Following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Inquiry postponed the final hearing of Phase 2 of the Residential Schools Investigation which was originally due to be held between 11-22 May. This has been re-scheduled and will now take place virtually between 16 and 27 November.

The witness evidence gathering stage is largely complete and the Inquiry is now in the process of making arrangements for the final hearing. As part of this process, the Inquiry will publish witness evidence proposals to core participants who will be called to give evidence remotely on specific themes. The Inquiry will thereafter publish its final witness list and timetable a week before the commencement of the final hearing.

Common Themes and Recommendations from Other IICSA Investigations

The Inquiry has confirmed that its report into Phase 1 and Phase 2 will not be available until early 2021. However, since our update in February it has published reports into other strands of its investigation, including The Anglican Church earlier this month.

While this investigation does not focus on residential schools, the report identified a number of themes which are likely to feed into those being considered by the Inquiry in Phases 1 and 2:

  • Governance - a lack of effective leadership and accountability when coupled with structural and policy deficiencies led to disclosure of abuse being handled inadequately, or a failure to refer allegations (when raised) to statutory authorities.
  • Safeguarding culture - deference to the authority of the Church or individual clergy and a lack of child protection resourcing created an environment where abuse could take place and presented barriers to disclosure of abuse by victims. The report also found that reputation was often prioritised over safeguarding obligations.
  • Communication and external agencies - a failure in communication between the Church in Wales and the police and social services department in Wales. In addition to this, there were no clear information sharing protocols between the Church of England and the Church in Wales in relation to safeguarding matters, or where clergy moved between the Church of England and the Church in Wales.

The Inquiry made a number of recommendations arising out of this which in addition to those set out in its published reports on The Internet (March 2020) and Accountability and Reparations for Victims and Survivors of Abuse (September 2020) are relevant to all organisations involved in the education, protection and care of children.

This includes:

  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities with linked or partner organisations- improved information sharing arrangements.
  • Accountability to Victims - the value and importance of organisations engaging with victims and survivors of CSA and giving explanations and assurances of non -recurrence where possible and the need for the Compensation Act 2006 to signpost the potential vicarious liability of organisations in relation to the acts of perpetrators.
  • Compensation - a call for clarification on: the Victims' Code to better signpost the rights of victims of CSA, the need for insurers to publish codes of practice for responding to civil claims in this regard and a revision to the Judicial College's guide on the assessment of damages in personal injury cases to specifically address CSA.
  • Online safety - the need for organisations to take a more proactive approach when tackling CSA where this takes place online to include implementation of age verification mechanisms, and the pre-screening of images by relevant industries to prevent access to known indecent images of children.

We have produced a summary of all IICSA investigations. This can be accessed on our OnStream Portal for Independent Schools.

IICSA Research

In addition to this, the Inquiry has published a number of research papers which may also be of interest to organisations who operate in diverse and multi-cultural areas, or to organisations with a strong sporting background and/or culture.

The first is a report on how racism and cultural stereotypes impacts organisational response to CSA.This explored the experiences of ethnic minorities and found that racial stereotypes can act as a barrier to individuals when reporting abuse and further that racism can lead to failures on the part of organisations to identify and respond to CSA appropriately.

The Inquiry published a separate report into CSA in sport. This identified that the enabling factors of abuse to take place in sport are similar to those found in the Inquiry's other thematic reports into CSA (see our February update for comments on the Marcus Erooga report). The report explored the nature and approach of coaches and instructors as perpetrators, the tendency of perpetrators to take the lead in arranging overnight stays in order to facilitate abuse and the lack of supervision or oversight of adults working in sport. Finally, the experience of victims (now adults) was considered and concluded that victims generally felt they were unable to report abuse or where they did that organisations failed to respond appropriately.

For more information on the Inquiry's research please access the publications page.

Upcoming/Ongoing Hearings

  • Institutional responses to allegations of CSA involving Lord Janner - 12 -31 October
  • Residential Schools Investigation - 16 - 27 November

All public hearings are streamed 'live' (subject to a three minute delay) on the Inquiry's YouTube channel and website. The transcripts are made available on the website a few hours after the end of each hearing day.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.