Child sex abuse inquiry ‘lacked focus on Welsh institutions and voices’, victims solicitor claims

An inquiry into child sex abuse lacked focus on Welsh institutions and victims, a solicitor representing survivors has claimed.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) which began in 2015 and spanned seven years, costing a total of £186.6 million, was tasked with investigating institutional failings in places such as schools, children’s homes and religious institutions across England and Wales.

Its final report, published on Thursday, described the sexual abuse of children as an “epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake” and made a raft of recommendations to ensure children are better protected in future.

More than 700 witnesses gave evidence to the inquiry, and more than 300 of the Truth Project sessions in which survivors gave accounts of their abuse were held in Wales.

However, Dino Nocivelli (pictured) from Leigh Day said he remains concerned “the voices of Welsh survivors have not been heard”.

Due to this Mr Nocivelli said it was unclear what changes would take place to further shield children in Wales from abuse, and said he would support calls for a Wales specific inquiry similar to the one ongoing in Scotland.

“After IICSA spent nearly £200 million investigating child sexual abuse, I truly hope their recommendations go far enough to better protect children from abuse and that the Government enacts them as soon as possible,” Mr Nocivelli said.

“My fear, however, is that this inquiry has not focused proportionately on abuse in Wales, based on geographical size, population, incidents of abuse or the inherent regulatory and cultural differences between Wales and England.

“An example of this oversight is that for one of the 15 investigation strands chosen by IICSA being residential schools, IICSA decided to investigate in detail and hear live evidence in respect of 12 schools, but for some reason not one of them was based in Wales.

“It is important that Welsh abuse survivors had a fair chance of finally being heard and that a light was shone on how abuse had taken place, and importantly what must be done to stop such abuse happening again.

“My concern is that the Welsh survivor voice has not been heard and I therefore question what change will in fact take place to better protect children in Wales today.”

One of the inquiry’s main recommendations is for the launch of a national redress scheme to get compensation for victims “let down by the state and non-state institutions in the past”.

It also called for the prosecution of individuals in positions of trust who fail to report allegations of child abuse.

Local authorities, other bodies and professionals in Wales, including teachers in maintained schools, already have a duty to report child abuse concerns to the authorities under section 28 of the Children Act 2004.

If the recommendation is adopted, it would become a criminal offence not to carry out that duty.

Other recommendations include the creation of a children’s minister at cabinet-level in the UK Government, with a similar recommendation for the Welsh Government.

A Child Protection Authority (CPA) should also be established to “secure a much stronger focus on the complex work of child protection in the relevant institutions and statutory agencies”, the report said.

It is estimated around one in six girls and one in 20 boys experience sexual abuse before the age of 16, with the report warning that “child sex abuse is not a problem consigned to the past”.

The Welsh Government said it supported the inquiry by providing more than 30,000 documents to the team from its archives and taking part in nine hearings.

Deputy minister for health and social services, Julie Morgan MS, said: “This is a very important report, and the recommendations will now be given full and proper consideration.

“While we have fully supported and participated in IICSA’s work, we have also strengthened our work to prevent abuse in Wales.

“In 2019, the national action plan on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse was published. We will provide an update about progress next month.”

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