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SAFE Newsletter: August 2020

Dear Colleague

Now schools and colleges are reopening, safeguarding professionals are expecting a surge in concerns and referrals from education colleagues. If you missed our extra news bulletin, do take a look at SAFEcic's Essential Safeguarding Guidance: Returning To Work With At Risk Groups.

To continue helping everyone through the ongoing crisis, SAFE is also continuing to offer the following services under its community objectives:

  • A free access and continually updated Crisis Hub
  • Free phone safeguarding consultations  with one of its multi-agency experts, please email consultation@safecic.co.uk to book an appointment
  • For those short on time, or would like a thorough, external and independent safeguarding review and audit of their charity, SAFE charges a heavily subsidised 50% discounted rate of £500 a day under its community objectives (normally £1,000 a day for commercial organisations). If you would like to know more please email audits@safecic.co.uk
  • Bespoke SCORM compliant online training courses for organisations with their own Learning Management Systems (LMS) . If you would like to know more please email scormcourses@safecic.co.uk
  • A  buy one get one free offer for all online training until 30 September 2020
  • SAFE membership for a heavily subsidised cost for registered charities and not for profit organisations at £50 a year. Benefits include safeguarding template policies and resources  plus a free   online self review and audit of all your safeguarding arrangements . Organisations can also achieve the SAFE Award to evidence  they have done everything they can to fulfil their duty of care.

Statutory and Non-Statutory Guidance

England

Statutory

The document Keeping children safe in education came  into force 1 September 2020.

Annex H contains a table of substantive changes from September 2019 

Reports, Reviews, Resources, Research, Consultations and Inquiries

1. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) 

The IICSA says the Truth Project has now heard from more than 5,000 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. The IICSA's report explored the challenges faced by victims and survivors in accessing statutory, private and voluntary sector support services. The report will continue to examine child protection policies and safeguarding cultures in religious organisations in England and Wales.

More information about how to share can be found on the Truth Project website.

2. Children's Commissioner for England Anne Longfield has published a Briefing 

Putting children first in future lockdowns August 2020 

Given the risks of a second wave of Covid-19 infections leading to the need for further local lockdowns, or even a full national lockdown, this paper sets out the key actions needed to ensure that children's interests are at the heart of planning for future lockdowns. 

Ten key principles

1.      Compared to adults, children play a smaller role in spreading Covid-19 and are less likely to get ill from it. This is especially true for younger children, and less so for older children and teenagers. 

2.      Children's perspectives must be better reflected in scientific and public health advice. Any measures implemented must take into account children's needs and circumstances where they differ from those of adults. 

3.      Education should be prioritised over other sectors: first to open, last to close. When only a limited amount of social interaction is feasible, the amount accounted for by education must be protected - at the expense of other sectors/activities. 

4.      Reducing Covid-19 transmission in the community is very important, but it should not be automatically assumed that this requires closing schools - except as a last resort. 

5.      In response to a local outbreak, rapid tracing must distinguish between the source and the location of infections. Schools could be more likely to be the latter than the former - i.e. infections detected within schools could reflect outbreaks that originated in local workplaces. 

6.      With rapid testing of pupils and teachers, any confirmed Covid-19 cases and their close contacts can be isolated without necessarily having to send entire classes or year groups home. 

7.      Full lockdowns must balance the epidemiological benefit to children against the social and health costs to children of closures to schools, leisure/youth centres, etc. 

8.      Any rights extended to adults must also be given to children in ways that work for them (e.g. the right to exercise, do sports or play outside). 

9.      Communication about the lockdown must make clear that risk of infection should not prevent children and families seeking help they need, such as urgent healthcare which is not related to the virus or refuge from domestic abuse. 

10.  All public bodies should begin planning for the possibility of a local lockdown now, to ensure that they can respond as quickly and effectively as possible if one were to occur. 

3. Seven case reviews have been added to the collection this month featuring a number of issues including autism, child sexual abuse, children with disabilities and suicide. They are:

a. Published by Coventry Safeguarding Children Board is serious sexual abuse of eight children, several of whom have disabilities including one child with serious physical and learning difficulties, by members of Family S.

b. Published by Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Partnership about the death of a 16-year-old boy by suicide.

c. Published by Kent Safeguarding Children Board about the death of a 16-year-old girl in 2017 by suicide.

d. Published by Luton Safeguarding Board is about the neglect and sexual abuse of secondary-school-age child.

e. Published by Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Safeguarding Children Board is about life-threatening injuries to a 3-year-old child in March 2016.

f.  Published by London Borough of Wandsworth Safeguarding Children Board is about non-accidental injuries to a 4-month old girl in 2015.

g. Published by Sandwell Safeguarding Children Board about the death of an 8-week-old baby in 2017.

To access click Case Reviews

4. New figures obtained by the NSPCC reveal that police recorded more than 200 child sex offences, on average, every day last year.

There were 73,518 recorded offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in the UK in 2019/20 - up 57% in the 5 years since 2014/152.

Where gender and age were recorded:

  • girls were 4 times as likely to be victims
  • there were more than 8,000 offences committed against 14-year-olds, making it the most common age group to report offences
  • there were 12,374 sex crimes recorded against children under 10
  • 449 offences were recorded against babies yet to reach their first birthday. 

The figures on child sexual abuse show the need for national leadership in response and we urge the Home Office to publish and implement its Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy.

The strategy was announced by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid at our 'How Safe are our Children' conference in June last year. In May the Home Office said it "will shortly publish the first of its kind cross-government Child Sexual Abuse Strategy to improve the UK's response to tackling this abhorrent crime". The strategy has yet to be published.

5. The 2019 Jersey Children and Young People's Survey report has been released by Statistics Jersey. 

Every Jersey child in school Years 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 was given the opportunity to take part in the survey during school time in the Autumn Term of 2019 (that is, before the global COVID 19 pandemic). The survey was run independently by Statistics Jersey, with a range of stakeholders across government requesting specific topic areas to be included. 

The school survey covered a wide-range of topics including:

  • home and family life
  • wellbeing and self-esteem
  • health
  • alcohol
  • smoking
  • drugs
  • diet
  • physical activity
  • sex
  • crime and child sexual exploitation
  • bullying
  • being heard
  • leisure activities
  • active transport

Some sections (e.g. drugs and sex) were not included, or were amended, for the younger children's versions of the questionnaire.

The survey has been run every four years since 1998, enabling changes in behaviours and attitudes to be monitored over time. Previous versions of the report were titled the 'Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire' and the 'Jersey School Survey'. The results from the survey will allow everyone in the Island to better understand life from a child's perspective, and help in the decision-making of those providing services to children. 

6. The national domestic abuse charity Women's Aid releases a new report: A Perfect Storm The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on domestic abuse survivors and the services supporting them. 

The report shows how domestic abuse has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. It examines the impact on survivors; how abusers use the pandemic as a tool of abuse; and how the services supporting survivors are affected. 

1) Impact on survivors 

Over 90% (91%) of respondents currently experiencing domestic abuse said the Covid-19 pandemic had negatively impacted in at least one way. Of those women living with their abuser during lockdown, 61% said the abuse had worsened. More than two-thirds (68%) said they felt they had no one to turn to during lockdown. 

"I'm lonely, feel isolated, like a sitting duck." 

"Things are escalating and I'm sure it's going to continue getting worse." 

Survivors with children, who were currently experiencing abuse, told us things were also worse for their children. Over half (53%) told us their children had seen more abuse to the survivor. Over a third (38%) said that their abuser had shown an increase in abusive behaviour towards the children. 

In April, during the height of the lockdown, over three quarters (78%) of women experiencing abuse at that time told us they thought Covid-19 made it harder for them to escape abuse. This was still a significant problem in June, in spite of easing lockdown measures:  

1) One in ten (10%) survivors told us that their abuser had actively used lockdown restrictions to stop them from leaving. 

One-fifth (20.3%) said that they had tried to leave during the pandemic but had been unable to access housing or refuge space 

"I have nobody to tell what I am going through. I am desperate to get out but he is always home" 

2) Tool of abuse 

The report reveals how abusers have used the pandemic as a tool for abuse to increase fear and anxiety. 67% of women responding who were currently experiencing abuse said that Covid-19 had been used as part of the abuse they suffered in one or more ways. 

Survivors talked about perpetrators disregarding concerns about the virus and ignoring restrictions. In one case, the perpetrator threatened the survivor would die from the virus, and, in another case, spat in the woman's face.  

Some survivors talked about their abuser exploiting the lack of available support to increase control. 

"I feel that my ex-partner has used his knowledge of my reduced support network to escalate his emotionally abusive and controlling behaviour - thinking that I have no one to turn to." 

The pandemic also increased post-relationship abuse including perpetrators pressuring women into facilitating child contact even when this would breach lockdown and increase risk of contracting the virus. 38.3% said child contact arrangements have been used to further abuse, for example not returning children or restricting women's access to their children. 

"My abuser is withholding our young child. In violation of our custody orders, I have had no contact with my child for weeks." 

3) Impact on domestic abuse services 

The period from 23 March to 31 May 2020 saw a 40.6% reduction in the number of refuge vacancies in England, compared to the same period in 2019. The most common reasons were a lack of suitable move-on accommodation (67% of those with reduced availability) and concerns over managing the spread of the virus in communal accommodation (61% of those with reduced availability).  

Service providers expect to see a spike in demand across their services in the coming months with most (63%) expecting this spike to continue for at least a year. 

Worthy of note

1. All five surviving leaders of the now-defunct Jesus Army were found to have colluded with sexual offenders through their handling of complaints.

The report, yet to be published, followed an inquiry commissioned by the church in 2017.

The Jesus Fellowship Church Trust (JFCT) declined to comment when approached by the BBC.

Last year it apologised to anyone "who experienced harm in the past" and urged victims to contact police.

The Jesus Army was a cult-like religious movement that sprang up in Northamptonshire in the 1970s and established a sprawling community of houses.

Last year it dissolved after the BBC revealed hundreds of former members were seeking damages for alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

Ten people from the church have been convicted of sex offences.

The new report focused on the actions of the so-called Apostolic Group of senior church leaders over the past two decades.

In the summary of her 800-page final report, independent investigator Vicki Lawson-Brown said all five leaders "must take responsibility for their inaction".

She said women were historically regarded as subservient to men and treated as "domestic servants", which placed them and children at higher risk of abuse.

There was a culture of "blaming victims" and "reinstating disgraced leaders", her review found.

Describing one "significant case", she said all of the men, by their failure to act, protected a convicted paedophile who had been allowed to continue in his role as an elder.

In spite of further complaints against the man, he "remained a risk within a community household until 2016 when social services threatened to take action".

The report recommended further investigations into a number of other areas, including sexual, spiritual and financial abuse, as well the "inappropriate punishment" of children.

The Jesus Army, or Jesus Fellowship as it was formally known, was an ultra-evangelical sect, founded in a small chapel in the Northamptonshire village of Bugbrooke in 1969. 

It attracted thousands of members, from homeless drug addicts to devout Christian families, many of whom lived together in close-knit, rural communes. 

Members were put to work on the church's farms or businesses and forced to hand over money and possessions. 

Surviving members have described an intense, bullying regime, in which children were severely disciplined and forced to sit through long worship sessions involving speaking in tongues and exorcisms.

2. Judge Freezes Late Paedophiles Priest's £5 million Estate Donation to Charity

Michael Studdert, former Anglian Priest died in August 2017 aged 78 with an estate of approximately £35 million. 

Studdert was convicted on 3 occasions of offences relating to the possession, importing and making or distribution of indecent images between 1988 and 2006. He was sentenced to jail in 2006 with Thomas O'Carroll, the founder of Paedophile Information Exchange, after over 100,000 indecent images were found in his home.

Shortly after this conviction, Studdert was banned from exercising any Priestly function within the Church for the rest of his life.

Studdert left almost £5 million in his will to the EAC Educational Trust which is a registered Charity he set up in 1985 to "relieve poverty and to advice education to the benefit of the pubic and particularly amongst the families of the Clergy and Church of England, single parent families and other poor families."

A High Court Judge has Ordered that the executors of his estate not to distribute his estate until investigations of potential victims of abuse have been made. Whilst Studdert was never convicted of sexual assaults on a child, the Judge said, "he is satisfied that Studdert had committed historic sexual assaults in England and Wales."

A firm of Solicitors who were appointed to manage his estate compiled evidence, which showed "that Studdert was likely to have had sexual contact with children in Poland, where he had strong connections and also travelled with O'Carroll extensively in Eastern Europe."

Studdert's executors applied to the High Court because "they were rightly concerned that the estate might be subject to claims from survivors of historic abuse."

A series of hearing took place between January 2019 and April 2019 and the Court found:

"There is a real prospect that the deceased may have committed historic sexual assault both within the jurisdiction of England and Wales and outside the said jurisdiction in Eastern Europe, and in particular within Poland.

The Court also found that these historic assaults may have given rise to personal injury claims against the deceased and hence his estate, although no claims have been intimated and the (executors) are not aware of the identity of any possible Claimants."

The executors were also Ordered to contact the Police and the Church of England to establish whether there was any further information about potential abuse by Studdert.

They have also been Ordered to "create dedicated websites" in English, Polish, Danish and Italian with details of Studdert's date of death and criminal convictions, as well as advertising the website on Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia."

The Judge concluded:

"It remains to be seen what emerges from the steps that are taken by the (executors).
"It is clear, however, that a complete bar on the distribution of the estate should not remain in place indefinitely.
"Consideration may be given to setting up a compensation scheme if one is warranted."

The website set up by Studdert's executors is available at  Jordans Solicitors to help victims of child abuse

"If you have been a victim of child abuse, and would like to speak to one of our Specialist Abuse Lawyers in confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We can advise you on the available options for pursuing a civil claim for compensation.

Jordans Solicitors successfully represent and have secured compensation for numerous victims of abuse.

And we are experts in overcoming the particular challenges that arise in these sensitive cases.

Our Abuse Team can be contacted on 0800 955 5094 or 033 0300 1103 for a free and confidential initial consultation."

3. Action to combat sales of knives to children is making a difference: test purchases carried out by local authority Trading Standards teams in 2019/20 showed that 32% of knives sold to children were bought at national retailers, down from 49% in 2018/19. 

Over the last two years some national retailers, working together with trading standards officers, have implemented several preventative measures including staff training; using locked cabinets to store knives; recording instances where staff have refused to sell a knife or other age restricted products to a young person; and ceasing to sell knives in some cases altogether. 

The data show a modest decline in the reduction of knife sales to children overall. Of 1614 tests in stores carried out by Trading Standards in England and Wales between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, retailers failed to prevent the sale of a knife to a child on 210 separate occasions (13%). This marks a 2.3% year on year reduction. 

However, the data show independent stores need to do more to prevent the sale of knives to children. During the tests, the proportion of knives sold to children at independent outlets (rather than national retailers) jumped from 51% in 2018/19 to 68% in 2019/20. Knives were sold to under 18s on 143 occasions at independent retail outlets compared to 67 times at national retailers.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

"The Trading Standards community is committed to working with retailers to prevent the illegal sale of knives to children. By promoting best practice, providing advice to businesses and taking proportionate enforcement action, where necessary, our teams work hard to secure compliance. 

"It is extremely encouraging that this work is making a difference in reducing the number of knives sold to under-18s by national retailers. But there is still more work to be done. Our test purchasing data shows that there are still too many opportunities for children to purchase a knife. We must redouble efforts with independent outlets and provide the guidance and support they need to restrict sales to children. I recognise the challenges facing retailers in restricting knife sales to young people, but the law is clear and will be enforced." 

The programme is funded by the Home Office and is just one part of a multi-faceted approach to reducing knife crime. 

Crime and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said:

"The programme of work with retailers forms an important part of the drive to tackle the scourge of knife crime. While it is encouraging to see progress being made, more must be done to stop knives being sold to children. 

"The Government is taking action across all fronts to clamp down on serious violence, including boosting law enforcement and introducing measures to stop dangerous weapons making their way onto our streets."

Retailers that fail to take their responsibilities seriously face a range of enforcement activity including cautions, warnings and prosecutions. Over the past 12 months 39 premises-based retailers have been prosecuted for selling knives to children. 16 online retailers have also been prosecuted, including:

Cromwell Tools was ordered to pay £40,000 plus council court costs of £1,943.40 and a £170 victim surcharge after the underage test purchaser bought a Stanley fixed blade utility knife from www.zoro.co.uk 

Perkin Knives Limited was fined £10,000 for selling a £35.55 Damascus knife via the website www.perkinknives.com to a 13-year-old buyer

Bright Associates Limited was fined £11,725 plus court costs of £1,250 and a victim surcharge of £170 for selling an £11.98 six-piece knife set to the teenager via www.wowcher.co.uk. The teenager was able to buy the knives and scissors set even though he entered his true date of birth as part of the online sale process

Heaton Catering Equipment was fined £8,000 and ordered it to pay court costs of £1,865.80 and a £170 victim surcharge after a council test purchase volunteer bought a Giesser meat cleaver from www.heatoncateringequipment.co.uk

4. The Home Office has published an independent evaluation of the work of Violence Reduction Units (VRUs).

It found that in their first year they invested in 175 programmes designed to help young people at risk of being drawn into violent crime.

They include prevention work in schools, communities, prisons, hospitals, Pupil Referral Units and police custody suites.

The evalution comes as the government has today announced that VRUs will be distributing a further £2.9 million to hundreds of frontline charities working on violence prevention projects.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

I am determined to ensure we use every possible tool to stop violent crime happening in the first place.

A key part of that mission is protecting children and young people and preventing them from falling into the clutches of criminals.

It is encouraging to see the progress these units are making, but we will continue our relentless drive to deliver the safer streets the law-abiding majority deserve.

Smaller charities work tirelessly in our communities and this funding will ensure they can continue providing life-changing support.

In the summer of 2019, the Home Office announced that 18 Police and Crime Commissioners in the areas worst affected by violent crime would share £35 million to establish VRUs, with a further £35 million provided for 2020/21.

VRUs bring together different organisations - including the police, local government, health, community leaders and other key partners in local areas - to tackle violent crime by understanding its root causes and driving a co-ordinated response.

Their work forms part of the government's drive to tackle crime and make communities safer, alongside the recruitment of 20,000 additional police officers over the next three years.

The evaluation published today found that of the 100,000 people who were supported as a result of initiatives funded by VRUs in 2019/20, more than 51,000 were identified as potentially high-risk, or suspected to be involved in criminal and violent activity. The remaining young people may live or attend school in an area with high levels of deprivation or crime and were targeted by interventions to increase awareness of the risks.

The funding announced today is being directed to smaller charities providing critical frontline services for children and young people, to ensure they can meet increased demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as continuing their day-to-day activities.

This will allow them to continue to support vulnerable young people at risk of violence, adapting support services if necessary, for example by using remote working and technology.

More than 300 charities will share in the financial assistance, which is part of the £750 million package of support for charities announced by the Chancellor in April.

The smaller charities carry out a variety of work at community level to support children and young people and families, including outreach work and drop-in sessions, sports, cultural activity and wellbeing sessions.

On Thursday the Home Secretary visited one of the organisations receiving funding, Achievement Through Football (ATF) based in Essex, who work to support young people as well as providing mentoring for their parents or carers.

The charity runs sports sessions including football, boxing and basketball, and a garden project as a way to engage with young people and help them build life skills. The Home Secretary met with parents, young ambassadors and mentors as well as representatives from the Essex Violence & Vulnerability Unit.

5. Vulnerable victims and witnesses will be spared the trauma of attending court as technology allowing pre-recording of evidence sessions is rolled out across London and Kent today (24 August 2020).

  • vulnerable victims and witnesses will have the option to pre-record their evidence, removing the need to attend the trial
  • all Crown courts in London and Kent to offer this new protection from today
  • new service to be available in every Crown Court by the end of the year

Available immediately in these regions, the new technology allows vulnerable witnesses and victims to have their cross-examination video-recorded earlier in the process and played during the trial. This is to ensure they can provide their best evidence, away from the courtroom which many can often find intimidating.

The recording is carried out as close to the time of the offence as possible in order to help memory recall, and reduce the stress of giving evidence to a full courtroom at trial.

The move follows successful pilots in Liverpool, Leeds, and Kingston-upon-Thames, where victims felt less pressure than attending court.

In November last year, a Primark security guard from Kingston-upon-Thames was jailed after the four girls he sexually assaulted gave their evidence in a pre-recorded session prior to the trial taking place. The victims were spared having to tell the story of their horrific abuse in front of the perpetrator, who showed no remorse for his actions.

Justice Minister, Alex Chalk MP, said:

Vulnerable victims show great courage by coming forward, and it's vital they can do so in the least traumatic way possible.

This technology ensures they are protected and are able to give their best possible evidence, without reducing a defendant's right to a fair trial.

But this is just one part of our efforts to boost the support on offer for victims at every stage of the justice system, which includes consulting on a Victims' Law.

Victims' Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, says:

I very much welcome this further rollout ensuring that more vulnerable victims and witnesses have the option to pre-record their evidence. I have long been concerned that children who complained of victimisation should not spend a long part of their childhood beset with the worry of ultimately giving an account of what happened. If they can give their evidence at an early stage, they will then be free to get on with their lives. There is also a further point that therapy is often delayed whilst a complainant is a witness.

I congratulate HMCTS and the Ministry of Justice in driving this forward and being so responsive. The sooner these arrangements are in place the better. This has the potential to transform the criminal justice experience for so many vulnerable victims.

The decision to pre-record evidence is made by judges on a case-by-case basis.

Crown Courts in Basildon and Chelmsford, Essex, Lewes in East Sussex and Stafford in the West Midlands will also be included in today's rollout.

And the reason to remain vigilant in all aspects of safeguarding

1. For decades, Neil Harris used his position as a dance and gymnastics teacher to sexually abuse his vulnerable victims. This summer he has been jailed for a second time and some of Harris's victims have told of the impact the childhood attacks have had on their lives.

Harris's job at his mother's Birmingham dance school, which he later took over after her death, left him in a unique position to prey on pupils.

Victims have told how he did not allow his pupils to wear underwear underneath their leotards and would use checking for underwear as a pretext to assault them. 

Harris was jailed in January 2018 and in June 2020for sex offences. But before that his actions went unchecked for years, with criminal records checks - now commonplace for adults working with children - unlikely to have taken place, police have said.

Popular and well-known in the local dance community, for more than 50 years Harris taught at the Ann Harris School of Dance, which was established by his mother and operated from their home on Cecil Road in Erdington.

His "charming" personality enabled him to gain the trust and groom parents and children alike, said Det Con Nikki Thomas, the officer who led both investigations into Harris.

"He presents himself as a very friendly individual," she said. "The witnesses, some of them will say he used to flirt with the mothers of the children. 

"He was a bit of a charmer. He was a larger than life character. 

"Because he was very good at his craft a lot of people looked up to him. He was seen by the children as a god. A number of witnesses have said that to me.

"He was very much untouchable."

But behind his friendly facade lay a man described by prosecutors as a "persistent, predatory paedophile". Harris, now 75, they said, used "twin disguises of amiability and authority to obscure his depredations".

"We used to call him creepy Neil," said Gemma - whose real name we are not using to protect her identity but who took dance classes with Harris from the ages of five to 11.

"His hand used to be all over you, he used to put his hands down your leotard."

His behaviour went unchallenged as he was often the only adult present. Police said as he ran his mother's business, which then became his business, it was likely he would not have conducted any Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

The combination of being almost the only authority figure over very young children "may go some way to explain why some of the witnesses tolerated the abuse he perpetrated for such a long time", prosecutors said.

Harris's abuse first came to light when a victim approached police in 2015.

And when Det Con Thomas took on the case she was left "astounded" at the number of potential witnesses she approached who turned out to be victims.

Victims told of Harris routinely touching them inappropriately and putting his hands inside their clothes.

One said because the assaults took place in disco dancing classes, she associated the Village People's YMCA with the abuse she had suffered.

Harris received a five-year sentence in 2018 for indecently assaulting four girls in the 1970s and 80s and in June was jailed for eight years for 25 further offences of indecent assault on 10 girls and one boy between the 1960s and 1990s. He will remain on the sex offenders register for life.

The impact of his crimes has been significant.

Gemma, now 56, has undergone counselling and said to this day she "can't stand people touching me".

While there are currently no on-going proceedings, Det Con Thomas said she believed the true number of Harris's victims could be much higher.

"It's really difficult to say and put a number on the number of victims who are out there and who haven't come forward," she said. "We know that he was committing offences from 1967-1991. 

"He had multiple classes each day and the suggestion from each of the victims was he touched up all of the children in that class repeatedly."

Many of Harris's victims came forward after seeing media coverage of the first trial, including Gemma who attended court to face her attacker.

It was an experience she described as "awful", but she said to see him handed his sentence "felt like he got justice".

For Sandra, the legal process has helped her process her emotions.

She added: "Having gone through the legal system I now realise how resilient I am and that the blame and shame I have felt is not mine to keep. Just knowing there were others somehow gave me some strength to go through with it."

2. John Irving was caught on four occasions by women pretending to be 14, 13 and 12-year-old girls on behalf of so-called paedophile hunter groups.

The 56-year-old was arrested in Inverness Road, Ipswich, after being confronted by online vigilantes on July 4 last year.

Irving, now of Walton Road, Clacton, admitted four counts of attempting to engage in sexual communication with a girl under 16 at an earlier hearing.

On Wednesday, August 26th 2020 he returned to Ipswich Crown Court to receive an eight-month jail term, suspended for two years, with 120 hours of unpaid work and 40 days of rehabilitation activity.

The court heard how Irving engaged decoys through the Skout social networking and dating app with the same opening message: "Hey beautiful, sexy girl. Liked your photo. Would like to give you hugs from me and kiss your lips"

Subsequent messages included requests for naked photos and for the decoys to engage in sexual activity.

On one occasion, Irving noted the decoy's profile stated her age as 19, but continued sending sexual messages after she claimed to be 13, and warned she was "leaving herself open for perverts" by keeping her profile on the site.

Andrew Thompson, mitigating, said Irving was a man without previous criminal conviction, who had lost his job, home and relationship as a result of the offences, and was now living as an informal carer for his father.

He said Irving had voluntarily attended counselling and ceased using any internet enabled smart devices since being charged.

Judge Rupert Overbury called Irving's preoccupation with children "extremely unhealthy and harmful", adding: "Although there was no actual conduct or meeting, there were elements of grooming and suggestions of full penetrative sexual activity.

"I believe you are genuinely ashamed of what you did.

"If you even think about committing these offences again, you will find yourself immediately in prison."

Irving, who the probation service deemed a low risk of re-offending, will have to sign the sex offenders' register and be the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.

3. Three scammers have been sentenced to a combined total of nine and a quarter years (111 months) at Birmingham Crown Court today (26 August 2020) for their part in running a fraudulent home improvement company in Stourport on Severn, Worcestershire. 

The sentences follow an eight-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court where Adrian Hillman, aged 44, his wife Rebecca Hillman, aged 46, and their associate Philip Farrington, aged 62, were found guilty of 34 offences under the Companies Act 2006, The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

During the trial, the court had heard how Mr and Mrs Hillman (both of Severn Side in Stourport on Severn) and Phillip Farrington (of Broomy Close in Stourport on Severn) all played their part in conning members of the public into paying for overpriced, ineffective or unnecessary home improvement work. The work was often mis-sold, of no benefit or simply never carried out at all.

The work focused on wall and roof coatings and solar panel batteries with claims that they would improve energy efficiency and reduce bills. These claims were dismissed by expert witnesses in the trial.

The defendants also refused to refund customers' money when they cancelled within their cancellation period or because the work was never started. The Court heard from more than 45 witnesses who had paid around £208,000 but had never had the work completed or their money returned. 

The victims targeted by the perpetrators were predominantly older people or people living in vulnerable situations, with a significant number aged in their 80s and 90s. The majority of the victims were in the Midlands, including Birmingham, Worcestershire and Shropshire, although a number were from wider afield including Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and even as far away as the Isle of Wight.

The sentences handed down were as follows:

  • Sentencing judge HHJ Mukherjee described Adrian Hillman as the driving force and told him that he was a "thoroughly dishonest businessman". Mr Hillman, guilty of 12 offences and already in prison on remand, was sentenced to a total of 5 years imprisonment and banned from being a company director for 8 years. 
  • In sentencing Rebecca Hillman, the judge said that she was far from being a peripheral character and was directly involved with a full knowledge of what was happening. Mrs Hillman, guilty of eight offences, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and was banned from becoming a company director for 6 years
  • In sentencing Philip Farrington, HHJ Mukherjee told him that whilst he did not play a leading role, his was still an important one. Mr Farrington, guilty of 10 offences, received a sentence of 21 months, with a 4-year directorship ban. Unlike the other two, Mr Farrington's sentence was suspended for 2 years
  • Energenie Shield UK Ltd, one of the two companies used by the Hillmans and Mr Farrington to carry out their activity, was ordered to pay a fine of £8000.

The sentences follow an investigation by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team in Central England.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

"This scam affected more than 50 homeowners who were misled by fraudulent claims and paid hard earned money for overpriced, ineffective or unnecessary home improvement work. These criminals operated in a number of locations across the country and consistently acted dishonestly to deceive their victims, often older people or people in vulnerable situations. 

"As a result of the work carried out by investigators and thanks to the victims who came forward to share their story, this fraudulent operation has come to an end. If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a fraud like this you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service by calling 0808 223 1133."

The trio were found guilty on 31 January 2020. A Proceeds of Crime case will now follow the conclusion to the criminal investigation.

And Finally

NFCC warns of fire risk when using emollients

People who use emollients and smoke are at greater risk of setting themselves on fire, due to the flammable residue that may be left on clothes, bandages, and bedding, warns the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

The warning comes after research from Anglia Ruskin University, De Montfort University and the NFCC's Emollient Group confirmed that both paraffin and non-paraffin emollients can act as an accelerant when absorbed into clothing and exposed to naked flames or other heat sources. 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has partnered with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), Fire and Rescue Services and health charities in a new campaign to raise awareness of the fire risk and the precautions that need to be taken by users of skin creams.

Emollient products, which include creams, ointments, sprays, and body wash formulations are used by millions of people every day to manage dry, itchy, or scaly skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis. They may contain paraffin or other ingredients such as shea or cocoa butter, beeswax, lanolin, nut oil or mineral oils which can leave a flammable residue.  

Commonly prescribed by GPs, nurses, and other clinicians - as well as being available in chemists and supermarkets - emollients are not flammable in themselves. The risk occurs when they absorb into fabrics and are then exposed to naked flames or heat sources resulting in a fire that burns quickly and intensely and can cause serious injury or death.

Testing confirmed that the flammability increases each time the fabric is contaminated with emollient and the risk is greater when applied over large parts of the body. Repeated washing of clothing, bandages and bedding at any temperature does not remove the fire risk.

Over 60's who smoke and have reduced mobility are those most at risk and NFCC is urging them, their families and carers to be alert to the inherent fire risk and updated fire safety advice. The NFCC urges they are mindful if smoking or using sources of heat and flame such as lighters, matches, electric/halogen heaters, gas hobs and candles.

NFCC is aware that there have been 56 deaths confirmed as involving emollient in England since 2010. In addition, six of the 44 fire deaths reported in Scotland in 2018/19 involved emollient products.The NFCC is working with Fire and Rescue Services to ensure the fire risks associated with emollients are understood by staff and discussed during home fire safety visits.

Chris Bell, NFCC's Emollient Lead, said:"This new fire safety advice is based on scientific evidence that confirms for the first time that non-paraffin emollients pose the same fire risk as those containing paraffin.

"If you use an emollient skin product, or care for somebody who does, stay away or be extra careful when near to naked flames or potential ignition sources, for example, lighting a cigarette. People need to be aware that washing does not remove the risk.

"We want to do all we can to prevent another tragedy from happening and If you have any concerns or want further advice, please contact your local Fire and Rescue Service."

The National Fire Chiefs Council has been working with the MHRA, health and care sector organisations and charities to raise awareness of the issue. In 2018 the MHRA recommended that labelling and product information was updated to include clear advice about the fire risk on emollient products including paraffin-free creams. There has been an improvement in labelling, but the NFCC urges all manufacturers to fully adopt this recommendation, across all emollient products. Sarah Branch, Director of MHRA's Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines Division,  said: "We want to ensure that those who are at greatest risk, and their carers, understand the fire risk associated with the build-up of residue on clothing and bedding and take action to minimise the risk."

 

If you require any further information please don't hesitate to contact us.

Stay Safe

The SAFE Team
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