The SERICC Director introduced the
presentation and explained that following the last Hidden and
Extreme Harms Prevention Committee meeting that SERICC had
attended, they had organised a male sexual violence awareness
course with Thurrock officers to highlight the risk of sexual
violence against men and boys, as this had been a suggestion by the
Committee. She added that many people during this training had
assumed that sexual violence was linked with domestic violence, and
the training session had helped to dispel this assumption. She
added that the Home Office were also writing a Violence Against Men
and Boys Strategy, although there was some way to go before this
could be shared. She summarised and stated that violence against
women and girls was more prevalent than against men and boys, which
was why the focus of the report was on violence against women and
The SERICC Services Delivery Manager explained that the data presented to the Committee compared figures from between March 2020-21 and March 2021-22. She explained that figures for March 2021-22 had remained relatively static compared to the previous year, with a small increase in the number of people reporting aged between 18-24 years old and 13-17 years old, which was partly due to the end of lockdown restrictions. She added that SERICC had seen 587 incidents reported by 527 users, and these could be recent incidents or from a long time ago. She added that SERICC provided all survivors with counselling sessions, advisers, and helped victims report to the police if they chose. The SERICC Services Delivery Manager explained that in 2021/22 346 females had reported incidents to the police, which meant that the number of people not reporting had increased since 2020/21. She explained that SERICC was the only service in the UK which provided a direct referral pathway, which meant that incidents could be reported directly.
The Chair thanked SERICC for their presentation and asked if they had encountered any grooming gangs commuting from London to operate in Essex. The SERICC Services Delivery Manager explained that their data showed that no grooming gangs had been reported in Thurrock. The SERICC Director added that if a perpetrator assaulted a victim more than once, then this could be classed as grooming under the Home Office’s Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. The Chair asked why data on female genital mutilation (FGM) did not specify the ethnicity of the perpetrators. The SERICC Director explained that this demographic information was provided by the government rather than SERICC, but could be shared with the Committee.
The Chair highlighted the work on Operation Hydrant that was being undertaken by the National Police Chiefs Council regarding historic abuse. He stated that their figures showed 12,000 total victims, 8,000 of whom were boys and 4,000 of whom were girls. He stated that the perpetrators listed in Operation Hydrant were often TV personalities, sports stars, politicians, or music industry professionals. He felt that the work of Operation Hydrant should be more publicised due to the demographics of victims and perpetrators. The SERICC Director explained that she had been working with Operation Hydrant and felt that the data had to be considered in the context of historic sexual abuse that had occurred to young people who were now in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. She explained that Operation Hydrant looked at institutions such as borstals and boys’ clubs which tended to focus on boys rather than girls. She added that the data was further complicated as girls were more often assaulted by family members, and during the period being considered by Operation Hydrant, this type of abuse was not usually reported. The Chair felt that there was a bias focussing more on violence against women and girls, compared to boys and men, and felt more should be done to enable both genders to come forward if abused.
Councillor Ralph felt that even a small increase in the numbers of incidents was concerning, and asked if the data was amended if a report was found to be a false allegation. The SERICC Services Delivery Manager stated that the police did not refer people who had made false allegations to SERICC, and highlighted that only 3 allegations out of 3,500 in 2021/22 had been found to be false. Councillor Ralph felt that false allegations could be common in custody cases, which were then passed onto social services. The SERICC Director explained that SERICC worked with complex victims, most of whom were not involved in social services or family court.
Councillor Shinnick questioned how many prosecutions came from those cases that were reported to the police. The SERICC Director highlighted that conviction rates were currently at an all-time low due to COVID delays and barrister strikes. She explained that a victim could wait between 2 and 5 years for their case to go to court, during which time many victims withdrew their case. She explained that even if a perpetrator was found guilty, they could wait between 2 and 9 months to be sentenced. She added that this issue made it difficult to track data as the court system was running so far behind reporting. The SERICC Services Delivery Manager added that there was currently a backlog of around 10,000 cases, and current court dates for 2025 were being offered. The Chair asked if Essex had been part of the Nightingale Courts trial to reduce court backlogs. The SERICC Services Delivery Manager explained that Essex fell under the Eastern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) area, which had not received a Nightingale Court. She added that a new pilot scheme had begun on 1 October 2022 across the country to reduce the backlog. She explained that the first court involved in the trial was in Snaresbrook, and both Basildon and Chelmsford courts could be included in the fourth or fifth tranche of the pilot.
The Chair and Committee thanked SERICC for their attendance and presentation.
The SERICC Director and SERICC Delivery Manager left the meeting at 7.57pm.