Oct 20, 2015

Child Sex Abuse Survivors Demand Investigation After Testimonies Deleted

Felicity Capon
October 19, 2015

Child sex abuse survivors in Britain have called for an immediate investigation into revelations that testimonies they had given to an inquiry into the abuse was "instantly and permanently deleted" due to a technical error.

A statement posted on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse's website last week, explained that due to a change in the website address, information that had been submitted through the "share your experience" page between 14 September and 2 October was deleted before it reached the investigation's engagement team.

The inquiry was set up last July, prompted by claims from politicians and campaigners that paedophiles operated in Westminster during the 1980s. Its intention, as stated on its website, is to investigate whether "state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation" in England and Wales. The site also says it "will support victims and survivors to share their experience of sexual abuse." The inquiry's panel is led by New Zealand judge, Lowell Goddard.

Addressing the recent loss of the testimonies, a message on the inquiry's site reads, "We are very sorry for any inconvenience or distress this will cause and would like to reassure you that no information was put at risk of disclosure or unauthorised access. Due to the security measures on our website, your information cannot be found or viewed by anyone else as it was immediately and permanently destroyed."

However, the WhiteFlowers Campaign, a survivor support and campaign group, has called for an immediate investigation into the error. "Appalled at the recent calamitous loss of survivor data by Justice Goddard's Child Sex Abuse Inquiry, 300 survivors, whistleblowers, child protection professionals et al including Michael Mansfield QC have written to the Home Affairs Committee and the Information Commissioner calling for an immediate investigation," a press statement from the group reads.

"The first issue is the way they've attempted to mislead survivors by saying this was not a security breach, when according to Principle 7 of the Data Protection Act, it is," says Phil Frampton, Whiteflowers' National Co-ordinator. "Secondly, they have simply dismissed it as an accident, but it's not an accident when they fail to do everything possible to backup the data, they should have checked everything to make sure it was secure and they clearly didn't do that.

"Most importantly, is the way they have casually asked survivors to re-input data when those survivors don't know if that information is safe or not. How can it be safe? They are playing fast and loose with survivors' information and emotions."

The group has demanded that the inquiry explain why there was no engagement with the survivor's evidence when it was first submitted, why there was no back-up system in place to secure survivor evidence and why the failure went unnoticed for such a lengthy period of time. The group has also warned survivors not to re-submit testimony until an inquiry has been carried out, to "assess the security of their information."

Newsweek has contacted the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse for comment.


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