Its important to note that under election rules Nicola is not currently an MP, as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election on June 8th 2017.
News / Slider / February 11, 2015

Standing up for victims of child abuse

Following the appalling revelations of child sexual exploitation and grooming in Oxford, Nicola has been campaigning for better protection for young people and justice for victims. Nicola got the Home Affairs Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into localised child grooming, and has successfully campaigned for a change in the law with the introduction of Sexual Harm Prevention Orders which allow police to step in earlier and disrupt grooming gangs and prevent sexual abuse.

The Home Secretary has recently announced that the National Child Abuse Inquiry would be placed on a statutory footing, with the power to compel withnesses to give evidence, and it will consider whether public bodies and other important institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. The inquiry will also seek to address concern over failings exposed by appalling cases of organised and persistent child sexual abuse.

The Home Secretary has appointed Justice Lowell Goddard to lead the inquiry, and set out that she would attend a pre-appointment hearing before the Home Affairs Committee to bring greater transparency to the appointment process. The Committee has also met with survivors to listen to their views. On 11th February, Hon Lowell Goddard appeared before the Committee to discuss how she would oversee this important inquiry and ensure its independence.

The Committee have now endorsed Hon Lowell Goddard to Chair the Historic Child Abusy Inquiry. The Committee made a number of recommendations, including:

  • The establishment of a parallel Survivors’ Forum, on a formal basis, with strong links to the Panel. This forum should be properly funded, to provide any necessary support to its members.
  • The new Panel should give consideration to hiring specialist staff to provide support to abuse survivors giving evidence.
  • That the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office should conduct a new search of all government material, to establish that no relevant documents have been overlooked.
  • The Panel should produce interim reports as frequently as it sees fit, but that the first interim report should be produced as soon as possible.
  • Justice Goddard should play a full role in the selection of Panel members, as well as having a free hand over the appointment over the Inquiry Counsel and Secretariat.
  • Justice Goddard should fully consult the Chairs of the Northern Ireland Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse and the Scottish national public inquiry into historical abuse of children in institutional care, with particular regard to seeking to avoid gaps between the areas covered by the various inquiries.
  • The scope of the inquiry should be extended to include cases of abuse in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where there is reason to believe that material relevant to the case might be held by the UK Government. This would include cases such as the Kincora Boys’ Home.

Nicola recently raised concerns of survivors with the Home Secretary during a debate in the Commons, asking for assurance that child abuse survivors and organisations that help and support them will get the financial support they need to ensure they are not excluded from giving evidence to the inquiry. To see Nicola’s full contribution, and the Home Secretary’s reply, follow this link: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2015-02-04a.275.0&s=nicola+blackwood#g288.4

On a more local level, Nicola recently met with Sara Thornton, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, to hear about the police force’s work in tackling child sexual exploitation. The Chief Constable detailed how TVP is continuing its work to protect victims and persecute offenders, and provided an update on the work of the Kingfisher Unit ahead of the Oxfordshire Serious Case Review due to be published shortly. More information on the important work of the Kinfisher Unit is available here: http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/crime-prevention/crime-prevention-cse.htm.

Nicola is absolutely committed to keeping up the pressure to ensure we provide better protection, support and justice for victims of abuse, and looks forward to the findings of the Serious Case Review.

 



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