Call for permanent tribunal to support child sex abuse victims
A Government-funded "popular tribunal" should be established on a permanent basis to take evidence from survivors of child sexual abuse, a report has recommended.
The tribunal proposal is the key recommendation from a year-long unofficial inquiry which found that existing institutions had failed to provide survivors with "meaningful opportunities for either healing or justice".
The report of the UK Child Sex Abuse People's Tribunal blamed "a series of institutional failings" for preventing the reporting of abuse, and claimed that there were "clear links" between children left vulnerable as a result and "predatory abuse on an organised scale".
The People's Tribunal was set up in 2014 on the initiative of survivors and their supporters, and has heard the testimonies of 20 people about their experience of sexual abuse, as well as taking evidence from expert witnesses.
In its report, released in Westminster, the Tribunal recommended:
:: A permanent, state-funded popular tribunal to enable survivors to come forward and tell their stories;
:: Provision of advocates to survivors giving evidence, to assist their access to justice.
:: Mental health services to be linked to police investigations to help victims disclose abuse;
:: Channels to allow victims to give evidence anonymously if they fear reprisals;
:: Training for the police, judiciary and health service on the effects of undisclosed sexual abuse;
:: Establishment of a Royal Commission to enquire whether the criminal and civil justice systems are fit for purpose in investigating allegations of sexual abuse.
The Tribunal's legal adviser Alan Collins, a partner at Hugh James solicitors, said: "The People's Tribunal's preliminary findings reveal that there exists a widespread under-reporting of sexual abuse, which is the result of inadequate systems and safeguards which, if in place, would undoubtedly have led to a greater number of victims coming forward to report historic or ongoing abuse.
"The Tribunal's ability to have gathered the amount of evidence it has in just a year is testament to the fact that by having a proper forum in place that victims feel comfortable participating in, crimes and abuses can be effectively reported, and victims can start to move on with their lives following these extremely traumatic experiences."
Mr Collins said there was "a real concern" that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by Dame Lowell Goddard, will be "ineffectual" without evidence provided by survivors and witnesses through an additional route such as the proposed popular tribunal.