ISPCC response to the ‘incomprehensible’ St John Ambulance Child safeguarding shortcomings

The victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and grooming at St John Ambulance are to be commended for speaking out in such difficult circumstances in the pursuit of truth and justice. 

Today sees the long-awaited publication of the inquiry into such allegations at St John Ambulance. 

Dr Geoffrey Shannon, recently nominated Judge of the Circuit Court, is to be applauded for his forthrightness in laying bare the serious and hugely concerning child safeguarding issues at St John Ambulance, many remaining unrectified to this day. 

It is shocking that it is only in light of the report’s publication that St John Ambulance has said it will develop “robust internal accountability frameworks” and committed to employing a full-time safeguarding officer. 

The safety of children should always be at the heart of such organisations.

It is incredibly important that when children speak out about such heinous crimes, as they did at the time, that they are believed and that the appropriate policies and procedures are followed. Children need to see something is being done by the adults who are in place to safeguard them. This did not happen at St John Ambulance. 

John Church, ISPCC CEO said: “St John Ambulance cadets are children aged 11-18 years of age. It is incomprehensible to learn that any organisation working with and/or involving children did not have a finalised child safeguarding policy in place, a requirement by law. 

“Child sexual abuse is deemed an adverse childhood experience meaning children who are subjected to such experiences are potentially at heightened risk of other physical and mental health issues in adulthood. All victims and survivors ought to receive the necessary supports they deserve.”  

Whilst St John Ambulance has reportedly stated it undertook a due diligence process in response to the delay in the publication of this report, it is now time it undertakes the same due diligence process to address its child safeguarding obligations. This is not historic child sexual abuse, it is very much abuse that happened in the recent past, and it is difficult to see how such crimes can be prevented from happening again considering the governance issues Dr Shannon has pointed out. No organisation should ever put its reputation before the safety and protection of a child in its care. 

The ISPCC notes that St John Ambulance has followed Dr Shannon’s recommendation and offered an apology to its victims and survivors, accepting the shortcomings of the structures enabled the grooming and abuse of children. 

It is not enough to proffer an apology, action must be taken to safeguard children at all times. 


What is Domestic Violence?

domestic abuse
domestic abuse

Domestic Violence is violent or aggressive behaviour within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner. 


 Although Domestic Violence is often physical abuse, it does not always have to be. It can also include emotional abuse including coercive control (Domestic Violence Act 2018). 


Coercive control is one partner taking control over the others money, your whereabouts or what type of clothing you wear.  


Regardless of what level of violence is in the home, it is never acceptable. There are supports available through the following helplines: 


Women’s Aid: 1800 341 900 


Or by texting ‘’HELLO’’ to 50808. 

How can I support my child if there is domestic violence in our home?

It is important to shelter your child from harm at all times. If your child is aware of the abuse in the family home, talk to them. 


Advise them that it is not okay and that they need to keep themselves safe as possible from harm during incidents of Domestic Violence in the family home. It may be helpful to make a safety plan with your child to ensure they can keep safe from harm of the perpetrator.  


Provide your child with Childline’s freephone number 1800 66 66 66, so that they can speak to a trusted adult if they feel it is something they would like to do. Childline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Safety Plans

A safety plan is a plan for a child or young person to keep themselves safe in the event of an incident of Domestic Violence. 


In this plan, ideas of the child keeping themselves safe would be to go to another room, not to get involved in the argument or holding their teddy bear really tight, to help them feel safe. 


It might be important if the child had a safe adult they could contact, if it were safe to do so, and speak to them. It is pivotal that children are kept safe from harm, all whilst knowing that this type of violence is never okay.  


If you need further support in relation to this, please do not hesitate to contact our Support Line service, that is available Monday to Friday 9am-1pm.