending;
Gang membership or association;
Accepting money, gifts, mobile phone credit, drugs or alcohol;
Sexualised/ risk taking internet and mobile phone activity (including sexting);
Having multiple mobile phones / SIM cards;
Refusing / withdrawing a sexual assault complaint following initial disclosure;
Breakdown of care placements due to behaviour;
Reported to be exchanging / selling sexual activity.
This checklist is not exhaustive but is designed to promote awareness of potential CSE indicators. Remember it is not your duty to investigate or to categorise types of abuse but to share any concerns.
Here are the relevant online courses we provide that
relate to this article:
To find out more about our Child Sexual Exploitation
To find out about our Safeguarding Suiteclick
A 27-year-old man has been jailed last week for planning an attack on the UK’s busiest shopping street. The investigation led by Counter Terrorism Police resulted in Lewis Ludlow being sentenced at the Old Bailey to life, serving a minimum of 15 years before consideration for parole.
Police had evidence of Ludlow pledging allegiance to Daesh recorded on a mobile phone which he had tried to dispose of by throwing in a storm drain. In the recovered mobile phone video footage Ludlow stated “we (Daesh) love death as much as you love life”.
In footage released by Counter-Terrorism Policing UK on Twitter, Ludlow is seen to be scoping out and taking photographs on Oxford Street, where he planned to hire a vehicle and drive it into the crowds. However, officers from Counter-Terrorism Policing South East were watching as he carried out his reconnaissance of potential sites. Ludlow was being monitored by counter-terrorism detectives after his passport was confiscated when he attempted to travel to the Philippines, where he had been sending money to fund terrorist activity.
Police are urging the public to be vigilant and support the ACT campaign (Action Counters Terrorism) by reporting any suspicious behaviour to gov.uk/ACT or 0800 789 321.
Landmark FGM Sentence
The 37-year-old Ugandan mother, the first person in the UK to be convicted of female genital mutilation, has been jailed for eleven years with an additional two-year sentence for the possession of indecent images and extreme pornography. During sentencing, Mrs Justice Whipple described the mother’s act of FGM as “a barbaric and sickening crime”.
The woman, who cannot be named to safeguard the 3-year-old victim, enlisted another woman (whom she referred to as a “witch”) to mutilate her daughter at their east London home in 2017. Suffering severe bleeding, the 3-year-old was taken to hospital where her mother claimed the child had fallen from a work surface onto a cupboard door whilst trying to reach biscuits. However, during surgery the consultant surgeon found three separate sites of injury typical of Type 2 FGM, which involves the mutilation of the clitoris and removal of the labia minora.
Her former partner was cleared of involvement in the FGM offence however, following a guilty plea to two charges of possession of an indecent image of a child and two charges of possessing extreme pornography, he was sentenced to eleven months in prison, which he has already served on remand.
A police search of the family home found evidence described as “spells, curses and witchcraft” which included two cow tongues bound in wire with embedded nails and a blunt knife. Police also found limes and fruit containing the names of police officers, doctors, the director of public prosecutions and the social worker assigned to the case, thought to be a bid to silence them. While there are no direct links between FGM and witchcraft, cases attributing witchcraft have been documented. Examples include grinding up the female genitals in rituals to promote fertility or wealth, using FGM to rid a girl deemed a witch of a curse or naming the victim as a witch if death occurs during or following the act of FGM.
Despite previous delays, The Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill had its third reading in the House of Commons this week. The amendments agreed state that proceedings under Section 5A of, and Schedule 2 to, the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 are family proceedings.
This is a small but important change to the Act which rectifies an omission in existing child protection law and enables the Family Courts to direct Local Authorities to make interim care orders under the Children Act 1989 in child cases relating to FGM. (Such powers already exist for other types of abuse e.g. Forced Marriage).
Legal Action following Parsons Green Bombing
The foster parents of a teenager jailed for life for the Parsons Green tube train bombing are suing Surrey County Council for negligence, claiming they were not told about his terrorist past. The couple claim that the council did not inform them that the teenager, in a January 2016 immigration review, had admitted he had been trained to kill by the Islamic State terrorist group.
The teenager, Ahmed Hassan, received a life sentence aged 18 last year after being found guilty of planting a bomb in September 2017 on a tube train at Parsons Green. The bomb, made by Hassan, partially exploded injuring 51 people. Hassan, an Iraqi national, had previously been identified as an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC) in October 2015 and taken into the care of Surrey County Council.
Following the trial, Surrey County Council stopped the couple, who previously fostered 269 children over a 47-year period and were awarded MBEs in 2010, from fostering. This action has resulted in the couple also claiming that their right to a family life, under the Human Rights Act, has been breached. The couple are also taking the legal action to ensure that other foster carers are made aware of serious concerns about young people being placed with them.
The letter to Rt Hon Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Office Affairs Select Committee, following the Parsons Green Review said: “There was an apparent lack of formal, documented plan to manage and mitigate Ahmed Hassan’s vulnerabilities and associated risks.” The committee also recommended all social care staff and managers should receive training around radicalisation.
A Surrey County Council spokesman said: “We are defending this claim. However, we acknowledge this has been a very difficult time for Mr and Mrs Jones and their family”.