Safeguarding News June 2021
Top of the headlines this month is news for education colleagues with the publication of two long awaited draft guidance documents, both to commence September 2021:
- Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges for governing bodies, proprietors, headteachers, principles, senior leadership teams and designated safeguarding leads
This update highlights best practice and cross-references other advice, statutory guidance and the legal framework. Much of the document remains unchanged but some areas have been developed to increase knowledge, learning and reporting on this difficult subject. It is an important resource for anyone who works in schools and colleges.
- Statutory Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 Annex G, provides a table of substantive changes from September 2021 (page 161).
SAFEcic provides a range of free sector specific resource sites providing information on the safeguarding requirements within your setting.
The Guardian and other news media have reported that the government has pledged to raise the minimum legal age of marriage to 18 in England and Wales. At present, 16 and 17 year olds can marry if they have parental consent. In a letter to organisations campaigning against child marriage, Lord Wolfson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, wrote:
"The government supports raising the legal age for marriage in England and Wales to protect vulnerable children living here."[It is] committed to making sure children and young people are both protected and supported as they grow and develop in order to maximise their potential life chances. This includes having the opportunity to remain in education or training until they reach the age of 18."Child marriage and having children too early in life can deprive them of these important life chances."
The Times reports that Sajid Javid will introduce a private member's bill making it illegal for anyone under 18 to marry.
Legislation & Bills
Statutory and Good Practice Guidance
1. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) have updated ID checking guidelines in line with new right to work rules.
From 1 July 2021, new rules for right to work checks will apply. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will need to provide evidence of a lawful immigration status in the UK.
In response to these changes, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has updated the ID checking guidelines for:
Basic DBS checks, submitted through a Responsible Organisation
Standard and Enhanced DBS checks
Updated ID guidelines for Standard and Enhanced DBS checks
The changes to the guidelines are as follows:
In the ‘UK national’ route, reference to ‘EEA’ has been removed
Additional detail for the primary documents has been added for the ‘international’ route
An updated link to the right to work guidance has been included
The new guidance comes into effect from 1 July 2021, however we are aware that some Registered Bodies and Responsible Organisations may require a period of time to make technical changes to their online systems.
In light of this, the existing ID checking guidelines will remain on GOV.UK alongside the new guidelines, until 1 October 2021, and either version can be used up until this date.
The temporary changes that were made to the ID checking guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are not affected by the above changes, and you can continue to operate in line with these.
2. New minimum standards for the support of rape and sexual violence victims has been published by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
The new framework will enhance the way we work with Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) – a vital support system for survivors of rape and sexual violence – and other support services who work across the criminal justice system.
These new minimum standards include:
Single points of contact across the police, CPS and ISVA agencies to forge even stronger working relationships and seamless communication between partners
Local Multi-Agency Rape Strategic and Scrutiny Groups which will bring together single points of contacts from across the criminal justice system to oversee the delivery of the framework
Improved communication with complainants, considering their individual needs and preferences
This marks the latest step in an ambitious programme of work, set out within the Joint National Action Plan, to reduce the disparity between the number of rape and serious sexual offence (RASSO) cases being reported and those going to court. Too few victims are seeing justice and we are working hard to change that.
This new framework is a key deliverable within the Government’s Action Plan following an end to end review of the way reports of rape are handled. The Action Plan pledges to reverse the falling rape prosecutions that we have seen over the last five years, with commitments to increase the volume in cases referred to the CPS by the police, cases charged and cases reaching court.
Reports, Reviews, Resources, Research and Inquiries
1. Ofsted’s inspectors visited 32 state and private schools and colleges and spoke to more than 900 children and young people about the prevalence of sexual harassment in their lives and the lives of their peers. Around 9 in 10 of the girls we spoke to said that sexist name calling and being sent unwanted explicit pictures or videos happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes. Inspectors were also told that boys talk about whose ‘nudes’ they have and share them among themselves like a ‘collection game’, typically on platforms like WhatsApp or Snapchat. The review recommends that school and college leaders act on the assumption that sexual harassment is affecting their pupils, and take a whole-school approach to addressing these issues, creating a culture where sexual harassment is not tolerated. We found that children often don’t see the point of challenging or reporting this harmful behaviour because it’s seen as a normal experience. Pupils said adults often don’t realise the prevalence of sexual harassment that occurs both inside and outside school. They spoke of teachers not ‘knowing the reality’ of their lives. We found that many teachers and leaders consistently underestimate the scale of these problems. They either didn’t identify sexual harassment and sexualised language as significant problems, they didn’t treat them seriously, or they were unaware they were happening. However, school leaders did note that easy access to pornography had set unhealthy expectations of sexual relationships and shaped perceptions of women and girls.
Children told inspectors that they didn’t always want to talk to adults about sexual harassment for a variety of reasons, including concerns about ‘reputational damage’ or being socially ostracised. They also worried about not knowing what would happen next once they reported an incident, and about potential police involvement. Most children felt that the relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) they received didn’t give them the information and advice they needed to navigate the reality of their lives. Girls were frustrated that there wasn’t clear teaching of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and many had turned to social media or their peers to educate each other. One female pupil told inspectors, ‘It shouldn’t be our responsibility to educate boys’. Many teachers said they don’t feel prepared to teach outside their subject specialism, or lack knowledge on topics like consent, healthy relationships and sharing of sexual images. In a few schools, leaders did not value the importance of RSHE. Insufficient time was given to the subject and curriculum planning was very poor.
Local safeguarding partners (LSPs) had varying levels of oversight of the issues for children and young people in their area. Some were working closely with schools to understand children’s experiences. However, a small number told Ofsted that sexual harassment was not a significant problem for schools and colleges in their local area, which isn’t plausible. It was clear that effective joint working between LSPs and all schools and colleges was not happening consistently.
Ofsted’s review makes a number of recommendations for schools, colleges and partner agencies, including:
- School and college leaders should develop a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment are recognised and addressed, including with sanctions when appropriate.
- The RSHE curriculum should be carefully sequenced with time allocated for topics that children and young people find difficult, such as consent and sharing explicit images.
- Schools and colleges should provide high-quality training for teachers delivering RSHE.
Improved engagement between multi-agency safeguarding partners and schools.
The review also makes recommendations for government, including:
- The government should consider the findings of the review as it develops the Online Safety Bill, in order to strengthen online safeguarding controls for children and young people. It should also develop an online hub where schools can access the most up-to-date safeguarding guidance in one place.
- A guide should be developed for children and young people to explain what will happen after they talk to school staff about sexual harassment and abuse.
- The government should launch a communications campaign about sexual harassment and online abuse to help change attitudes, including advice for parents and carers.
The review also identifies areas where Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate can sharpen practice. Safeguarding is well covered on inspection, but a review of past inspections found that they were sometimes not robust enough on sexual harassment. For example, inspectors did not always record how they followed up with school leaders who failed to share any evidence of past incidents of sexual harassment.
Both inspectorates will be making updates to training, inspection handbooks and inspection practices where necessary, in light of the findings.
2. Statement from the CQC Chief Inspectors on developing the CQC’s monitoring approach:
“As we move forward from the last year, we’re making some changes to how we regulate.
In March 2020, we suspended our routine inspection programme in response to COVID-19 and developed our ability to monitor services using a mix of on-site and off-site methods. We’re further evolving our monitoring approach to ensure the public have assurance about the safety and quality of the care they receive, while still focusing on risk. We'll start piloting changes in how we monitor services from this week, before rolling these out to more services from July.
Over the last year, driven by a need to adapt to the pandemic, we made real progress in our ability to monitor services. The introduction of the emergency support framework gave us a structured way to have conversations with providers to help monitor risk and support them. We built on this with our transitional monitoring approach. The developments we’re announcing today carry on the progress in how we monitor services in three key areas by:
- improving our ability to monitor risk to help us be more targeted in our regulatory activity
- bringing information together in one place for inspection teams, presented in a way that supports inspectors with their decision making
- testing elements of how we want to work in the future, including how we provide a more up-to-date view of risk for people who use services.
We want to build on our learning over the last year to make changes in our ability to monitor services. We’ll use the pilot to help improve the process further before rolling out to all services.
We’ll carry out regular reviews that will help support our ability to monitor risk. Where the information we have does not find evidence that tells us we need to re-assess the rating or quality at a service, we will publish a short statement on the profile page on our website for these services. This will inform the public and people who use services, that this review has taken place and that we had no concerns based on the information we held at that time. We will also communicate this with the provider by email prior to the public statement being published.
We currently plan to carry out this review each month. This will enable our teams to target their resources where they are most needed.
In cases where the information review indicates that we may need to re-assess a rating or the quality of care, our inspectors may want to gather more evidence. For services where we believe people may be at an increased risk of poor quality care, we may undertake an immediate on-site inspection and this may happen at any time. In these cases, we may update the rating for a service.
Inspectors’ judgement will still be at the heart of our approach to inspection, the improved access to information will allow inspection teams to act quickly using their judgement, supported by our quality assurance mechanisms, where other sources of information indicate greater levels of risk elsewhere.
To ensure we’re making consistent and robust decisions we’ll also carry out some sampling of services by carrying out an inspection. In this way, we’ll be able to check that our monitoring activity is consistent with our inspectors’ findings when they gather evidence either by telephone or by making an on-site visit.”
3. Ofsted has published updated education inspection handbooks, effective from September 2021, clarifying how inspectors will assess how schools and colleges confront sexual harassment, abuse and violence among children and young people.
The updates follow Ofsted’s recent Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges’ which found that sexual harassment has become ‘normalised’ for children and young people. The report recommended that school and college leaders should develop a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment are recognised and addressed, including with sanctions when appropriate.
The changes to the handbooks will take effect when routine inspection resumes in September. Inspectors will expect schools and college leaders to assume that sexual harassment, online sexual abuse and sexual violence are happening in and around their school, even when there are no specific reports, and to have put in place a whole-school approach to address them.
Inspectors will also consider how schools and colleges handle allegations and incidents of sexual abuse between children and young people when they do occur.
Inspectors will look at the preventative measures schools and colleges have put in place to guard against sexual harassment and abuse, including behaviour policies, pastoral support and the relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum.
Ofsted will also expect schools and colleges to be alert to factors that increase children’s potential vulnerability to sexual abuse, and to understand and address the barriers that could prevent a child or young person from reporting an incident.
Where schools and colleges do have not adequate processes in place, it is likely that safeguarding will be considered ineffective. This can impact on the ‘leadership and management’ judgement and the overall grade is likely to be ‘inadequate’.
Inspectors will not investigate individual allegations of harmful sexual behaviour, but will ensure that they are reported to the appropriate authority, if this has not already happened.
The Charity Commission says that while the international development sector has made significant progress on safeguarding since 2018, further work is needed to ensure “transformative change” for those in receipt of aid.
The alert, issued to over 5,000 charities working overseas, highlights ways in which charities can strengthen their efforts to keep people safe. These include making it easier for recipients of aid to report allegations of misconduct and abuse and taking a ‘survivor-centred’ approach to handling incidents of harm.
The measures were drawn up after an analysis of recent serious incident reports submitted to the Commission identified specific areas of weaknesses or risk around safeguarding in international aid charities. They reflect existing best practice across the sector.
The Commission reminds charities that effective safeguarding is “never complete” and that all charities, in the aid sector and beyond, must be alert to the risk of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse and should foster a culture committed to rooting it out.
Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said:
No-one should ever be exposed to abuse or exploitation, but when people are harmed while in the care of a charity, it undermines the very meaning of charity. The public expect charities to keep the people they care for safe from harm, and to place the highest priority on the needs and interests of vulnerable people.
I know that many international aid charities, doing vital work in challenging environments, have worked hard to improve their safeguarding practices over recent years. But we continue to see cases of harm perpetrated by people in positions of power in charities working overseas.
More needs to be done. Leaders of international aid charities need to ensure they have the systems and structures in place that prevent and root out harmful behaviour and empower victims and survivors to raise concerns. But systems alone are never enough – they need to be underpinned by leaders who place the highest priority on keeping people safe. There is simply no room for complacency.
As well as launching timely investigations into allegations, and acting quickly when incidents occur, the alert recommends that charities consider:
Joining the Misconduct Disclosure Scheme to help protect against individuals who pose a risk.
Giving victims and survivors, and their families and friends, a safe means to report concerns and complaints.
Designing reporting mechanisms that are sensitive to the local context.
Developing a survivor-centred approach to safeguarding that reflects the range of potential harms faced and considers possible victim and survivor support services from programme/project conception.
Clearly communicating what support is available to victims and survivors and how it is accessed.
Since 2018, the Commission has worked closely with government, sector bodies such as Bond and individual charities to help improve the sector’s ability to keep people – notably those in receipt of aid overseas – safe from harm. This alert continues that approach.
The regulator has seen increases in serious incident reports on safeguarding matters by charities, indicating improved reporting and complaint mechanisms. In 2019-20 the Commission received 5,730 reports of serious incidents, of which 3,411 related to safeguarding, a nearly 40% increase on the previous year (3,895 and 2,504 respectively).
Worthy of Note
1. A tool that works to help young people get nude images or videos removed from the internet has been launched this week by the NSPCC’s Childline service and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
The Report Remove tool can be used by any young person under 18 to report a nude image or video of themselves that has appeared online. The IWF will then review this content and work to have it removed if it breaks the law.
The circumstances in which a young person may share a self-generated sexual image can vary. Some may have sent an image for fun, or to a boyfriend or girlfriend which has then subsequently been shared without their consent. Whilst others may have been groomed online or blackmailed into sharing this content.
The IWF has seen reports of self-generated images more than double in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period last year increasing from 17,500 to 38,000.
Trained Childline counsellors know the devastating impact that the sharing of nude images can have on a young person.
Some young people told counsellors they felt embarrassed, fearful and self-loathing, while others had concerns about the long-term impact on their future prospects - and some revealed they’d turned to self-harm to cope with their situation.
One girl aged 14 who contacted Childline said: “I don’t know what to do because this Instagram account keeps posting pictures of me and they keep saying they’re going to follow my friends so they can see them too. It all started after I shared naked pics with someone who I thought was a friend but it turned out to be a fake account. I just feel so hopeless and I don’t know how to make it stop”.
If a child has had a nude image shared online it’s vital they that they know who to turn to for support and that Childline and the IWF’s Report Remove tool is available for them.
The tool which was first piloted in February 2020 can be found on the Childline website and can be used by any young person under the age of 18. As part of Report Remove, a young person has to verify their age and
Childline also ensures that all young people are safeguarded and supported throughout the whole process.
"I shared naked pics with someone who I thought was a friend but it turned out to be a fake account. I just feel so hopeless and I don’t know how to make it stop."
Young people can expect the same level of confidentiality that they would from all their interactions with Childline; they do not need to provide their real name to Childline or IWF if they don’t want to.
In keeping with this child-centred approach, the tool has been developed in collaboration with law enforcement to make sure that children will not be unnecessarily visited by the police when they make a report.
Cormac Nolan, Service Head of Childline Online said: “The impact of having a nude image shared on the internet cannot be underestimated and for many young people, it can leave them feeling extremely worried and unsure on what to do or who to turn to for support.
“That’s why Childline and the IWF have developed Report Remove to provide young people a simple, safe tool that they can use to try and help them regain control over what is happening and get this content erased.
“At Childline we also want to remind all young people that if they discover that a nude image of themselves has been shared online that they do not need to deal with this situation alone and that our Childline counsellors are always here to listen and help provide support."
A young person can make a report anonymously at any time of day and the IWF will then work to have the image removed if it breaks the law.
A “hash” (digital fingerprint) will be created from the image which will be provided to tech platforms to help ensure the image is not shared or uploaded online. This is the first time that the IWF has accepted images and videos directly, rather than only taking the URLs as they would usually do on their Hotline.
"Once those images are out there, it can be an incredibly lonely place for victims, and it can seem hopeless. It can also be frightening, not knowing who may have access to these images."
Any young person who makes a report should also receive feedback on the outcome of their report in one working day from the IWF via Childline.
Additionally, Childline also has lots of information on how children and young people can keep themselves safe online as well as advice on what to do if they are feeling pressured to send a nude image and what they can do to help them cope if a situation of this nature has happened.
Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “When images of children and young people are taken and spread around the internet, they lose control. This is about giving them that control back.
“Once those images are out there, it can be an incredibly lonely place for victims, and it can seem hopeless. It can also be frightening, not knowing who may have access to these images.
“This tool is a world first. It will give young people the power, and the confidence, to reclaim these images and make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands online.”
For further support, children can contact a trained Childline counsellor on 0800 1111 or
via 1-2-1 chat
2. A specialised new team will take ‘digital fingerprints’ of millions of images so companies and organisations around the world can spot them and have them removed.
A “vital” new taskforce will assess and grade millions of the most severe images and videos of child rape and sexual torture as analysts see record numbers of reports of illegal content.
The new team has been set up by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the UK-based charity working internationally to identify and remove images and videos of child sexual abuse from the internet.
The analysts in this team will view, hash (create a digital fingerprint), and classify two million Category A and B images from the UK Government’s Child Abuse Image Database (CAID).
They will then distribute the hashes globally to tech companies, allowing them to be blocked or removed should anyone attempt to share them anywhere in the world.
Category A images involve penetrative sexual activity and sexual activity with an animal or sadism, while Category B images involve non-penetrative sexual activity.
The IWF is the only non-law enforcement body with access to CAID. The work will boost the UK’s contribution to global efforts to stop the distribution of child sexual abuse images on the internet and help to keep the internet a safer place for all.
Hashing an image or video is a process which produces a unique code like a “digital fingerprint” so that it can be recognised and dealt with quickly by the IWF or its partners in the future.
The work will enable tech companies to take swift action to prevent the spread of this abusive material, giving peace of mind to victims who often live with the knowledge footage of their abuse could be being shared by criminals around the world.
The IWF taskforce has been recruited thanks to a grant from international child protection organisation Thorn.
Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “We’ve created this world-leading taskforce of highly trained analysts to help boost the global efforts to stop the distribution of child sexual abuse imagery online.
“Not only will this absolutely vital work help to create a safer internet for us all, but it will help those victims whose sexual abuse imagery is shared time and time again, preventing their continued revictimisation and exploitation.
“Thanks to the funding provided by Thorn, and the access to the UK Government’s Child Abuse Image Database, this will be a major step forward for internet safety.”
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said: “This government is determined to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to prevent child sexual abuse online and the innovative use of technology is central to this.
“I am pleased that Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) data is helping the IWF to carry out this valuable work towards reducing access to child sexual abuse material online and thereby preventing the re-victimisation of children.
“Our Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy highlights that our investment in CAID will allow greater sharing of data to help safeguard more victims and bring more offenders to justice.”
Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn, said: “IWF’s work to eliminate child sexual abuse images from the internet and end the cycle of re-victimisation is critical and tremendously difficult.
“We are grateful for their continued commitment to this work and are humbled to support their efforts.”
In 2020, the IWF dealt with a record number of reports of online child sexual abuse. Analysts processed 299,600 reports, which include tip offs from members of the public. This is up from 260,400 reports in 2019. This is an increase of 15%.
Of these reports, 153,350 were confirmed as containing images and/or videos of children being sexually abused. This compares to 132,700 in 2019 - an increase of 16%. Every report contains between one, and thousands of child sexual abuse images and videos. This equates to millions of images and videos.
Images and videos of online child sexual abuse can be reported anonymously here
The public is given this advice when making a report:
Do report images and videos of child sexual abuse to the IWF to be removed. Reports to the IWF are anonymous.
Do provide the exact URL where child sexual abuse images are located.
Don’t report other harmful content – you can find details of other agencies to report to on the IWF’s website.
Do report to the police if you are concerned about a child’s welfare,
Do report only once for each web address – or URL. Repeat reporting of the same URL isn’t needed and wastes analysts’ time.
Do report non-photographic visual depictions of the sexual abuse of children, such as computer-generated images. Anything of this nature, which is also hosted in the UK, the IWF can get removed.
3. A whole generation of children may have been left "traumatised" during the pandemic, social workers have warned.
They say a 20% fall in child protection orders in Wales, a figure found by a BBC probe, paints a false picture.
Charities and unions fear many of the most vulnerable children across the UK have slipped under the radar because of lockdown restrictions.
And there is concern social care services will face an influx of referrals as those restrictions ease.
A decline in the number of child protection orders - the mechanism used to place someone in local authority care - would normally be viewed as a positive.
But with schools, youth workers and social workers unable to keep a close eye on the most vulnerable due to Covid restrictions, that decline could be masking the true figure.
"The opportunities to identify where problems existed at an early stage have been absent during the pandemic," said Alison Hulmes, director of the professional association for social workers in Wales, BASW Cymru.
"All the time that we're not identifying support that young people need, they're being damaged.
"There's potentially a whole generation of children and young people who are being traumatised, not being safeguarded, and that's simply not acceptable."
There are also mounting fears for the future - and whether there will be enough resources and staff to deal with the anticipated rise in referrals.
According to figures seen by the BBC, last year in Wales there were 1,120 care orders made by its 22 local authorities between March 2020 and January 2021.
That is down from 1,400 the previous year.
The UK government said it recognised the "tireless" work of social workers during the pandemic.
It said it had given councils in England £4.6bn "to help them meet additional demands" and was working alongside unions and the sector.
The Scottish department of health and social care said social workers would have an important role to play as Scotland recovered from the pandemic.
It said: "Workforce planning is underway to ensure that the workforce of the future is recruited, trained and supported to fulfil this role."
The Northern Ireland Executive said all health and social care trusts had rebuilding plans in place for the resumption of services affected by the pandemic.
A spokesperson said: "The Department of Health has recently invested in an additional 15 places on the OU [Open University] degree in social work programme in recognition of the rising demands on the profession."
4. Tax credits customers should be vigilant and alert to potential scams, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned, as the remaining annual renewal packs will arrive in the post this week.
In the 12 months to 30 April 2021, HMRC responded to more than 1,154,300 referrals of suspicious contact from the public. More than 576,960 of these offered bogus tax rebates.
In the same period, HMRC has worked with telecoms companies and Ofcom to remove more than 3,000 malicious telephone numbers, and with internet service providers to take down over 15,700 malicious web pages. HMRC responded to 443,033 reports of phone scams in total, up 135% on the previous year.
Anyone doing their tax credits renewal who has received a tax or benefits scam email or text might be tricked into thinking it was from HMRC and share their personal details with criminals, or even transfer money for a bogus overpayment.
HMRC’s Cyber Security Operations identifies and closes down scams every day. The department has pioneered the use in government of technical controls to stop its helpline numbers being spoofed, so that fraudsters can no longer make it appear that they are calling from those HMRC numbers.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said:
“We’re urging all of our customers to be really careful if they are contacted out of the blue by someone asking for money or bank details. There are a lot of scams out there where fraudsters are calling, texting or emailing customers claiming to be from HMRC. If you have any doubts, we suggest you don’t reply directly, and contact us yourself straight away. Search GOV.UK for our ‘scams checklist’ and to find out ‘how to report tax scams’.”
Many scams mimic government messages to appear authentic and reassuring. HMRC is a familiar brand, which criminals abuse to add credibility to their scams.
If customers cannot verify the identity of a caller, HMRC recommends that you do not speak to them. Customers can check GOV.UK for HMRC’s scams checklist to find out how to report tax scams and for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact.
5. Pope Francis has worked to tackle child sexual abuse since 2013. The change is the biggest change in the criminal code of the Church for nearly 40 years. The change took 11 years to develop following complaints from victims and critics, and advice was sought from criminal law experts and canonists before the change was finalised. The new rules are to come into effect on 8th December 2021.
The new rules make “sexual abuse, grooming minors for sex, possessing child pornography and covering up abuse a criminal offence under Vatican law.”
The Pope said one aim of the change was to “reduce the number of cases in which the penalty was left to the discretion of authorities”.
In recent years the Catholic Church has received numerous allegations of historic sexual abuse by priests, and cover-ups by senior clergy, around the world and has been at the forefront of the news.
The last major change to the code was made by Pope John Paul II in 1983. The new code is clearer with specific language that clearly states that bishops must now take action when a complaint is made.
One of the main changes is that the Vatican’s law also now recognises that “adults as well as children can be victimised by priests who abuse their authority.” Previously, the Church believed “adults could give or withdraw consent because of their age.” This meant that they did not take into account that adults could also be victims.
The new rules also state that “a priest can lose their position if they used force, threats or abuse of his authority to engage in sexual acts.”
Another major change in the rules allow laypeople working within the Church system to be punished for offences of abuse. This is the first time that laypeople such as administrators can be punished and lose their job, be removed from the community or have to pay a fine.
The new rules criminalise “grooming of minors or vulnerable adults to pressure them to take part in pornography.” This is the first time that the Church has “officially” recognised grooming as a method of abuse.
Anyone found to ignore or cover up allegations of abuse to protect the priests could be charged with negligence in failing “to properly investigate and punish sexual predators.”
The changes come under the new heading of “offences against human life, dignity and liberty,” which replaces the previously vague “crimes against special obligations”. However, the new laws do not spell out sexual offences against minors, but instead still refer to “offences against the sixth commandment,” which prohibits adultery. Advocates have requested that this reference is removed and that to define the abuse as a crime against children instead of a violation of priestly celibacy.
A 2020 report, sponsored by the UK government, into child sexual abuse states “describing child sexual abuse as the canonical crime of ‘adultery’ is wrong and minimises the criminal nature of abuse inflicted on child victims. A canonical crime relating to child sexual abuse should be clearly identified as a crime against the child.”
Pope Francis previously led a landmark summit on clerical sex abuse in 2019, and he lifted the controversial rule of “pontifical secrecy” in a bid to improve transparency.
The Church previously shrouded sexual abuse cases in secrecy and some Church officials abused the rule to avoid co-operation with police in abuse case.
6. The creation of a central NHS digital database from GP records in England will be delayed by two months, the government has announced.
The system was due to begin on 1 July, but the date has now been pushed back to 1 September.
The NHS had been calling for a delay to allow patients more time to learn about the system.
The British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs had also expressed concern.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Health Minister Jo Churchill said the GP data programme would "save lives".
However, she said the government was "absolutely determined to take people with us on this journey" and had therefore decided to push the implementation date back to the beginning of September.
She said ministers would use the extra time to "talk to doctors, patients and charities to strengthen the plan... and ensure data is accessed securely".
"Patients own their own data," she added.
Labour's shadow health minister Alex Norris welcomed the delay but argued that the "current plans to take data from GPs, assemble it in one place and sell it to unknown commercial interests for purposes unknown has no legitimacy."
He criticised the government for a lack of "public engagement" and said the plans had been "snuck out under the cover of darkness".
NHS Digital said that the data would only be accessible to organisations "which will legitimately use the data for healthcare planning and research purposes, and they will only get the specific data that is required".
It added that the information would never be used for insurance or marketing purposes, promoting or selling products or services, market research and advertising and any requests for data would be "scrutinised by NHS Digital against stringent criteria".
Under the proposed system - the General Practice Data for Planning and Research - information from surgeries in England will be added to an NHS Digital database.
This includes data from records created up to 10 years ago.
The collected data includes sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, diagnoses, medications and information about a patients' physical, mental and sexual health.
It does not cover names and addresses - except for a postcode which is replaced by a unique code generated by de-identification software.
Simon Bolton, head of NHS Digital, said all collected data would be protected or pseudonymised before it leaves the GP "to ensure patients cannot be directly identified".
He also said patients would be able to opt out of sharing their data.
Patients can prevent their new data being shared at any time, but would need to opt out before 1 September to stop past data being transferred to the new system.
During the pandemic, patient data was used to assess how effective certain treatments were and to identify which groups were most at risk from Covid.
GP data has also been used to identify disparities in care for individuals with learning disabilities and to improve services for diabetics.
Earlier this week, the British Medical Association and Royal College of General Practitioners expressed their concerns "about the lack of communication with the public".
In a joint letter, they urged NHS Digital to "take immediate action to run a public information campaign".
Welcoming the delay, Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said "appropriate use" of data was important for improving healthcare but added that any system should be "built around trust".
He said the NHS should communicate with "every patient… clearly articulating the benefits and risks of data sharing so that patients can make a genuinely informed decision about whether they are happy for their data to be shared - and if they are not, how they can opt out".
The Reason to Remain Vigilant in All Aspects of Safeguarding
1. A tennis playing born again Christian has been jailed for molesting two boys over a 20-year period.
Retired stock broker John Ridley, 65, had access to the victims through a tennis club and a church-run youth charity.
He was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of three counts of indecently assaulting one victim between March 1987 and March 1995 when he was aged six to 13.
And he was convicted of two counts of sexually touching another victim aged 12 to 15 between June 2004 and May 2008.
National Crime Agency officers arrested Ridley on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children on 22 February 2018 when he landed at Heathrow Airport from Peru.
Several weeks later a man alleged that Ridley repeatedly sexually assaulted him by spanking him between 2004 and 2008 when he was around 13-years-old and played tennis at a north London club.
Ridley was captain of the team and gave the boy money for playing in adult doubles matches when they were short of players.
But one day Ridley told the boy he owed him £200 and that if he did not pay it he would spank him.
Ridley, of Leicester Road, Barnet, drove the victim to a nearby forest where he sexually assaulted him.
Ridley continued paying the boy but again demanded the money back or he would spank him again.
This time he made the boy attend his house where he beat his bottom with a stick.
In September 2018 the second victim told the NCA that Ridley repeatedly sexually assaulted him when he was a boy.
The boy attended Crusaders, a church-run youth charity.
Ridley – who volunteered at the charity – used to give boys cash but would beat them for misbehaviour. The victim said Ridley would drive boys somewhere secluded in his car and put them face down in his crotch before spanking them.
In interview, Ridley told NCA officers he was a born again Christian and had volunteered abroad.
Ridley told investigators: “I’m a Christian and we are told to go and tell everybody about Jesus…
“I help hundreds of people, yes, perhaps even thousands of people I should think…by providing churches for them, providing food for them, providing medical care for them, providing all sorts of things for them.”
Ridley was convicted in February and jailed for five years in April.
A reporting restriction was made because he was due to stand trial today accused of 16 counts of making indecent photographs of children.
The Crown Prosecution Service discontinued the charges but they will lie on file.
Ridley’s electronic devices contained more than 2,000 images of young boys who were variously naked and in their underpants.
Martin Ludlow, NCA operations manager, said: “John Ridley abused his position of trust to get close to these young boys and sexually assault them over many years.
“It was a gross betrayal of the faith placed in him and he has shown no remorse for his actions.
“The victims have lived with the pain of these crimes for a long time while Ridley walked free.
“They were immensely brave to come forward and I hope Ridley’s convictions will bring them some comfort.”
Ridley has been made to sign the sex offenders register indefinitely, given a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order and banned from working with children or vulnerable adults.
Child Protection Charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation runs the Stop It Now! helpline which offers confidential advice to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s behaviour towards children.
2. An online blackmailer who forced children to engage in sexual activity, and sold that material on, contacted nearly 2,000 people worldwide.
Abdul Elahi, 26, pleaded guilty to a total of 157 offences in Birmingham Crown Court on 7 May 2021.
Elahi used fake online personas to target vulnerable women and children over the internet and systematically abused them by forcing them to carry out serious sexual and degrading acts by blackmailing or defrauding them. He would first offer money in exchange for milder pictures and videos, and then used these to blackmail his victims to send him more explicit and degrading material. Elahi was careful to only target extremely vulnerable victims meaning they were more open to his extortion. He would then sell on the photos and videos to others.
He often presented himself as a wealthy middle-aged ‘sugar daddy’ using fake personal details including a photo, job description and summary of his wealth. He forced some of his victims to self-mutilate and blackmailed women to send him footage of themselves abusing young children.
As many as 550 women in the UK have been identified by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as victims. The NCA was further able to identify more than 67,000 indecent images of children on Elhai’s numerous devices. A large amount of these images were made under his direction and by the people he targeted.
There were also victims in 20 other countries including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The main location of Elahi’s international victims were in the United States of America, where the CPS and NCA worked with the FBI and Department of Justice in the US to build the case against Elahi.
Sarah Ingram, Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division, said: “The crimes that Elahi committed worldwide were horrifying and sadistic. He coerced vulnerable children and women to engage in sexual activity and then blackmailed them for his own gain.
“The extent of the offences is almost unheard of. This level of depravity is shocking and will impact the victims for their whole lives. I commend the victims for their bravery and urge anyone who has been abused online to report it so that justice can be served, whether the crimes were committed in England or abroad.”
Tony Cook, NCA Head of CSA operations, said: “The investigation team have been horrified by Elahi’s sadistic depravity and stunned by the industrial scale of his worldwide offending.
“Elahi sought sexual gratification from having power and control of his victims and he’s displayed zero empathy for them. He often goaded them to the point of wanting to kill themselves. The long-term effects on the victims in this case will continue throughout the rest of their lives.
“I commend the victims for their bravery and I urge anyone who is being abused online to report it. There is help available. Sadly there are very many offenders like Elahi who mask their real identities with convincing personas to exploit both children and adults.
“I urge parents to speak with their children about who they communicate with online and what they share. People need to understand these offences can happen to anyone.
“Our investigation has sparked a series of other inquiries into Elahi’s associates and there is ongoing work to bring others to justice.”
Elahi will be sentenced on 9 September 2021.
3. Dennis Bowie who pleaded guilty to an offence of sexual communication with a child, two offences of sexual activity with a child, and also three offences of making indecent images of children was sentenced to a total of five years and two months.
Bowie, 49 and Alice McElhinney, 33, both of Bexhill, appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Friday 28 May.
The court heard that at the time of the offences both defendants were adult members of the Army Cadet Force in Bexhill. Bowie was a Lieutenant and McElhinney was a Sergeant and the girl was a cadet in the Unit.
Bowie, who had pleaded guilty to an offence of sexual communication with a child, two offences of sexual activity with a child, and also three offences of making indecent images of children was sentenced to a total of five years and two months.
The indecent images were taken from the Internet and are not believed to be related to any local children.
McElhinney had admitted one offence of sexual communication with a child, and two offences of sexual activity with a child. She was sentenced to a total of three years and nine months.
Bowie will be a registered sex offender for life and was given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to last indefinitely, severely restricting his access to children and digital devices.
McElhinney will also be a registered sex offender for life and was given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) to last indefinitely, severely restricting her access to children.
Charges against Bowie of conspiracy to incite children into sexual activity, one offence of sexual activity with a child, and one of possessing an extreme pornographic image were not proceeded with.
The charge against McElhinney of conspiracy to incite children into sexual activity was also not proceeded with.
The prosecution, authorised by the CPS, followed an investigation by detectives from the East Sussex Safeguarding Investigations Unit into the offences which took place in 2018.
Detective Constable Anthony Luke said; "The defendants committed sexual offences against a young girl which were also a serious breach of trust in relation to their roles having responsibility for the care and welfare of young people. The court heard that three girl cadets in the same Unit had also been subject of personal and online attention from Bowie and McElhinney in a way which clearly breached ACF rules on contact between staff and cadets."
4. Detective Sergeant Benjamin McNish, of the East Area Command Unit, was convicted on Thursday, 10 June of observing a person doing a Private Act Contrary to Section 67(1) and (5) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
He was released on bail to appear for sentencing on Thursday, 15 July at Southwark Crown Court.
McNish committed the offence on 18 February 2019 at Adelaide Road, London NW3.
He was staying in police accommodation while on a course along with two other MPS police officers who were also attending courses.
While the female resident was using the shower, Benjamin McNish held his phone up at the glass panel above the bathroom door. The female saw the phone, got out of the shower and confronted him.
The third resident in the accommodation was told of the incident, and he called police. He was arrested at the scene.
The victim was not previously known to him. She met him and the third resident/officer the evening before the incident when she arrived at the accommodation.
The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) investigated, leading to the charge.
Stephen Clayman, East Area BCU Commander said: “This sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated and it is right that DS McNish has been held to account for his actions as a result of this investigation.
“Although the offence was committed whilst off-duty, DS McNish will still face MPS misconduct proceedings once all criminal proceedings have concluded.”
5. Thomas Hancock nurtured friendly relationships with the complainants, aged 17 and 16, Bristol CrownCourt heard.
But the trusted teacher revealed he had feelings for both before he groped one and sent the other lewd footage of himself.
Hancock, 29, of Beyon Close in Cam, Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to sexual assault and sexual assault (on multiple occasions), in a position of trust, on the 17-year-old.
He pleaded guilty to causing or inciting a child to look at sexual activity, and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, in a position of trust, on the 16-year-old.
Judge Michael Cullum jailed him for 16 months.
He told Hancock: "Both young women have been deeply affected and have altered the course of their lives.
"Teachers are supposed to do that in a positive way, not a negative way."
The judge handed Hancock a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order designed to stop him re-offending.
Stephen Dent, prosecuting via video link, said that at the time Hancock had taught at the school for six years.
He had retained contact with the 17-year-old and became flirtatious with her, the court heard.
Mr Dent said: "He grabbed her bottom without consent and she was shocked.
"He said to her they needed to talk, but not in school."
Mr Dent said they arranged to meet and did so.
He told the court: "She went to his car. He said he had feelings for her but nothing could happen.
"She was confused and upset."
The court heard on another meeting the teacher grabbed her and kissed her - and though she knew it was wrong she felt trapped.
Mr Dent said: "She felt the defendant had control over her.
"He became obsessed with her.
"He asked her to wear skirts and clothes he liked."
What happens during a legal trial?
Hancock kissed the girl and grabbed her bottom several times, Mr Dent said, telling her he would "like to bend her over a table".
On one occasion he put her hand inside his trousers and touch him between his legs on his pants.
When she told Hancock contact had to stop it did so, the court heard, but she made no formal complaint until she became aware of a second victim.
That second complainant, aged 16, told police she exchanged messages with Hancock which became flirtatious and extremely sexual.
She took a photo of if Snapchat message, the court heard.
She described how Hancock sent her a photo of his private parts and videos of him committing a sex act on himself.
He would also contact her in the early hours, tell her his fiance was asleep, and would talk of dreams about her and how he wanted to have sex with her at school.
In one loaded question he asked her: "How would you convince me to give you the grades you need?"
The older girl stated that her ability to concentrate on school work suffered as a result, and though she managed to get into university her work there "fell apart".
She said: "Before Mr Hancock I was never like this."
The younger girl said Hancock knew she was vulnerable and she suffered panic attacks as a result of his actions.
She said: "A lot of people call him a monster.
"I have no words to describe what he is.
"I blame myself for letting him message me.
"I feel heartbroken for his fiance, his family and my family.
"It left me with even less confidence than before."
Matthew Comer, defending said his client had lost his career, relationship and home as a result of his actions and had suffered with his mental health.
Mr Comer said: "He fully appreciates the enormity of what he has done. He fully appreciates the seriousness of the situation he has put himself in. He fully appreciates he grossly breached the trust people ought to have in their teacher."
DC Nina Wilson said: “Thomas Hancock was a teacher who abused his position and the trust the children in his care had in him. The victims have displayed enormous courage in reporting this matter to the police and their strength in speaking out about what they have been through has meant that other potential victims will not have to suffer the same ordeal. Hancock’s depraved behaviour has caused a significant amount of emotional harm to them both and we’re continuing to offer support to them. However I hope that today’s result will encourage other victims to come forward and report sexual offences to the police.”
6. Three mobile fish sellers who defrauded and knowingly misled elderly and vulnerable consumers out of approximately £325,000 have been sentenced to a combined total of 8 years at Teesside Crown Court.
Between 19 November 2016 and 25 June 2019, Matthew Dudding (32), Paul Dudding (60) and Daniel Whitley (44) used aggressive sales practices to pressure over 100 elderly victims into purchasing excessive quantities of poor quality fish at exorbitant prices.
The three fraudsters deliberately targeted vulnerable and older people living in the North of England and the Midlands, including people with serious health conditions, in the belief they were less likely to question the sale or complain. Some victims felt threatened in their own home if they challenged the price of the fish or couldn’t afford to pay.
A 90-year-old victim described feeling bullied and pressurised into purchasing a large volume of fish after one of the fraudsters entered her home uninvited. Despite agreeing to pay £56.00, she was charged £156.00 without her knowledge. The experience has left her feeling vulnerable.
A significant amount of the produce sold by the trio was such poor quality that it was unfit for human consumption. Food safety management procedures were often ignored, including monitoring the temperature for storing fish. One victim became unwell with vomiting and sickness within a few hours of eating the fish supplied by the defendants.
The sentences handed down were as follows:
Matthew Dudding, the principal financial beneficiary of the fraud, pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading, and was sentenced to 5 years, 11 months and 2 weeks
Paul Dudding and Daniel Whitley both pleaded guilty to contravening professional diligence, contrary to consumer protection legislation, and were sentenced to 13 months each. The investigation was led by the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigations Team.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
“Elderly and vulnerable customers were viewed as soft and easy targets by these unscrupulous fraudsters who have, over a number of years, demonstrated a callous attitude towards their victims. Those who fell for the scam were left feeling angry and ashamed. In addition to the dishonest practices demonstrated by these criminals, some of their crimes took place during a period when clear social distancing requirements were in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those requirements were flagrantly ignored by the defendants in order to make money, with little, if any regard to the risks to their victims.
“If you or someone you know, has fallen victim to a fraud like this you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 03454 04 05 06.”
7. A former police officer who claimed he was "Teflon" as his position of authority meant no charges could stick has been jailed for sex assaults.
Kevin Bentley, now retired from Durham Police, subjected his victims - five women and a girl - to "horrific abuse".
The former constable denied the 24 serious sexual and physical assaults but was convicted following a trial at Durham Crown Court.
Bentley, 69, of Pearson Street, Spennymoor, was jailed for 28 years.
He will have to spend an extra six years under licence supervision.
The conviction followed a report of sexual assault by one of his victims in 2018, and five others were traced during a three-year investigation.
Bentley retired as a constable in 2006 and none of his offences related to his police work.
However, he had tried to use his job as a form of "shield" to prevent the victims reporting his actions.
Sentencing Bentley, Judge James Adkin said such was his "hubris" that after he was aggressive to one of the women, he urged her to ring the police.
"You described yourself as being 'Teflon', i.e., there was no point in complaining, it would not stick," the judge said.
He described him as dangerous offender who posed "a significant risk" of committing further sexual attacks against younger women.
Det Con David Hannan, who led the Durham Police investigation, said: "Kevin Bentley repeatedly subjected his victims to horrific abuse and now faces many years in prison to reflect on the trail of damaged lives he has left behind."
Det Ch Insp Dave Cuthbert, head of the force's Professional Standards Department, said: "While these offences were not related to Bentley's role as a police officer, they do not reflect the high standards of Durham Constabulary, the standards exemplified by the diligent and dedicated officers who worked to bring him to justice."
8. A former Ministry of Defence employee who used his IT skills to source and download child abuse images on the dark web, including rape and torture videos of babies, has been jailed for 16 months.
Phillip Nutt, 53, of Horfield, Bristol, had almost 300 indecent images and videos on his phone and computers, when National Crime Agency officers arrested him at a holiday home in Cornwall last year.
Further searches identified that he also used cloud based accounts overseas where he allowed videos to be accessed by others. The accounts hosted 18,641 files across 445 folders.
With the support of international law enforcement partners, NCA officers were able to view a folder labelled ‘Incest’ which contained hundreds of indecent videos of children – ranging from Category A, the most serious, to Category C.
Some of the videos lasted up to two hours and showed the torture and rape of babies and young children.
NCA digital forensic analysis found that Nutt frequently accessed the dark web, and had a secure image storage facility on his phone disguised as a calculator.
He was careful about hiding his content and described having ‘a scare’ when pictures accidentally transferred onto his main hard drive.
In one chat with another user he stated - “I have everything secured and no one can see unless I leave it unlocked by accident. I have a false camera storage as well so if someone asks to see my photos it shows normal people photos. The good ones are hidden.”
In another conversation, in a chatroom called ‘PedoPub’, Nutt discussed his frustration with the lack of access to children during lockdown.
“I usually walk past a school on the way to work and I can’t even do that!”
He added: “I am of the view that you have to be so careful and disguise your true self….
“Any little ones around me I treat as friends and gain their confidence.”
Nutt appeared before Bristol Crown Court yesterday, where he was sentenced to 16 months in prison, having pleaded guilty to possessing, making and distributing indecent images at an earlier hearing.
Derek Evans, NCA Senior Investigating Officer, said: “The conviction of Nutt serves as a warning to all - that we will work with partners across the globe to safeguard children and bring offenders before the Court.
“This investigation identified the horrendous rape of babies and very young children, which was being distributed by Nutt, who attempted to conceal his methods through sophisticated means and his knowledge of IT systems. For as long as the demand for this material remains in depraved people like Nutt, it will continue to be supplied. This investigation has broken part of that cycle and the NCA have succeeded in disrupting someone who posed a significant threat to children.”
Msinfosys Support Ltd and MS Global Support Ltd were wound up in the public interest in the High Court on 9 March before Judge Barton. The Official Receiver has been appointed liquidator of the companies. The court heard that the two IT companies generated unsolicited pop-up error messages and when people phoned-up to check what was wrong, some were led to believe there was a fault with their computers.
The victims were led to believe they were dealing with well-known software companies and some paid money to fix their computers. But neither Msinfosys Support or MS Global Support were authorised to act on behalf of the larger software companies.
The Insolvency Service started confidential investigations into Msinfosys Support and MS Global Support after complaints were received from customers.
Investigators found that the director, Vikram Singh, had no real control of either company and work was outsourced to a company in India called Underpin Services Private Limited.
Vikram Singh admitted both companies were Underpin’s businesses and allowed Underpin to trade in the UK, the High Court was told.
The records of the companies were kept and maintained by Underpin in India and were not available for inspection in the UK, a breach of the Companies Act 2006.
Judge Burton commented on Vikram Singh’s response, his lack of knowledge and the lack of relevant records showed the companies’ accounts ‘ran in a chaotic manner’.
Msinfosys Support Ltd and MS Global Support Ltd did not defend the petitions at the hearing and Insolvency and Companies Court Judge Burton stated consumers had been ‘misled’ by the companies and that it was appropriate the companies were wound up to protect the public.
Edna Okhiria, Chief Investigator at the Insolvency Service, said:
Msinfosys Support Ltd and MS Global Support Ltd deliberately used false pretences to deceive consumers, with many paying the companies on the belief they were dealing with well-known software companies or their authorised representatives.
In reality, both companies were controlled by an overseas company with the director recognising he had no knowledge of what the company informed consumers.
The court recognised the severity of this misconduct and both have been removed from the business environment to protect the public from further harm.