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.