Parents should hand children in to police if they commit sexual abuse, top police officer says

  • Video report by ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand

Parents should hand their children in to the police if they suspect them of sexually abusing or harassing others, one of Britain's most senior police officers has said.

The comments from Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the lead officer for Operation Hydrant and the National Police Chiefs' Council, come as over 8,000 anonymous testimonies of abuse in schools have been published on Everyone's Invited, a online forum where people post their experiences of sexual assault.

Mr Bailey told ITV News: "If a son makes a disclosure about a fact that they've committed a criminal offence, I think that's where the values of that parent really come to the fore.

"They should then be making that disclosure, they should be getting in contact with their local police force."

A number of independent schools have been cited on Everyone's Invited, but Mr Bailey says the behaviour is not confined to private schools.

Mr Bailey acknowledged the torrent of claims on the site adding: "The website has already received, I think it’s now over 7,000 testimonies have been posted, and those numbers are growing exponentially…"It’s reasonable to predict there is going to be a significant number of reports (to police) that are going to come into the system.”

Labour's Jess Phillips and Kate Green have sent a letter to Gavin Williamson, to request an independent inquiry and national strategy for tackling sexism and sexual harassment in schools, following the number of pupils writing on Everyone's Invited with their personal testimony.

One testimony on Everyone's Invited reads: "I was sexually harassed by a member of my class for a year and didn't tell anyone for six months."

Another person wrote that a boy in their year at school raped them.

"It's genuinely awful to still see him every day," they added.

Former independent school pupil Ava Vakil wrote to the headteacher of a London school last week, detailing alleged abuse.

"There were ranking of body parts being shouted out across school corridors and across classrooms.

"It really begs the question - not only is this culture incredibly pervasive - how proud are we of this culture? How much complicity is there from everyone around?"

Many, including Mr Bailey, are concerned that some schools may have covered up allegations of sexual assault and harassment to protect their reputations.

Mr Bailey told BBC Radio 4: "In some cases schools will have made the decision just to deal with the allegations internally rather than reporting them when they actually should have done.”

Parents and schools should educate children about pornography and the unrealistic messages that it can portray about relationships, he added.

Mr Bailey said: “I think there is a real issue for society, I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind about that whatsoever, and there is a real issue, I believe, in what children now see and view as healthy relationships, healthy sexual relationships and what is permissible and what is acceptable.

“And unfortunately, I think the ready and easy access to pornography is a driver to that, the sexualisation of women is a driver to that, and unfortunately a culture has grown over recent years whereby in the minds of some people it is acceptable to treat young women in particular in a manner we are now seeing disclosed on the website.”

Education secretary Mr Williamson has also commented on the claims, calling them "shocking and abhorrent".

"No school - whether an independent school or state school - should ever be an environment where young people feel unsafe, let alone somewhere that sexual abuse can take place," he tweeted."The allegations that I have heard in recent days are shocking and abhorrent."

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has urged anyone with a complaint to use a new helpline set up and warned schools face the threat of closure if there's evidence of criminal behaviour.

He said: "I'm very alarmed, like everybody, to hear reports of abuse in schools that we've been hearing over the last few days."

He warned: "Both the Inspectorate (Ofsted) and the Department of Education will be looking at all the issues raised and take action, and that does include, if necessary, closing down schools."

Operation Hydrant was established in 2014. It acts as a hub to coordinate and oversee investigations of historical abuse within institutions like schools or involve high profile figures across all 43 police forces.

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy told ITV News today that it's "a matter of huge concern that so many young people have not felt safe in our schools"

He said: "It's very very worrying that so many, particularly young women, have come forward in this way.

"Some of it sounds like it's criminal and therefore school authorities should have reported it to the police.

"Some of it sounds like the concerns we all have around online harm and the government needs to bring forward a bill to deal with internet providers and others, I'm afraid, who are grooming young people into terrible acts.

He added: "Some of it is about education, and in the end that comes back to schools and the work that they can do to educate our young people and particularly our young men, what is appropriate and decent and civil behaviour."