31 July 2015
Could Mandatory Reporting have Prevented Child Abuse in Norwich?
Marie Black’s recent conviction in the ‘Norwich paedophile ring’ trial has again raised questions about whether the abuse of children could have been prevented by the local authority.
34-year-old Black was accused of 26 sexual offences against children, all of which she denied in a three-month trial at Norwich Crown Court which concluded on 27th July. The jury found Black guilty of 23 of the offences she was charged with, including rape and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
Black will be sentenced on 28th September along with two men, Michael Rogers and Jason Adams, who were also found guilty of similar offences.
Sickening Abuse at Children’s Parties
The abuse carried out by Black and her accomplices was said to have been carried out in and around Norwich and London. They would often arrange parties where they would play card games to decide which one of them would abuse which child.
During the trial, the court heard how some of the abuse involved children’s toys such as Barbie dolls and that the children came to accept the abuse as “normal” as it became so routine.
Prosecutor Angela Rafferty QC told jurors how the defendants had abused vulnerable young children who “cannot endure the level of abuse you will hear about without consequences.”
Detective Chief Inspector Pete Hornby of Norfolk Constabulary described the case as “one of the worst cases I’ve been involved with in my 23 years of policing.”
Could the Local Council have Prevented Abuse in Norwich?
The trial was due to start last year but was delayed when prosecutors raised concerns over changes to statements taken from children. This led Norfolk Police to launch an investigation in to alleged misconduct by Norfolk County Council social workers involved in the case.
Senior social worker Gail Barnard denied a claim that she had asked foster agency worker Malcolm Blissett to “tidy up” documents by removing leading questions.
Sarah Elliott QC, representing Black, told the court that at the time the county's children's services department had recently failed an Ofsted inspection, being ranked "inadequate" in all areas.
Local Norfolk newspaper Eastern Daily Press asked Norfolk County Council when children’s services first became involved in the case, but the council would not comment.
At Slater and Gordon, we have long campaigned for the mandatory reporting of child abuse to become law so that local authority social workers – and others working within institutions who learn about children being abused – are under a legal duty to report the abuse to police. If mandatory reporting had been enshrined in law at the time of the Norfolk abuse scandal, then the sickening crimes carried out by Marie Black and her accomplices might not have happened.
We hope that the sentencing due on 28th September will reflect the seriousness of these crimes and, once again, call for mandatory reporting to become law as a matter of urgency as a culture change is badly needed in this country when it comes to the reporting of abuse of vulnerable children.
Oliver Jeffcott is an Associate Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
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