Here are our top safeguarding stories from February 2019. To access or view the full articles click on the link embedded in the title:
The most senior Catholic cleric ever charged with child sex abuse has been convicted in Australia of molesting two choirboys. This comes after the Pope spoke last week at the first-ever Vatican summit on preventing abuse. At the summit Pope Francis warned 190 bishops and religious superiors that their flocks were demanding concrete action, not just words, to punish predator priests and keep children safe. He offered them 21 proposals to consider going forward, some of them easy to adopt, others requiring new laws.
Images of child sexual abuse and stolen credit card numbers are being openly traded on encrypted apps, an investigation has found. Security experts told Radio 4's File on 4 programme that the encrypted apps were taking over from the dark web as a venue for crime. The secure messaging apps, including Telegram and Discord, have become popular following successful police operations against criminal markets operating on what is known as the dark web - a network that can only be accessed by special browsers.
Two Texas newspapers have revealed 380 sexual misconduct allegations across America's Southern Baptist church, 220 of which are confirmed convictions or guilty pleas. The Houston Chronicle says more of them lived and worked in Texas than any other state and "left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives." They say their database includes youth pastors, ministers, Sunday school teachers, deacons and volunteers. The Southern Baptist Convention network is the biggest Protestant group in America with over 15 million members and an important part of their ecclesiology is their autonomy and opposition to a hierarchical structure.
From April 2019 those convicted of upskirting could face up to two years in prison. The Ministry of Justice confirmed those convicted of the most serious cases will be made to sign the Sex Offenders Register. Wera Hobhouse, who is introducing the measure in parliament using a private member’s bill, said “there was a gap in the law that needed to be addressed.” She praised the efforts of Gina Martin, who started the campaign for an upskirting law last year after two men took a picture up her skirt at a festival in London.
The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person to be found guilty of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK. Under UK law, anyone found guilty of performing FGM can be imprisoned for a maximum of 14 years and it has been illegal in the UK since 1985. The mother, who cannot be named, had her daughter cut at their London home but then called 999 because the girl was bleeding heavily. The girl’s father, a 43-year-old Ghanaian man, was cleared of all charges.
The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of three people who claimed their lives were blighted by past minor criminal convictions. Supreme Court justices found the way the criminal records are disclosed to employers infringed human rights. The judges ruled a revised criminal records disclosure scheme was "disproportionate" in two respects - the requirement that all previous convictions should be disclosed, however minor, where the person has more than one conviction, and in the case of warnings and reprimands issued to young offenders.
Founding director of the charity Home for Good, and good friend of thirtyone:eight, Krish Kandiah says that celebrating, rather than criticising foster carers is the best way forward when it comes to helping children in care. He says his colleagues come from all walks of life and bring skill and commitment to caring for the most vulnerable children.
A study by Internet Matters found that around two million vulnerable children, including those with disabilities and mental health issues, are at particular risk online. Young people who are in care, have special educational needs or have mental health, physical or communication difficulties, are more at risk of online harms such as cyberbullying, the study found.