Charities still hiding sexual abuse –
It’s time to prosecute trustees and CEOs.
London 16 October – for immediate release.
The Charity Commission finds that charities still under- report sexual abuse – including child sexual abuse overseas – yet no one is going to jail. Why?
Thursday this week sees the next round of Charity navel gazing at why sexual abuse, and child sexual abuse takes place. On Wednesday (today) the Charity Commission taskforce set up after the Oxfam scandal ‘expresses concern’ at ongoing under reporting of sexual exploitation and abuse. According to this report 47.5% of victims who could be identified are children.
In Britain, section 72 of the Sexual Offenses Act makes it a crime to sexually abuse a child under the age of 16 anywhere in the world. Yet, even with the massive scale of the problem now being exposed, no one from the charity sector is going to jail.
According to Professor Andrew MacLeod, co-Founder of Child Protection from aid charity HearTheirCries.org, the problem is in under-reporting.
“The International Development Committee of the House of Commons said that the charity sector was ‘complacent verging on complicit’ and that charities put their reputations before the protection of children. There is your problem,” said MacLeod.
“In Australia it is now a crime to fail to report a child sex offence even if it takes place overseas. The UK should follow Australia’s lead. It is time for charity CEOs and Trustees to go to jail if they have failed to prevent and fail to report child sex offenses by their workers and contractors,” MacLeod says.
Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development is set to announce that Britain will set up a world-wide register of sex offenders in the charity sector.
“I congratulate Mordaunt”, MacLeod says, “as in nine years of lobbying across four continents, Mordaunt and her predecessor at DFID, Priti Patel, have been the first government ministers to take this matter seriously.”
MacLeod still says there is a problem in lack of prosecutions.
“The problem with the Charity Commission doing these investigations is that it is not a prosecuting body. The fact that the Charity Sector thinks it can examine itself is ludicrous. They do not know and cannot be expected to know the rules of evidence and procedure in criminal courts, and the delay in investigations often means the evidentiary chain goes cold,” MacLeod says. “This is why whenever there is a suspected child sex offence the police in the country of event, and the police in the country of the perpetrator’s nationality should immediately be informed” MacLeod says.
“Britain’s National Crime Authority, and equivalent agencies in the USA, Australia, Germany, France and others, all have the ability to prosecute their nationals for child sex offenses overseas. The law is there, but charities do not report offenders to law enforcement. Failure to report must become a crime” MacLeod concludes.
HeartheirCries.org will attend Thursday’s Safeguarding Summit in London. Their advocacy points for the summit are attached as an annex.
Hear Their Cries was set up by former UN staff and whistleblowers to ‘hear the cries’ of whistleblowers in Aid and ‘hear the cries’ of child victims of sexual abuse in Aid (www.HearTheirCries.org).
|Hear Their Cries – Stop Child Rape in Aid||Press contact|
A Swiss Association
Rue du Général-Dufour 11
CH-1204 Geneva, Switzerland
Peter Gallo peter@HearTheirCries.org (Scotland) +44 7719 063462
Andrew MacLeod andrew@HearTheirCries.org (London) +44 7408 810 851
Abbe Jolles abbe@HeatTheirCires.orc (Washington DC) +12023528656
Safeguarding summit 18 October:
Our advocacy points will be as follows:
- Recognition that the extra-territorial impact of the Sexual Offences Act makes it a crime in the UK for UK residents or nationals to have sex with a child under the age of 16 anywhere in the world.
- Recognition that most advanced economies have a similar law in place already.
- Recognition that the United Nations has called upon countries to develop such extra territorial law.
- Recognition that most NGO’s and Aid Agencies do not have criminal investigative capacity, nor do they have sufficient understanding of the evidentiary requirements of different criminal courts to be able to conduct investigations, or gather evidence in a way that maximises the chance of criminal convictions, following a child sex offence that takes place overseas.
- Recognition that an internal investigation prior to informing police may cause a delay that allows witness tampering, evidence destruction and other activities that reduce the chance of conviction.
- Recognition that using the term ’Sexual Exploitation and Abuse,’ together with the acronym ’SEA,’ when used as an umbrella term to cover everything from an inappropriate work place relationship between adults to a silent forced rape of a child, is counter productive generalisation that minimises the response to the most horrendous of crimes — the child sex offence.
- Recognition that if we cannot utilise exisiting law to hold perpetrators of child sex offences to account, then what hope have we of significantly reducing broader issues of sexual exploitation and abuse that are not subject to extra territorial legal jurisdiction.
- Recognition that the scale of sexual offences, including child sex offences, is large and the under-reporting of crimes taking place in humanitarian settings is likely to be significantly higher than the under-reporting of sex offences in the UK.
- Recognition that the scale of offending highlighted in the Foreign Development Committee’s report is clear evidence that trustees and CEOs have failed, over decades, to take the issues of sexual abuse, and sexual offences against children seriously enough to put in place effective mechanisms to train, detect, prevent and report sex offences including child sex offences.
In recognition of the above, this meeting:
- Agree to avoid using the umbrella terminology of ‘Sexual Exploitation and Abuse’, and the letters ‘SEA’ when describing the broad range of abuses and criminal offences.
- Agree that even taking into account the differing capacities of national police forces around the world, the police force of either or both the country of the sex offence, or the country of the accused’s a nationality and residence, is the first and most appropriate body to investigate a child sex offence.
- Agree that investigation whenever there is an accusation of or suspicion of a child sex offence taking place, regardless of whether the accused works for an NGO, implementing partner, aid agency or whomever, the police forces of both the country where the incident took place, and the police forces of the country of the national accused should be immediately informed.
- Call upon the UK Government to follow Australia’s lead and make the failure to report a child sex crime that takes place overseas a criminal offence in the UK.
- Call upon the UK Government to follow Australia’s lead and require DFID to suspend all funding to an agency that fails to immediately report a suspected child sex office anywhere in the world.
- Call upon the UK Government to examine the possibility of a crime of ‘failing to prevent’ a child sex offence, taking into account the principles behind the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine developing in international law.
- Calls upon the agencies present and DFID to jointly fund academically defensible studies that produce the best possible estimate on the likely scale of sex offences, including child sex offences, taking place in the aid setting, and a defensible estimate of the scale and causes of the under-reporting of sex offences including child sex offences, in the aid sector.