Serious Crime Bill [HL] — Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 28 October 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat 3:45, 28 October 2014

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Walmsley on highlighting and pursuing this issue. I also welcome the Government’s common-sense approach as we move forward, as my noble friend said. It will make a difference to children’s futures, and their future mental and physical well-being.

I know that it will make a difference because just last week I gave one of my many talks to more than 200 school-children. I spoke to them about people who may be causing them to suffer physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse. I told them that it was not their fault, and rather that bad people were taking advantage of their innocence and vulnerability. They must feel worthy and should tell someone, even though they may be threatened by the abuser if they do so. Children need to hear the message and to be empowered in this way.

As so often happens, at the end of that session the organiser of the event, who was aged around 40, came and sat next to me and said that he was that little boy I had spoken about when I talked to the children. He said that he had lived in a children’s home and had been abused, and that he is still living with those experiences. That is because when he did tell someone, he was told to shut up and keep quiet, and that he was ungrateful. His abuser was considered to be a good and kind person in society. The organiser was made to feel that he was the victim on all counts.

This is how abusers operate: they put on a good face for the community, but to their victims they are monsters. Everywhere you go in society and every corner you turn, there will be an adult who is reliving the horrors of child abuse. As I have said time and again in this House, childhood lasts a lifetime, so we have to put measures in place to ensure that for abusers there will be no place to hide. Some people might be wrongly accused and costs may be incurred, but I believe that that is a small price to pay to protect our children from being damaged for life. I therefore support the amendment and I look forward to the Minister’s response, which I hope will be a good one.