The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard of an “overwhelming body of evidence” by victims at the start of its investigation into boarding schools, to support the introduction of “mandatory reporting” and it should be illegal not to report child abuse.
The inquiry was given a summary of past emotional, physical and sexual abuse at private residential schools. A senior IICSA lawyer warned that such abuse could happen again. The residential schools phase is one of 14 separate investigations by the inquiry.
In 2016, the government in England carried out a consultation which examined the case for mandatory reporting – and this is a field where the inquiry is likely to make key recommendations. If a law were introduced, it would be illegal for professionals working with children not to pass on reports of abuse. In 2014, Wales introduced a duty to inform authorities of suspicions.
The inquiry is beginning two weeks of hearings looking at how to prevent abuse happening again, with a focus on residential private boarding schools, along with special schools for music and for children with special needs.
The inquiry’s lead counsel read a summary of harrowing evidence of past abuse at seven private boarding schools, all of which have been closed or taken over by other bodies. These included Sherborne Prep School, Ashdown House, St George’s, Dalesdown and St Williams run by run by the De La Salle Brothers, a Roman Catholic order until 1992.
Ms Scolding said there were few procedures for safeguarding, whistleblowing or staff training in those days.
“Before individuals start decrying red tape and bureaucracy, they may wish to reflect that in an era of almost total self-regulation, these kinds of behaviours went unchecked and undiscovered.”
She added the current system may have improved, but she said there were still many cases where abuse could happen.
The inquiry will also look at more concerns about four music schools, in particular, Chetham’s in Manchester where Michael Brewer abused one of his students, Frances Andrade in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Ms Andrade took her own life after giving evidence against him in 2013.