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Case must be a wake-up call: abuse charity

By Kate Ferguson

The unmasking of Rolf Harris as a predatory paedophile should spark a change in the law to force adults to report colleagues they suspect of abuse, the head of a child abuse charity has said.

Simon Bass, chief executive of the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service, warned that people have been "turning a blind eye" to abuse for decades.

He said the recent wave of celebrity sex abuse cases launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal should act "as a wake-up call" to the Government to act.

The organisation is campaigning for a change in the law which would see professionals such as church officials, teachers, and nurses prosecuted if they fail to report those they suspect of wrongdoing.

Mr Bass said: "I think cases such as Rolf Harris and Max Clifford are a wake-up call to examine safeguarding in all its aspects.

"Obviously, these cases have shocked the nation. Many people will be aghast at these celebrities, and think 'Oh no, not him'.

"For many of us, we would have grown up with these media personalities that have been on our television screens for so long.

"Because we have seen them so regularly there is a presumption of trust there."

Mr Bass said adults "owed a duty" to child victims to report abuse, but too often people were put off from revealing their suspicions because they feared it would damage the school or church where they work.

He pointed to the recent conviction of Mark Sewell (53) a Jehovah's Witness elder jailed for 14 years for sexually abusing girls as young as 12 at his congregation in Barry, near Cardiff.

Sewell's victims reported him to the church, but a committee cleared him of all allegations and failed to contact the authorities.

Mr Bass said: "What you can see over the last couple of years is there appears to have been a turning a blind eye, or not knowing what to do.

"Having a mechanism which says you have to do this, irrespective of the reputational risk that may have on you, can only be a good thing."

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