Resources

Allegations of historic abuse - checklist for schools

16 March 2015

Police investigation into former/current members of staff/notification of civil claim.

We are advising a large number of schools which are facing allegations of historic abuse and have devised a checklist which provides a useful structure to follow when faced with these issues:

  1. Specialist legal advice is vital.
  2. Co-operate with the police in relation to any investigation into former/current members of staff – arrange time for meetings when likely to be least disruptive/attract unwanted attention.
  3. Keep in contact with the police and ensure they inform you as soon as charges are made. You don’t want to find out about the charges by reading about them in the media!
  4. If you receive a letter from a potential claimant/his/her lawyer, enquire whether the allegations have been reported to the police.
  5. Follow your child protection policy.
  6. Inform the LADO.
  7. If allegations relate to a current member of staff consider whether suspension is appropriate - liaise with the LADO and the police about this.
  8. If the individual under investigation is charged, prepare media statement and use when necessary. Consider publishing on news section of the School website.
  9. Inform staff of the charge(s) – instruct the
    1. Not to discuss the matter with parents (other than an agreed, limited statement)
    2. Not to discuss the matter with the media and to refer anyone form the media to a nominated person (Headmaster or Bursar of a Governor).
  10. Prepare letter to parents and be responsive to any concerns of parents. You don’t want parents to hear from the media or someone else first. It is unlikely that there will be many concerns unless a current member of staff is charged. Be open and transparent as this will show that the School is in control. If there are any further developments, inform staff and parents.
  11. Inform pupils – consider how this may be done and which year groups.
  12. Consider a letter to alumni. There may be a risk that alumni who remember the member of staff who has been charged may come forward with claims. However, it is probably better to be open as they will probably find out anyway. However, this will depend on the facts. It is also possible that other former members of staff may come under scrutiny.
  13. Consider using a PR consultant to assist you and your legal team to manage the reputational risk to the school.
  14. Notify your current insurers. Trace the School’s insurers at the time of the alleged abuse (if not the same as your current insurers); locate terms of the policy and notify the insurers of a potential claim.
  15. Check for any employment or other records relating to member of staff who has been charged and any complaints/serious issues during the relevant time.
  16. Prepare a Serious Incident Report to the Charity Commission (if you are a charitable trust).Take legal advice regarding this.
  17. Inform IAPS, ISBA (if you belong), AGBIS (if you belong) and ISI as a matter of good practice.
  18. Review records relating to any possible ‘skeletons’ that could cause embarrassment (reputational damage) to the School if they come into the public domain and carry out an investigation, if appropriate. Prepare a fact sheet for any such matter, summarising the key points. By doing this the School will be prepared.
Joanna Lada-Walicki
Partner