Some months ago, the Football Association announced that its review into child sexual abuse in football would be led by Mr Clive Sheldon QC.
Today I went to support a client who was giving evidence to Mr Sheldon at the offices of Sport Resolution in London
Although he has taken statements from a large number of people who have suffered abuse whilst playing and training in football clubs, Mr Sheldon encouraged me to publicise the work of his Review, so that as many people as possible come forward.
That has to be the right thing to do. I was impressed by Mr Sheldon's understanding of the painful process through which my client had to go, in order to tell his story. The approach was professional and sympathetic.
The Review covers the time period from 1970 and around 2005.
It is looking at:-
The review will produce a report which will consider whether the FA and the Clubs did enough to keep children safe. It will also make recommendations.
The questions that Mr Sheldon put to my client were:-
The Review's work is quite separate from that of the police, and Mr Sheldon explained that he will consult with the police before he takes an account from anyone.
If the Review wishes to refer to anything specific that a person has told them in their report, then they will ask for that person's permission before attributing it to them and they will not (without that person's permission) disclose any details in their report that would make it possible for the person to be identified by the public.
The Secretariat to the Independent Football Review
Tel. 020 7036 1966
1 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8AE
More details about the work of the Review can be found at:-
Coram Voice is delighted to announce that it has been chosen as a featured charity for the BBC Radio 4 Appeal. Their appeal, due to air from 2nd July, will be voiced by Coram supporter, and Doctor Who star, Peter Capaldi.
The Radio 4 Appeal is a weekly programme appealing for donations on behalf of a chosen charity. Last year, listeners donated a total of almost £900,000 to the featured charities.
Coram's appeal will be highlighting a moving real-life case study of a little girl who suffered abuse and neglect in her early childhood, and for whom Coram found a loving, safe and secure adoptive family.
The appeal will be broadcast on Sunday 2nd July – it will air at 7.54am and 9.26pm, and will be repeated on Thursday 6th July at 3.27pm. It will also be available on the BBC website, with the option to make an online donation between the 2nd-8th July.
For more information and to listen to the appeal between 2nd – 8th July, please visit: www.coram.org.uk/R4Appeal
When I last reported on the subject of the Forum, a meeting had been set between Claimants' and Defendants' to try and hammer out a joint Pre Action Protocol. However prior to that meeting, Master Victoria McCloud then wrote to the Forum, to explain that she could no longer play a role.
So, the Group was left without judicial support for the time being. Nonetheless the Claimants offered to meet with the Defendants, and a date was set for the 9th May 2017 at the offices of BL Claims to discuss the Protocol. Prior to that meeting, the Claimants' team had meet to discuss and agree their joint approach, which is set out in the present Claimants' Draft Protocol.
Sarah Erwin-Jones of Browne Jacobson and Adam Weitzman QC of 7 Bedford Row kindly agreed to attend. It is not clear at present how much "buy in" there was from the Defendant firms and it was made clear neither had authority to bind any firm, insurance company or institution.
The minutes of that meeting have not yet been agreed. However, these are the main points:-
"7. PRE MEDICAL REPORT OFFERS
7.1 There shall be no offers of settlement made by the Defendant prior to the service of any expert medical evidence unless specifically invited in writing by the Claimant."
The Claimants pointed out that the whole idea behind the protocol was the early provision of disclosure and information to the Defendants. If this was not agreed, then the Claimants would simply withhold that disclosure/information until they were ready to draft a full Letter of Claim. There was no point being open about a claim from the outset, if the Claimant was going to be wrongfooted by the Defendant. The Defendant answer to this was that Part 36 allowed for a court to vary the normal consequences of a Part 36 offer accepted late.
The objection to Clause 7 led to a discussion as to what would be the "trade off" for the Defendants accepting paragraph 7. In other words, what would they accept in return for their agreement to this Clause?
Two options were suggested:-
The Defendant makes a pre-medical report Part 36 offer. The Claimant then obtains a medical report. If the Claimant then wants to accept the Defendant's offer, then the Claimant doesn't have to pay the Defendant's costs out of his damages, i.e. both sides drop hands 21 days from the date on which the Part 36 offer is made.
If the Claimant accepted a Part 36 offer late, having obtained medical evidence and disclosed it, then he could only recover local court rates, i.e. no enhanced rate, throughout the case.
The day after the meeting, on the 10th May 2017, Master McCloud wrote to the entire Group again. She explained that her earlier concern was, understandably, that her involvement might have appeared to be "official". Alternatively it might have led to the position where, say, a solicitor relied on the protocol, but was then criticised by a different judge for using it or part of it.
Master McCloud explained what whilst she would not be able to engage in the Protocol work at a detailed level, she wanted to be kept informed. If both sides could agree to a Draft Protocol, then she would be happy in that event to pass it on to the relevant members of the Rules Committee to invite them to consider it as a joint claimant and defendant and stakeholder suggestion.
The next step is for Claimant firms to agree on which Option to put to the Defendant firms. We can then set a further meeting.
The BBC carries a disturbing report of a care home, where a number of carers have been convicted of the abuse of adults with learning difficulties.
The court heard that residents at Vielstone near Bideford, in Devon, were routinely punished by being held in empty rooms without food, heating or a toilet. The allegations relate to abuse in 2010 and 2011.
What is striking is the number of carers convicted - thirteen in total.
The prosecutor said that this was not "one-off " abuse but organised and systemic abuse of people with learning disabilities.
I work with a number of clients with learning difficulties. Very often, abuse can have a devastating effect on their state of mind, which already has to cope with the real disadvantages that they face in society.
See my blog below - “Judgecraft” when a person has Asperger’s Syndrome
I was given a fascinating article by Professor Penny Cooper of the University of London and 39 Essex Chamber and Clare Allely of the University of Salford and Gothenburg University.
The article is published in the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (68(1):35-38 and it is entitled “You can’t judge a book by its cover:- evolving professional responsibilities, liabilities and ‘judgecraft’ when a party has Asperger’s Syndrome”.
Sadly, in my own practice of child abuse compensation claims, people with learning difficulties are often vulnerable to abuse and the effects of that abuse can wreck their what is a difficult interaction with society.
The writers begin by identifying Asperger’s Syndrome as an autistic disorder within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which was developed and is maintained by the American Psychiatric Association. There is now an Autism Act in Northern Ireland which has amended the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and has removed any doubt that autism is not a disability.
The writers refer to a number of cases where a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome has been to the court’s decision. The first of these is Patrick Galo v Bombardier Aerospace Case Refs 751/13  IT700/14. In that case the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland laid down a number of principles to be followed when one of the parties in a case suffered from disability. That included having an early “ground rules” hearing where the court meet to discuss issues such as how the disabled person’s evidence is to be taken.
The writers also discuss the lawyer’s responsibility to identify a client’s disability. This can be very difficult indeed with certain conditions. Certainly, there is evidence to show that the police and the Crown Prosecution services something miss this issue.
The article moves on to the identification of Asperger’s Syndrome. Few lawyers are trained to spot this, but the writers give some brief pointers around social interaction and social communication.
They then move to identify a number of cases where the courts have made allowances for parties with Asperger’s Syndrome, and the various methods employed to ensure that there is a fair hearing. In one case, the Court of Appeal of England and Wales found a jury’s verdict to be unsafe because they jury had not known that the Defendant had Asperger’s Syndrome. That condition made him evasive with questions, because he was pre-occupied with matters of detail.
Having worked with a number of clients with learning difficulties, I found this article an eye opener. I recommend it to any lawyer who is dealing with any such client.
Malcolm Johnson, Specialist Child Abuse Lawyer