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Police launch investigation into sex abuse allegations at Earl Spencer’s Maidwell Hall boarding school | UK News

Police have launched an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at Earl Spencer’s Maidwell Hall boarding school.

The younger brother of Princess Diana claimed in his memoir, published earlier this year, that he had suffered sexual abuse and physical beatings from a female member of staff during his time at the boarding school.

Earl Spencer attended the Northamptonshire school during the 1970s from the ages of eight to 13.

On Monday, local police said they had launched a criminal investigation into “allegations of non-recent sexual abuse” at Maidwell Hall School.

A spokesperson for the force said they were in the “early stages” of investigating the claims and would seek all available lines of inquiry to “help bring perpetrators to justice”.

In his memoir, A Very Private School, Earl Spencer said he was abused by an assistant matron when he was 11, leaving him with such trauma that he self-harmed over the notion she may leave the school.

Earl Spencer, who said he’d been left with lifelong “demons” after the abuse, wrote: “There seemed to be an unofficial hierarchy among her prey… she chose one boy each term to share her bed and would use him for intercourse.

“Her control over mesmerised boys was total, for we were starved of feminine warmth and desperate for attention and affection.”

Earl Spencer claimed that as a result of the abuse he suffered, he lost his virginity to an Italian prostitute age 12.

Of the act, he said he now thinks he was “simply completing the process set in motion by the assistant matron’s perverted attention”.

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He described reliving his time at the school as “an absolutely hellish experience”, writing: “I’ve frequently witnessed deep pain, still flickering in the eyes of my Maidwell contemporaries.

“Many of us left Maidwell with demons sewn into the seams of our souls.”

A Maidwell Hall spokesperson previously told Sky News the school was “dismayed” by the allegations of abuse, adding “we are sorry”.

The spokesperson also said: “It is difficult to read about practices which were, sadly, sometimes believed to be normal and acceptable at that time.

“Almost every facet of school life has evolved significantly since the 1970s.

“At the heart of these changes is the strict safeguarding of children – protecting them from abuse and maltreatment – and the promotion of their welfare.”

They referred themselves to the local authority after the allegations surfaced, and encouraged anyone with similar experiences to contact them, or the police.

Caroline Flack’s celebrity status likely contributed to police charging her with domestic abuse, says mother | Ents & Arts News

Caroline Flack’s mother has told Sky News that her daughter’s celebrity status is likely to have contributed towards the Metropolitan Police’s decision to charge the TV presenter with domestic abuse.

Chris Flack has called for the Met Police to give its side of the story in the lead-up to her daughter’s death.

It comes as the force announced it would reinvestigate the circumstances leading up to the decision to charge the TV presenter with assaulting her boyfriend.

The 40-year-old former Love Island host died in February 2020, with a coroner saying she took her own life after discovering she was definitely going to be prosecuted.

In an interview with Sky News, Flack’s mother said there had been “no written rationale” for why the Met Police pushed for her daughter to be charged.

She told The UK Tonight With Sarah-Jane Mee: “The IOPC [Independent Office for Police Conduct] have found all these things that were wrong.”

The CPS had recommended Flack only get a caution but this was overturned after the Met appealed.

She was ultimately charged with assault by beating over the incident, which involved her boyfriend Lewis Burton in December 2019.

Flack’s mother said: “This wasn’t domestic violence. This was an accident. But she was portrayed in the court and in the newspapers as a domestic abuser, and that’s what hurts. That’s what I want got rid of – because she wasn’t.”

She said her daughter’s celebrity status likely contributed to the police’s decision, saying she had an email from the coroner’s court saying the force treated her daughter differently.

“They could tell by the way the police were acting that they were treating her differently. And that’s not on. She shouldn’t be treated better, but she shouldn’t be treated worse.”

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Flack reinvestigation ‘very strange’

Asked about her daughter’s version of events, Ms Flack said: “I think she was just going along with it. She wasn’t aware of any rights. She just didn’t know. It was just horrendous to be locked up in a cell.

“She was having to be checked on every half an hour because of her mental health. She could have been sent home.”

She added: “It wasn’t right what they did that night, and I don’t think that would have happened to many people.”

The Met Police has said it has referred a complaint from Flack’s family to the IOPC on 7 March.

Ms Flack said the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley “won’t talk to me” and she had requested meetings with him several times.

She added: “I’ve also been told that all new practices were being put across the police force countrywide because of what happened to Carrie. That was meant to make me feel better – it actually doesn’t, because I don’t think anything will change.”

The Metropolitan Police said it is making “further enquiries” because “new witness evidence may be available” about officers’ actions in appealing the CPS decision.

The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) previously found there was no misconduct in the case, prompting another complaint from Flack’s family to the IOPC.

It also didn’t find any misconduct by the Met, but ordered the force to apologise for not recording its reason for appealing against the caution.

Flack’s mother rejected the apology at the time.

Watch the full interview with Caroline Flack’s mother on The UK Tonight With Sarah-Jane Mee from 8pm on Sky News

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

Policeman accused of domestic abuse still not questioned – a year after investigation began | UK News

A police officer who was suspended by his force over allegations by his ex-wife of domestic abuse and sexual violence has still not been questioned – more than a year after the investigation began.

Sky News reported last March that the officer had been removed from duty after West Yorkshire Police launched an investigation into the claims by his former partner.

A year on, she has spoken of her disappointment that he has not been formally questioned as part of that investigation.

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From March 2023: Officer’s ex-wife speaks out

“Given how serious the reports are that I’ve made and in the current climate, I can’t even find words to describe how I feel about that,” she told Sky News.

“In my personal opinion, I do feel like they did have enough information to even just start at least questioning my ex-husband about the allegations.”

It actually took more than 19 months after she says she first reported her allegations to West Yorkshire Police for an investigation into her ex-husband to begin. She says she requested that another force carry out that investigation.

In a statement, West Yorkshire Police told Sky News that that request was being facilitated and that a complex investigation was ongoing.

“Video interviews conducted with the victim have now been concluded. It has been necessary for this aspect of the investigation to have been completed before the investigation can progress.

“Given the investigation remains active, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further on the specifics of this case at this time.”

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West Yorkshire Police

The force said it encouraged anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse to contact them: “All reports are taken seriously, including those involving West Yorkshire Police officers and staff and these reports will always be fully investigated.”

Last January, the National Police Chiefs’ Council asked all chief constables in England and Wales to take immediate action to look into allegations about officers. They had no comment to make on this case.

Campaigners say the promises of action nationwide have yet to be delivered.

Harriet Wistrich, founder and director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, said: “Unfortunately from the other cases that we’ve looked at, and we’ve looked at quite a lot of cases involving allegations of domestic abuse by police officers, it seems to be a bit par for the course with a lot of these cases that they’re very slow to investigate.”

The ex-wife of the officer in West Yorkshire says she feels fortunate that her allegations have led to an investigation.

“I think the public lost trust in the police, particularly since Wayne Couzens,” she said.

“The only way that this is going to end is if the public stand up to the police and, if the police are not being right, if they’re potentially a perpetrator, reporting them and just keep reporting, until something gets done.”

Domestic abuse victims to receive ‘flee funds’ to escape abusive partners | UK News

Hundreds of domestic abuse survivors will receive cash payments of £2,500 each to help them flee their tormentors, under a new initiative.

The £2m scheme, which launches this month, is described as a “lifeline” for women who can’t flee – or are forced to return to – abusive relationships because they cannot afford essentials.

A successful pilot of the scheme last year, saw 600 victims given £250 or £500. A review found 80% of applicants used it to flee to a safe location, as well as buy food, clothing, nappies and security cameras.

The new scheme funded by the Home Office and delivered by Women’s Aid charities, will see these “flee funds” rolled out across England and Wales, and offers an additional £2,500 payment to pay for a rental deposit or bills.

The safeguarding minister, Laura Farris, told Sky News: “The most common reasons preventing people leaving a relationship are a lack of money, the strong fear of reprisals or being found in the future and concern about their kids – can you take them with you, how are you going to pay for everything?

“The point of this cash injection is to give them the security and confidence to make that first move to leave the relationship, and then a more substantial amount to get back on their feet, as they pay for those first few months of rental accommodation and look for a job.

“No government has done this before. Of course, we’re going to have to see how it works and it may be that we need to increase funding.”

Laura Farris
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Laura Farris said no government has implemented a scheme like this before

Read more: Domestic abusers will be tagged on leaving prison to protect victims
Domestic abuse victims put at risk after data breaches revealed their locations

Labour also backed the scheme, but shadow home office minister Alex Davies-Jones said it was “against a backdrop of total failure” given prosecutions for domestic abusers have halved since 2015 despite a rise in reported cases.

There were 2.1 million victims of domestic abuse in the year to March 2023. Domestic abuse charities report calls to helplines last year were well above pre-pandemic levels – blaming the cost of living.

‘I came here because I was scared’

Sky News visited a small refuge for South Asian, Turkish and Iranian women in London, run by the Ashiana charity. They had fled violent relationships and most were ineligible for any public funds.

One, a woman in her thirties who was forced to leave her daughter behind, had slept in a church for several nights after fleeing her violent husband. She is now training to be a beautician, and hopes to leave the refuge this year.

Domestic abuse
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One woman told Sky News she slept in a church before going to a refuge

“I came here because I was scared,” she said. “My husband was beating me; he was hurting me, and I couldn’t find any help.

“It was really scary, it was a new country and I couldn’t speak English. I didn’t know anything”.

She needed specialist support, but said the payment scheme “is a very good idea, being able to buy things I need gives me confidence”.

‘A lifeline for many victims’

Ms Farris said when the prime minister had promised, in a weekend interview, to tighten the benefit system to pay for tax cuts “he’s not talking about victims of domestic violence who have made the life-changing decision to leave their abuser”.

Nicole Jacobs, domestic abuse commissioner for England Wales, said cash payments have never been tried nationally, because domestic violence crossed different government departments.

Domestic abuse
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The scheme could become a lifeline for many victims of domestic abuse

She said it would be “a lifeline for many victims” but said they must reach “those who face the most difficult barriers to support”.

Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “When we worked on the pilot of the fund in May last year, we saw immediately the impact this was having on survivors – over 75% of applicants used their grant to replace or purchase essential goods for themselves or their children, after they had fled their abuser with nothing to their name.”

Labour peers are trying to amend the Victims and Prisoners Bill, currently in parliament, to ban police and other authorities passing on data about domestic violence victims to immigration control.

Fights, vomiting and abuse: Theatregoers have forgotten how to behave, staff say | Ents & Arts News

Front-of-house workers at leading West End theatres have told Sky News audiences have “forgotten how to behave” – claiming assaults and abuse are a common occurrence.

Agreeing to talk to us anonymously, we heard accounts of drunk audience members projectile vomiting in the auditorium, used condoms being found in the stalls, and ambulances being called to treat bleeding audience members after fights.

One theatre worker – who was fearful speaking out could cost him his job – said he was concerned that top management at some venues are putting “profit over safety”.

He told us how, despite a life-long love of theatre, his job has become intolerable after the COVID pandemic.

“I had a friend who is barely 5ft 2in punched in the face by a man who was 6ft 9in. She’s in her 20s.”

He said he was assaulted by a man who had arrived late and wouldn’t accept that he had to wait for an appropriate moment in the show to take his seat.

“I’d moved myself in front of the doors and he basically slammed me against the wall and then walked in, calling me a f****** w***** for doing my job… security pulled him out and he was made to apologise… but he was allowed to watch the show. I’ve just been assaulted and I’m shaken but that’s a common experience in the West End.”

As well as hearing countless examples of how audience members are routinely drunk and disrespectful, another worker even showed Sky News one theatre group’s internal incident reports.

Analysis:
Audiences behaving badly: An epidemic of anti-social behaviour

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Theatregoers thrown out as crowd boos

“We have to ask people to leave probably at least once a week,” they explained.

There’s a huge amount of people that come to the theatre and it’s just a magical experience for them” we were told – “but there is this small minority of people that have forgotten how to behave”.

Workers told us how incidents are more frequent at jukebox musicals that clearly pitch their tickets at stag and hen dos – advertising “a raucous night out”.

They bring in the crowds and the crowds spend money… there are offers at the bar and it’s money after a lockdown… we’ve got to do bag checks, ticket checks, get them to their seats before the show starts and they all want to go to the bar. I’ve had bar staff being shouted at… some horrible abuse goes on.”

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London’s Shaftsbury Avenue

As an example of how little audience members seem to care, one theatre worker recounted: “I brought the person into the foyer and explained that we had received complaints about them being noisy, that they’d been vaping, to which they replied ‘So what?'”

Speaking to Sky News back in October, musical composer Stephen Schwartz – who has worked in theatre for over five decades on countless Broadway and West End hits from Godspell to Wicked – spoke of how mobile phones are becoming a real problem.

“What’s exasperating is the cell phones, people being on their phones and you want to say to them, you know, just go out in the lobby and text on your phone and let everybody else get on and watch the show!”

Read more:
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Stephen Schwartz participates in the curtain call during the 20th anniversary performance of "Wicked" on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at Gershwin Theater in New York. (Photo by CJ Rivera/Invision/AP)
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Composer Stephen Schwartz. Pic: AP

Theatre union BECTU recently surveyed its members about this. Some 90% of the 15,000 theatre staff who responded said they regularly witnessed bad behaviour – with half saying they were thinking about quitting as a result.

Head of BECTU, Philippa Childs, said some of the stories they heard were “quite incredible”.

“People being threatened with violence, people being told somebody would be waiting for them outside of the theatre at the end of the night… the results were really shocking and what we’ve been saying to theatres is that they need to take some action to make sure their staff are protected.”

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Audience members kicked out of theatre

While Ms Childs says it’s understandable that theatres want to make up for the earnings they lost during COVID lockdowns, she wants to “make sure theatres aren’t encouraging people to arrive tanked-up”.

She adds: “Theatres were the last to open so it’s inevitable that they want to try to claw back some of that lost revenue by selling more alcohol, but I think that is a contributing factor.”

None of the theatre owners Sky News approached wanted to comment for this piece.

Bob Stewart: MP convicted of racial abuse to stand down at next general election | Politics News

An MP found guilty of racial abuse has announced he will stand down at the next election.

Bob Stewart, who has represented the London constituency of Beckenham since 2010, revealed his decision in a brief statement on X, formerly Twitter, which made no reference to the recent court case.

Following his conviction, the 74-year-old surrendered the Conservative whip while he considered a possible appeal.

He currently sits as an independent MP in the House of Commons.

Mr Stewart said in a post on the social media platform: “Serving Beckenham as its member of Parliament for 13 years has been an honour and privilege.

“I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has given me this opportunity.

“However, it is time for a new candidate, so I will not be seeking re-election at the next election.”

The geographical boundary of his Beckenham constituency is expected to be changed at the next general election following a review aimed at equalising population sizes across the seats at Westminster.

A new constituency of Beckenham and Penge has been proposed.

Earlier this month, Mr Stewart was found guilty at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court of racially abusing an activist by telling him to “go back to Bahrain”.

The former army officer, who served as a United Nations commander in Bosnia, was fined £600, with additional legal costs bringing the total to £1,435.

Stewart was found guilty of racially abusing Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei
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The MP was found guilty of racially abusing Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei

The court heard the MP had become involved in a confrontation with a protester outside the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House in Westminster in December 2022.

He had been attending an event hosted by the Bahraini embassy when Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei shouted: “Bob Stewart, for how much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?”

During an ensuing row, Mr Stewart said: “Go away, I hate you. You make a lot of fuss. Go back to Bahrain.”

He also told Mr Alwadaei: “You’re taking money off my country, go away.”

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While highlighting Mr Stewart’s “immense positive character”, chief magistrate Paul Goldspring said: “I accept he is not racist per se, but that is not the case against him.

“Good men can do bad things.”

Mr Stewart told the court he was “not a racist” and that it had been “extremely offensive” for the demonstrator to suggest he was “corrupt”.

Referring to the charge, he said: “That’s absurd, it’s totally unfair, my life has been, I don’t want to say destroyed, but I am deeply hurt at having to appear in a court like this.”

Mr Stewart had argued his “honour was at stake in front of a large number of ambassadors”.

The military veteran, who was stationed in Bahrain in 1969, said he is a “friend” of the Middle Eastern country.

A crowdfunding page set up by Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative MP for Bassetlaw, to cover Mr Stewart’s fine and any further legal costs has already raised more than £18,000.

Mr Stewart joins a growing list of Tory MPs who have announced they will not stand at the next general election, expected next year.

Domestic abuse victims put at risk after data breaches revealed their locations to alleged abusers | UK News

Domestic abuse victims have been put at risk after data breaches meant their locations were disclosed to their alleged abusers, the UK Information Commissioner has said.

The breaches have taken place at organisations including a law firm, a housing association, an NHS trust, a police service, a government department and local councils.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued reprimands to seven organisations for data breaches affecting domestic abuse victims since June 2022, with four of those cases related to inappropriate disclosure of the victim’s safe address to alleged perpetrators.

In one case, a family had to be immediately moved to emergency accommodation.

In another, an organisation gave the home address of two adopted children to their birth father, who was in prison on three counts of raping their mother.

Organisations had also revealed the identities of women seeking information about their partners to those partners.

There was also a breach in which an unredacted assessment report about children at risk of harm was sent to their mother’s ex-partners.

The people they trusted exposed them to further risk

John Edwards, the UK Information Commissioner, has called on organisations to handle personal information properly to avoid putting vulnerable people at further risk.

Mr Edwards said: “These families reached out for help to escape unimaginable violence, to protect them from harm and to seek support to move forward from dangerous situations. But the very people that they trusted to help, exposed them to further risk.”

He called on organisations to handle personal information properly and stressed that “getting the basics right is simple” through training, double checking records and contact details and restricting access to information.

A lack of staff training and failing to have robust procedures in place to handle personal information safely were among the various reasons for the breaches.

Mr Edwards continued: “This is a pattern that must stop. Organisations should be doing everything necessary to protect the personal information in their care.

“The reprimands issued in the past year make clear that mistakes were made and that organisations must resolve the issues that lead to these breaches in the first place.”

He added: “Protecting the information rights of victims of domestic abuse is a priority area for my office, and we will be providing further support and advice to help keep people safe.”

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‘A data breach can be a matter of life or death’

Nicole Jacobs, the domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales, said: “It takes a huge amount of bravery for victims and survivors of domestic abuse to come forward, and many go to extreme lengths to protect themselves from the perpetrator. To then be exposed to further harm due to poor data handling is a serious setback.

“That seven organisations have breached victims’ data in the past two years, with some sharing their address with the perpetrator, is extremely dangerous. For victims of domestic abuse, a data breach can be a matter of life or death.”

Kelly Andrews, the chief executive of Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, said: “In the most serious cases lives are at risk.

“We encourage organisations to read the guidance and ensure staff are trained in handling confidential and sensitive data to better protect victims and prevent further harm.”

The ICO revised its approach to public sector enforcement last year. It aims to reduce the impact of fines on the public by working more closely with the public sector, encouraging compliance with data protection law to prevent harms before they happen.

The reprimands give instructions to the organisations on how to improve their data protection practices.

Eleven on trial over alleged ‘child sex abuse and witchcraft’ in Glasgow | UK News

Eleven people have gone on trial accused of taking part in a child sex abuse ring involving witchcraft, attempted murder and the killing of dogs.

Seven men and four women are charged with 32 offences between them, including forcing children to participate in seances – using an Ouija board or similar – to “call on spirits and demons”.

The alleged victims were also reportedly made to watch and participate in classes involving witchcraft, point wands and utter spells that caused them to believe they had “metamorphosed into animals”.

It is also claimed children were raped on various occasions while members of the group did “clap, cheer and verbally encourage” the attacks, as well as film them, prosecutors say.

Five of the accused also face an attempted murder charge for trapping a child in a cupboard.

The alleged victim was also reportedly forced to act like a dog, eat dog food, was hung by their clothing from a nail on the wall, and was pushed into a microwave oven.

Each of the accused has also been charged with abusing and killing a number of dogs, including forcing two children to stab the animals.

Other charges include causing children to take part in sexual activity, forcing a child to courier drugs, possessing diamorphine and cocaine, and supplying the Class A drugs.

The alleged sexual and non-sexual crimes – involving three girls and a boy – are said to have taken place across Glasgow between 2010 and 2020.

Iain Owens, 45, Elaine Lannery, 39, Lesley Williams, 41, Paul Brannan, 41, Marianne Gallagher, 38, Scott Forbes, 50, Barry Watson, 47, Mark Carr, 50, Richard Gachagan, 45, Leona Laing, 51, and John Clark, 47, deny all the charges against them.

Maureen Goudie, Steven McHendrie and Robert Brown are also mentioned as being involved in a number of the charges, but court papers said they are now deceased.

The trial, before Lord Beckett at the High Court in Glasgow, continues.

Former Labour MP Paul Clark jailed over child abuse images | Politics News

A former Labour MP has been jailed for more than two years for making and distributing child abuse images.

Paul Clark, who represented Gillingham in Kent for 13 years, was sentenced to 28 months in prison at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday.

A total of 1,446 indecent images of children were found on five electronic devices at Clark’s home, which also revealed online chats in which he “discussed his sexual desires” and distributed the material, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

The court heard that Clark initially made no comment when he was arrested at his home by the National Crime Agency (NCA), but that he later told officers: “I know why you’re here”, and “I kept telling myself to stop”.

Clark pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children and six counts of distributing indecent images of children between April 2013 and May 2021 last December.

Clark was elected to parliament in 1997 but lost his seat at the 2010 general election.

During his time in parliament, he served as parliamentary private secretary to the then-deputy prime minister, John Prescott, as well as education secretary Ed Balls.

He was also a parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for Transport from October 2008 to May 2010.

Clark must sign sex offenders register

The court heard there was no evidence that any of Clark’s offending took place while he was in office.

Clark has also been issued with a 10-year sexual harm prevention order and must sign the sex offenders register.

Catrin Attwell, from the CPS’s organised child sexual abuse unit, said: “Paul Clark knew he was in possession of and shared indecent images of children but did not admit his wrongdoing when interviewed under caution.

“When later presented with the overwhelming evidence, he pleaded guilty.

“Examination of the electronic devices revealed offences relating to indecent images of children on five devices, this included imagery of children as young as three and a high number of moving images.

“The electronic devices also revealed chatlogs in which Clark discussed his sexual desires, distributed indecent images of children to others for their sexual gratification and used social media to identify and talk to users under the age of 18.”

New protections for children affected by domestic abuse – so victims can come forward ‘with confidence’ | UK News

Children who have been affected by domestic abuse will be treated as victims even if they were not present during violent incidents, it has been decided.

Under updated legal guidance, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says children will get automatic access to support such as mental health and safeguarding services.

Prosecutors will also be asked to specifically consider the impact domestic abuse has on children when making a charging decision.

This will include speaking to schools or Child Services to support evidence of long-term abuse.

Kate Brown, CPS domestic abuse lead, said growing up in a violent or toxic home has a “hugely damaging” and “long-lasting” impact on children.

“Today’s guidance, which recognises them as victims, not only offers them automatic support but means the effect on them is considered as part of the justice process.

“There’s no doubt that having a clear understanding of the family dynamic and how a young victim may respond to the criminal justice process, will help us bring more abusers to court.”

She added domestic abuse represents a third of all crime referred to the CPS.

“Working with police and partners, we are dedicated to improving every aspect of how these cases are handled, so victims can come forward with confidence,” she said.