The shocking news of Frances Andrade’s suicide on Friday 8th February 2013 was devastating to those of us who are campaigning to encourage victims of sexual abuse to feel more able to report their allegations to the Police, to ensure abusers who continue to hide in our society are brought to justice.
I am currently representing over 60 of Savile’s victims. The tragedy of the Savile case is that many of them had reported the abuse to various organisations in the past but were simply not listened to, or believed, due to their young age and Savile’s very powerful position. It had been hoped by many of us trying to help victims of abuse that the lessons from Savile were beginning to be learnt and we have already noticed an increase in victims willing to come forward.
It was therefore all the more shocking to read the article (The Guardian 11/02/2013) on Monday that there are many other potential victims of abuse from the Chetham’s School of Music who are making allegations against a number of other instructors, including Chris Ling who is now residing in the USA. It is absolutely commendable that the women who have reported their stories in The Guardian have done so in order to ensure Frances Andrade did not kill herself in vain. They are bravely coming forward as a collective voice in order to seek justice and accountability.
I have acted in the past on behalf of several victims of abuse from another well known musical school. The stories emerging from Chetham’s are frighteningly similar. The common feature of an abuser is that they will place themselves in positions where they are able to gain access to young children. Tragically these perpetrators infiltrate professions, such as teaching, where the position of trust is well established. The abuser is often able to deceive parents and manipulate their way into families. Frequently when the abuse is revealed it leads to a devastating family breakdown as parents blame themselves for having put their child in a vulnerable position and children are unable to heal that bridge with their parents. We cannot underestimate how deeply disturbing such abuse of trust for a child at this stage in their development can be, whether the abuse is of the utmost severity or what some people may consider relatively minor.
As a society we must learn from Frances Andrade’s suicide. Due to the adversarial nature of our current criminal justice system victims are often bereft of the emotional and psychological support to address their ongoing needs. It is paramount that we look after those who are harmed and not only address the crimes of the perpetrator. For many the civil justice system is the only means by which payment can be secured for much needed psychological treatment. In this case, the school itself is also exposed to a civil suit under vicarious liability in the event those accused are convicted of their crimes. This is on the basis that an organisation can be sued if the abuser is in a relationship which is akin to their employment. Much of this area of law developed during the reported cases against the Catholic Church in order to provide wider protection to vulnerable children.
I hope that the British Government are able to extradite Mr Ling back to the UK to face justice and that schools, and other organisations such as the Catholic Church and care homes, are not regarded as safe havens for paedophiles.
If any of the Chetham’s victims would like to speak to me for some professional advice I would be more than happy to speak to them entirely free of charge either in person or on the telephone.
My contact details are Tel: 0207 657 1653 Email: LDux@slatergordon.co.uk
Whoever they choose to instruct I applaud wholeheartedly their strength in speaking out and I wish them all the best in their quest for justice.