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History of Child Abuse law

Posted on: August 4, 2017

The Statutory Protection of Children over the years

Statutory Law (Acts of Parliament) has provided for the protection of Children over the past 120 years since the introduction of the Children’s Charter in 1889. Since the Children’s Charter there have been a number of developments in the statutory protection of children to the present day, namely;

  • Children’s Act 1908
  • Children & Young Persons Act 1932
  • Children Act 1948
  • Children & Young Persons Boarding Out Regulations 1955 (Statutory Instrument)
  • Local Authority Social Services Act 1970
  • Child Care Act 1980
  • Children Act 1989
  • Protection of Children Act 1999
  • Children Act 2004

What has happened in recent times?

There is no doubt that child abuse has been occurring for many years. However, it is only recently since the late 80’s / early 90’s that the lid has been forced open on the widespread and serious abuse of children within the Residential Setting. It became clear that these incidents of abuse were not just ‘one-offs’ but were systemic within Residential Institutions usually involving many children and many abusers within one establishment or a number of linked establishments owned and/or operated by a private company, Local Authority or individual. Three major inquiries which looked at this issue are (1) The Pindown Inquiry (2) The Leicestershire Inquiry and (3) The Waterhouse Inquiry.

The Pindown Inquiry 1991

The ‘Pindown Inquiry’ looked at a number of Children’s Homes in Staffordshire in which a practice known as ‘Pindown’ was operating. Basically, Pindown was a form of control exercised over children by depriving them of their liberty and imposing a regime of social isolation. The Claimants subsequently brought successful legal proceedings and obtained compensation.

The Leicestershire Inquiry 1992

The Leicestershire Inquiry chaired by Andrew Kirkwood Q.C. looked into allegations of abuse and maltreatment at a number of Children’s Homes in Leicestershire. The Officer in Charge of the homes was Frank Beck, a former Royal Marines Sergeant.

Frank Beck was first appointed the Officer in Charge of a Children’s home in Market Harborough in 1973 and remained within the employment of Leicestershire County Council as the officer in charge of Children’s Homes until his resignation in March 1986. The relevant homes were as follows:-

1973 – 1975 The Poplars Children’s Home, Market Harborough
1975 – 1978 Ratcliffe Road Children’s Home, Leicester
1978 – 1986 The Beeches Children’s Home, Leicester Forest East

Allegations against Frank Beck were first raised in 1989 when a former resident of the Ratcliffe Road Children’s Home told her family’s social worker of her experiences whilst in the charge of Frank Beck. The Police investigated and arrests were made in May 1990. The Police investigations identified 600 potential witnesses who were traced and witness statements were taken from 383. Of the former residents who were interviewed many spoke of mistreatment.

On 29th November 1991 Frank Beck was found guilty on 17 counts of sexual and physical assault, including four counts of buggery and one count of rape. He received a life sentence. Peter Jaynes was convicted of one offence of indecent assault, one of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two offences of common assault. George Lincoln was convicted of one offence of common assault.

However, the abuse and maltreatment was not just sexual and physical. Frank Beck, with hardly any experience in psychiatry or psychotherapy, was practicing an unusual and abusive form of regression therapy which had an adverse affect on the children involved.

Following the criminal trials the Secretary of State for Health announced the setting up of two Inquiries. A National Inquiry chaired by Mr. Norman Warner and a legally chaired Inquiry.

The Inquiry found, based upon the evidence, that in Mr. Beck’s successive homes there was a regime of sexual, physical and emotional abuse and highlighted the failings within the system that allowed this regime to emerge and continue.

Leicestershire: The Civil Claims

Billhar Uppal, the principal of Uppal Taylor Solicitors, represented Claimants in an action against Leicestershire County Council arising from the abuse and maltreatment that had occurred at the hands of Frank Beck. The Claimants won their claim against the Local Authority in 1996 and were awarded compensation.

North Wales Tribunal of Inquiry (‘The Waterhouse Report’)

The North Wales Tribunal of Inquiry into child abuse in North Wales, chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, opened on September 1996 and closed in May 1998. The Inquiry looked into widespread allegations of abuse and maltreatment regarding a number of Children’s Homes and establishments in North Wales, the relevant homes, for the purposes of the inquiry, where;

The Bryn Alyn Community

  • Bryn Alyn Hall
  • Pentre Saeson Hall
  • Bryntirion Hall
  • Gatewen Hall
  • Care Concern

Care Concern

  • Ystrad Hall School
  • Berwyn College for Girls
  • The Village, Llangwyfan
  • Clwyd Hall School
    • Clwyd Hall School

      • Local Authority Homes in Clwyd

      Local Authority Homes in Clwyd

      • Bryn Estyn (1974 – 1978)
      • Little Acton Assessment Centre (1974 – 1980)
      • Bersham Hall (1974 – 1993)
      • Chevet Hey (1974 – 1990)
      • Cartrefle Community Home (1974 – 1993)
      • Cherry Hill Community Home
      • Upper Downing Community Home
      • Park House Community Home
      • South Meadow Community Home
      • Tanllwyfan
      • Ysgol Talfryn
      • Gwynfa Residential Unit

      Local Authority Homes in Gwynedd

      • Ty’r Felin (1974 – 1995)
      • Ty Newydd (1983 – 1987)
      • Y Gwyngyll (1979 – 1986)
      • 5 Queen’s Park Close, Holyhead
      • Cartref Bontnewydd (1988 – 1986)

      Private Residential Establishments in Gwynedd

      • Aran Hall School (formally Hengwrt Hall School)
      • Paul Hett Residential Establishments;
      • (a) Ynys Fechan Hall
        (b) Dol Rhyd School
        (c) Hengwrt House (later called the Pioneer Centre)

      In total there were 259 complainants of which 129 gave oral testimony to the Inquiry. The Inquiry found evidence of widespread abuse and maltreatment within many of the homes subject to the inquiry.

      Billhar Uppal, the Principal of Uppal Taylor Solicitors, represented the largest Claimant group before the inquiry.

      The ‘Waterhouse Inquiry’ has led to many successful claims including the ground breaking claim for the abuse and maltreatment suffered by former residents of the Bryn Alyn Community which was heard, at first instance, by Connell J in 2001 and then reached the Court of Appeal in 2003.

      Various Claimants – v – Leicestershire County Council (2nd April 1996)
      High Court, Queen’s Bench Division before the Honourable Mr. Justice Potts

      The claims arose out of severe abuse and maltreatment perpetrated by Frank Beck, a former sergeant of the Marines with a qualification in social work. Frank Beck was the Officer in Charge of the Defendant’s Children’s Homes in Leicestershire (Poplars Children’s Home; Ratcliffe Road Children’s Home; The Beeches Children’s Home and Leicester Forest East) between 1973 and 1986. The claims were successful and the Claimants received compensation.

      Various Claimants – v – Flintshire County Council (The former Clwyd County Council) North Wales Children’s Homes Litigation (2000) before Scott Baker J.

      This claim involved 11 Claimants who brought proceedings against the Local Authority in respect of abuse and maltreatment in Children’s Homes in North Wales.

      The Court held that the Local Authority owed a direct duty to each Claimant whom it had been in loco parentis too and the duty was to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe home for them. The test for the breach of this duty was whether the perpetrator of the abuse would have committed the abuse if supervised to the relevant standard. The relevant standard of supervision had to be judged against the awareness of the risk of abuse at the time.

      Effective supervision was necessary to ensure that the homes were reasonably safe but had not been provided. This effective supervision would have made it a much greater risk for senior management to abuse and would have probably resulted in the abuse being discovered.

      Each of the claims was assessed on its own merits and compensation was individually assessed in respect of each Claimant. Compensation was assessed in all 11 of the claims. Awards related to (1) the damage caused by the Defendants breach of duty i.e. had the abuse made a material contribution to the particular Claimant’s condition assessed on the ordinary civil standard (2) loss of earnings where the Claimant would need to persuade the court that it was more likely than not that he had earned less since the abuse than he would have earned if he had not been abused.

      C – v- Flintshire County Council (Formerly Clwyd County Council (2001) Court of Appeal before Henry LJ, Ward LJ and Buxton LJ

      Flintshire County Council appealed against the quantification of damages assessed by Scott-Baker J in Various Claimants – v – Flintshire County Council (formerly Clwyd County Council) made on 26th July 2000.

      Prior to her admission into care C was subjected to physical and emotional abuse from her parents; she was also bullied at school. She was placed in a Local Authority home where she experienced five months of bullying from other residents without staff intervention. After a short spell at home she was returned to the care of the Local Authority again and was subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse perpetrated against her by members of staff at a Local Authority Children’s Home. Following this period C was placed with foster parents and had a succession of temporary jobs, however, C had developed a serious drink problem and was damaged and vulnerable. C became involved with drugs and by the time she had reached her 20’s was without work, taking and supplying drugs. C suffered with panic attacks and self-destructive behaviour.

      C was awarded £35,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenity; £20,000 for loss of past earnings; £5,000 for future loss of earnings and £10,000 for the costs of psychotherapy; this made a total award of £70,000.

      The Local Authority, in their appeal, did not contest the issue of liability but argued that the damages figure was too high.

      The Court of Appeal stated that the JSB guidelines did not apply in cases of this nature. The sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children fell into a wholly different category. The Judge had been correct to take a broad-brush approach and find as he did. The Court of Appeal stated that the Judge’s finding as to quantum could not be criticised.

      Various Claimants – v – (1) Bryn Alyn Community (Holdings) Limited (2) Royal and Sun Alliance Plc (2001) High Court before Connell J

      14 Claimants brought proceedings against the Defendant in negligence after suffering sexual, physical and emotional abuse whilst resident within the Bryn Alyn Community. The Court found that the Defendant had breached its direct duty of care to the Claimants to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe home for them during their residency within the Community; in that, the system of care operated by Bryn Alyn was inadequate, not properly organised and not properly supervised. The Court found the claims to be statute barred but exercised its discretion under s.33 Limitation Act 1980 to allow the claims to proceed. The Court held that to deprive the Claimants of a remedy would be prejudicial and unjust and that the delay in bringing proceedings was an entirely understandable lack of confidence or ability on the part of the Claimants to talk to others at an earlier stage with regard to their unhappy and embarrassing experiences within the Bryn Alyn Community.

      The Court, following the House of Lords decision in Lister – v – Hesley Hall (2001), held that Bryn Alyn was vicariously liable for the conduct of those employees who had abused the Claimants and that Bryn Alyn could not escape liability by claiming that the employees who abused children were acting outside the scope of their employment.

      The Court awarded the successful Claimants damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity and some Claimants recovered for a loss of earnings and the cost of psychotherapy.

      Various Claimants – v – (1) Bryn Alyn Community (Holdings) Limited (2) Royal and Sun Alliance (2003) Court of Appeal before Auld LJ, Waller LJ and Mantell LJ.

      The Court of Appeal found that the Claimants should be entitled to proceed under s.14 of the Limitation Act 1980. Furthermore, the Claimants appeals for increased awards were successful and the Court of Appeal substituted the awards of Connell J for higher awards. Of particular importance was that the Court of Appeal ruled that the Claimants should be compensated for the entirety of their required costs of medical treatment, even if, part of the injury for which the treatment related was caused by another source.
      Whilst the Claimants in the above Bryn Alyn claims were successful in establishing liability and overcoming the limitation defence put forward by the Defendants. Bryn Alyn Community (Holdings) Limited, however, was a company in administrative receivership without sufficient assets to satisfy the damages judgements. Accordingly, enforcement proceedings were brought against the Public Liability Insurers for the material times; this has been heard by the High Court in 2006 and the Court of Appeal in 2006; there is a possibility that this case may reach the House of Lords.

      KR & Others – v – Royal & Sun Alliance Plc (2006) High Court before Simon J

      Proceedings were brought by the successful Bryn Alyn Claimants against the Public Liability Insurer of Bryn Alyn under the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 1930 s.1. The issue that fell to be determined was whether the relevant insurance policy existed pre August 1976 and whether the claims were voided by an exception clause in the policy which excluded liability from any loss resulting from any “deliberate act or omission of the insured”.

      The Court found that there was no evidence of a policy prior to August 1976. The Court had found, in the previous cases that the abuse and maltreatment occurred as a result of the negligence of the Defendant; accordingly, there was no finding that the Claimants had suffered injury from a deliberate act or omission on the part of the Defendant. The award had been made by the Court on the basis of neglect and not in respect of the infliction of deliberate harm, as such; the acts of sexual and physical abuse were not acts of Bryn Alyn being the Insured. Negligence had allowed those acts of abuse and maltreatment to occur but any deliberate act was on the part of the abuser. As the insurance policy exception only related to the deliberate acts or omissions of the Insured these claims were not excluded under the policy of insurance.

      KR & Others – v – Royal & Sun Alliance Plc (2006) Court of Appeal before Sir Anthony Clarke MR, Longmore LJ and Scott Baker LJ.

      The Defendant Insurer appealed against the decision at first instances that it was liable to the Claimants in respect of the claims brought under the provisions of the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 1930.

      The insurers contended,, firstly, that the abuse consisted of deliberate acts of abuse, whether or not there was negligence in permitting them to take place, and that the abuse was by the insured because it was the responsibility of John Allen. Secondly, the abuse perpetrated by John Allen and the other directors and/or managerial employees of the Insured should be attributed to the Company and therefore was abuse by the Company i.e. the Insured.

      The Court of Appeal found that the Defendants first argument was inconsistent with the findings of negligence by the Bryn Alyn Community. The evidence, which had been submitted to the Courts, did not evidence that the regime within the Bryn Alyn Community was calculated to permit abuse to occur. Further, it was necessary to look at the individual acts of abuse and maltreatment in each particular case to see whether or not the Defendant Insurance Company could rely on the exception clause within the policy of insurance.

      In respect of the Defendant’s second submission, the Court of appeal stated that the Judge at first instance had erred in holding that the Insurance Company could not rely on the exception clause because the abusers were not acting in a managerial role but for their own ends. On proper construction, the exception clause was concerned with the injury or damage occasioned to the Claimants resulting from a deliberate act or omission of the Insured. If the injury was attributed to the deliberate act or omission of the Insured then the Insurance Company was not liable.

      The intention of the exception clause was to exclude liability for damage caused by the deliberate acts of the persons who were to be regarded as, in effect, the Insured itself as opposed to those acts of abuse that were committed by mere employees. In this respect, the deliberate acts of abuse by John Allen fell to be attributed to the Insured; those acts were within the terms of the exception clause along with those acts committed by directors or the heads of individual homes at the time; “managerial employees”. As such, all acts of abuse by John Allen, from when the insurance policies began and acts of abuse when the exception policy was extended to include managerial employees fell outside the scope of the Defendant Insurers cover. However, the Defendant Insurer was liable for the other acts of abuse committed by others.

      House of Lords?

      Unfortunately, permission was not granted to the remaining Claimants to Appeal to the House of Lords.

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