When a child experiences violent, sexual or domestic abuse, whether in their home, school or community, it is vital that they are listened to and that they receive meaningful, specialist support. That is why I welcome the ambitions of the draft Victims’ Bill which aims to amplify victims’ voices in the criminal justice system and strengthen the support that they receive. However, I have been clear that the Bill can, and should, go further for child victims.
My work on the Victims Bill has been informed by the passionate campaigning by survivors including Daisy (whose surname is omitted to protect the identity of her mother) and Sammy Woodhouse. Both Daisy and Sammy have brought light to child victims whose needs are hidden and misunderstood. Today I am focusing on their important work.
“Daisy’s Law” argues that children born through rape should be recognised as ‘secondary victims’ of crime along with the primary victim, their mother. Daisy has written powerfully of her own experience of finding out that she had been born as a result of rape, and the deep and lasting trauma that this had on her health, her relationships, her sense of identity and her own fight for justice.
Daisy was recently awarded the Emma Humphreys memorial prize for her campaigning on this issue, and I commend her for sharing her testimony and experiences to help others. Addressing her birth father at his sentencing for the rape of her mother, Daisy said:
“Your act of violence decimated any potential relationship between my birth mother and me, because you chose to rape a child.”
The trial judge concluded that Daisy “is unquestionably as much of a victim in this as her mother”.
Legal recognition of children who have been born through rape as secondary victims will enable them to pursue complaints in criminal investigations. I hope that legal recognition will also help to dispel the stigma and shame which is often felt acutely, but silently, by mothers and children born through sexual violence.
Sammy Woodhouse campaigns on behalf of victims who have been groomed into committing crimes at the direction of their abuser. The convictions which these victims receive will show up on criminal record disclosures, which can become a major barrier to employment and otherwise moving forward with their lives. Threat of criminal convictions can also be used as a tool by abusers to intimidate victims, to prevent them from coming forward and disclosing their abuse.
Sammy was a victim of exploitation but is now forced to disclose criminal convictions linked to her abuse. In a letter to then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Sammy wrote:
“For people like me, who were prosecuted as exploited children, we now have to disclose our abuse at job interviews to explain our criminal records … This is extremely upsetting for victims and survivors – and a constant reminder of our past when we are simply trying to move forward and have a future. More often than not it prevents us from becoming employed to help rebuild our lives.”
“Sammy’s Law” would give victims of sexual exploitation the right to have their criminal records reviewed, and crimes associated with their grooming concealed or removed.
We must provide every support that we can to survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation. Sammy’s Law is a clear example of how we can protect children from ongoing victimisation. I commend Sammy’s tremendous courage on speaking out on this issue.
I also share my reflections and recommendations on the victims bill.