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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

2.10 Father Hudson’s

1. Father Hudson’s (FH) was established in 1902 as the Birmingham Diocesan Rescue Society for the protection of homeless and friendless Catholic children. FH built a network of children’s homes and hostels in the Birmingham area. FH’s corporate witness was Mr Andrew Quinn, its Chief Executive Officer since April 2015.[1] 

2.10.1 What was FH’s role in child migration?

2. FH migrated 132 children to Australia from 1947-1956. Its child migration was co-ordinated by a subcommittee of the Catholic Child Welfare Council (CCWC), of which FH was a member. Canon Flint, FH’s administrator, was also the secretary of the CCWC, and a member of the Catholic Council for British Overseas Development (CCBOS).

3. The Inquiry did not see any evidence of a rationale for FH’s involvement in child migration schemes. As a member of the CCWC, it was likely that FH shared the rationale of the CCWC as a whole.[2]

4. Children were selected from FH’s homes, which were mainly in Coleshill (Birmingham), or in homes belonging to religious orders: 39 of the 132 children were selected from Nazareth House.[3]

5. Of the 132 FH children who were migrated, 80 went to institutions in Western Australia (including 47 to the Christian Brothers institutions at Castledare, Tardun, Clontarf and Bindoon) and 26 went to St Joseph’s, Neerkol (Queensland). The remainder went to either the Sisters of Mercy or Sisters of Nazareth in South Australia, Victoria or NSW, or to the Salesians in Tasmania.[4]

6. The Australian Royal Commission and earlier inquiries have reported significant levels of sexual abuse at St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol.[5] During Part 1 we heard allegations of sexual abuse from two witnesses who had been migrated by FH: CM-A17 and Edward Delaney.[6] In addition FH has been informed of several allegations as set out below.

2.10.2 What did FH know about alleged sexual abuse of its child migrants?

7. Mr Quinn stated that FH’s review of files in 2016, revealed no evidence that FH was aware during the migration period of allegations or evidence of sexual abuse of child migrants.[7] The Inquiry did not see any evidence to contradict this.[8] 

However, children were exposed to a risk of sexual abuse, which ought to have been appreciated by FH. Had FH operated a more robust system for monitoring the welfare of those children it migrated, it might have known more about specific allegations of sexual abuse and about the risk of sexual abuse more generally. A more robust system of monitoring was more likely to have reduced that risk by triggering interventions to protect children from sexual abuse, and other harm.

2.10.3 Did FH take sufficient care to protect its child migrants from sexual abuse?

Selection

8. FH apparently considered the question of whether there was a preferable placement for each child via adoption or return to their family. Otherwise there is little evidence of selection criteria other than those set by the Australian authorities; and the usual medical and other checks.[9] Mr Quinn explained that consent was provided for each of the 132 children migrated: in 56 cases by a parent, in 70 cases by the Administrator, and in six cases by another organisation.[10] We note that while CM-A17’s mother signed the consent form, she later wrote to Canon Flint saying that he had not let her know that her children were being migrated.[11]

9. This raises a question about whether in all cases parental consent was indeed fully informed, albeit that the evidence suggests that FH made more effort than some other sending organisations to obtain some form of consent in respect of each child.

10. However, the Inquiry notes that in the case of a group of girls sent from Nazareth House in Rednal, Canon Flint had signed the migration forms as both the sponsoring organisation and the child’s guardian[12] (and this also occurred in Edward Delaney’s case).[13] The Inquiry considers that where one person signed both aspects of the migration form in this way, especially where that person appeared to have been a powerful advocate for child migration, this raises questions about a conflict of interest in the provision of that consent; and whether the approval for migration was genuinely in the best interests of the child.

11. The Inquiry heard evidence that some child migrants migrated by FH in 1947 or 1948 were sent before there was a written maintenance agreement in place.[14] This fits with the wider evidence that at times the focus of the Catholic Church migrating organisations appears to have been to migrate children as quickly as possible, which may have operated to the detriment of the individual children.[15] 

Supervision/aftercare

12. FH has not been able to locate any reference to safeguarding policies or procedures from 1945-1974, nor any documents concerning the monitoring of child migrants’ welfare. There was no system in place that required comprehensive reports on individual children to be sent back to FH. There were some reports from some institutions and from the CCWC, but these were inconsistent in length, frequency and detail, and given Canon Flint’s roles within FH, the CCWC and the CCBOS, it is not always clear in what capacity this limited form of monitoring was taking place.[16] It was typical of the Christian Brothers’ approach in Western Australia not to keep records on individual children.[17] In our view, more information about the children should have been requested and sent back to the UK.

13. Letter-writing from individual children was encouraged by Father Stinson.[18] We consider that it was important for children to be able to write letters, but that this was by no means a substitute for official and independent monitoring, especially when letter-writing was conducted in the way we heard it was (including vetting of letters and dictation of their content: see Part B.2). In any event FH seem to have regarded this more as an advertising or recruiting tool than as a supervision or aftercare tool.[19]

14. Australian child welfare officials had some involvement with the Catholic receiving institutions. However, we have seen reference in CCWC minutes from 1952 to “great understanding between the Brothers, Nuns and the Department[20] and a move from unexpected inspections of institutions to planned reviews.

Planned reviews would have made inspections much less effective and rigorous. Moreover, there is no evidence that that any reports from the Australian child welfare authorities were sent to FH in the UK.[21]

15. Overall, the Inquiry agrees with Professors Lynch and Constantine that the monitoring undertaken by FH was towards the more minimal end of the range of institutions examined.[22] FH appears to have assumed that the children’s welfare would be safeguarded because they were the legal responsibility of the Australian Minister for Immigration and would be at a Catholic institution.[23]

This trust does not appear to have been well-founded given the intermittent reports that were in fact received.[24] It was not reasonable for FH to have delegated responsibility for the children’s welfare in this way. We consider that reasonable practice at the time required some more effective form of supervision and aftercare by the sending institution. 

16. The Inquiry considers that FH would have known what was expected of them in respect of monitoring in at least the following ways:

a. Canon Flint was aware of the draft regulations circulated by the Home Office to sending agencies in 1952, which referred to the need to ensure post-migration monitoring, including annual written reports;[25] and

b. we note that there were multiple recommendations in CCWC minutes that institutions should be inspected.[26]

In light of all the evidence referred to above, FH did not take sufficient care to protect its child migrants from the risk of sexual abuse.

2.10.4 What has FH done in the post-migration period?

17. In 1995, a former child migrant alleged through the CMT that they had been sexually and physically abused in Australia.[27] The person had not been based in FH’s homes but at Nazareth House. The duty worker reported this to the senior social worker who liaised with the former child migrant and the CMT.[28] 

18. In 1997, the sister of a former child migrant stated that her brother had been sexually abused in Australia and wished to see his records. Efforts were made to ensure that the person had support in Australia.[29]

19. FH was informed that a child migrant who had died in 1997 had been sexually abused by the Christian Brothers.[30] As the person had died, it was considered that nothing could be done.

20. In 1998, the sister of a former child migrant told FH that her sister had been sexually abused and whipped before going to Australia.[31] There was communication between FH and the CMT in relation to making records available.[32]

21. In 2010, a further allegation was made to FH about sexual abuse by the Christian Brothers.[33] FH’s response to this allegation is not clear.

22. In 2016, the files were reviewed, and an allegation made in 1992, and passed to FH in 2002, was read.[34] The reason that the files were not read until 2016, was that the files were taken over by the Australian Child Migrant Project in 2002, work was continued within that project, and the files were formally returned to FH in 2005. It is not clear why the information about allegations of sexual abuse was not fed back to FH, even though it was being handled by a separate agency at the time. It is not clear that anything was done by FH specifically in response to that allegation when the information was discovered in 2016. 

23. Finally, one former child migrant alleged sexual abuse during the train journey to the boat. It was revealed through the Inquiry’s deciphering process that the alleged perpetrator in this case was Canon Flint.[35] If true, this is striking given Canon Flint’s heavy involvement in the scheme and in three different Catholic organisations. Although Canon Flint was known to have been deceased since 1982, the matter was reported to Warwickshire Police and the former child migrant’s solicitor informed.[36] 

While we do not have evidence about FH’s responses to all of the allegations of sexual abuse of child migrants that have come to its attention during the post-migration period, its response in those cases where we do have information has been broadly adequate.

24. FH has a Historical Abuse Policy.[37] It will take allegations seriously, pass them to the police (even where the alleged perpetrator is deceased) and offer appropriate support and advice.

25. It has funded the Origins service (a professional social work service established in 1993, rated Outstanding by Ofsted) to the value of £874,000); and participated in round-tables and the formulation of good practice in the Good Practice Guide on Access to Information for Adult Care Leavers in 2016.[38] 

26. In relation to counselling, the Chief Executive Officer decides if independent counselling would be funded by FH. However, FH has not been asked to provide that service.[39] 

27. Of the 130 FH former child migrants, 110 have made enquiries of one kind or another; and FH states that it has a very good relationship with the CMT.[40]

28. Although the Catholic Church has collectively made apologies, and some compensation has been paid abroad, FH has not previously made any public statements or paid any compensation for child sexual abuse.[41] During the hearing, Mr Quinn apologised on behalf of FH, stating that he had heard “new accounts of appalling sexual, physical and emotional abuse”. He expressed “remorse” and apologised to all children and their families who had suffered or were traumatised as a result of child migration.[42]

The Inquiry welcomes the apology from FH to victims of child sexual abuse during these proceedings, but it is unfortunate that no apology was given before this stage. Moreover while FH has taken steps to provide support and reparations to former child migrants alleging sexual abuse, it has not proactively offered compensation for sexual abuse. 

References

Footnotes

  1. Quinn 17 July 2017, 54-55.
  2. Quinn 17 July 2017 55-57; FHN000034_001; 003; 006.
  3. Quinn 17 July 2017 58/2-14.
  4. FHN000034_006.
  5. Constantine 10 March 2017 121, 123, 127-129, 162; Lynch 17 July 2017 25-26; Australian Royal Commission, Report of Case Study 26 (March 2016), 9.
  6. A17 (7 March 2017 64-82) and Edward Delaney (7 March 2017 83-141).
  7. FHN000034_007-008 [38]-[40].
  8. There is, within the Father Hudson’s material provided to us, a 1961 letter which we consider indicates potential sexual abuse of child migrants (Lynch 17 July 2017 35-39; FHN000047_001). However this was addressed to Canon Flood at the CCWC and so does not appear to relate directly to Father Hudson’s. We consider this letter further in section 3.11 which reviews the evidence in relation to the CCWC and the Catholic Church generally
  9. Quinn 17 July 2017 60-61; 68-70.
  10. Quinn 17 July 2017 60-61; FHN000034_004 [21].
  11. CM-A17 7 March 2017 80-81; CMT000305_001.
  12. Lynch 17 July 2017 30-32. 
  13. Delaney 7 March 2017 89/13-19; 129-130 ; CMT000469_002-003.
  14. Lynch 17 July 2017 34/12-21; EWM000443_010.
  15. Lynch 17 July 2017 14-15.
  16. Lynch 17 July 2017 3/9-20; 5-8; 6/12-19.
  17. Lynch 17 July 2017 17/6-23.
  18. Lynch 17 July 2017 9-10.
  19. Lynch 17 July 2017 9-10.
  20. FHN000011_028.
  21. Lynch 17 July 2017 17-18; 21-22; FHN000011_028.
  22. Lynch 17 July 2017 22-23.
  23. Quinn 17 July 2017 65; FHN000034_005, [24].
  24. The experts note: “There was no guarantee that children sent overseas by Fr Hudson’s would have any information about their welfare returned by receiving organisations, and what information was sent back is reported to have been occasional and minimal”: EWM000443_006.
  25. Lynch 17 July 2017 13-14; EWM000443_004-005.
  26. Quinn 17 July 2017 67/7-21.
  27. FHN000049.
  28. Quinn 17 July 2017 75-76.
  29. Quinn 17 July 2017 76/10-25.
  30. Quinn 17 July 2017 77; FHN000052.
  31. FHN000050.
  32. Quinn 17 July 2017 76/5-9.
  33. FHN000053.
  34. FHN000054_006-013.
  35. Quinn 17 July 2017 79/14-20; Lynch 17 July 2017 50.
  36. Quinn 17 July 2017 81/1-11; FHN000034_010.
  37. FHN000083.
  38. Quinn 17 July 2017 82/5-24; 86/1-5; 84; 91; FHN000082_003.
  39. FHN000082_004; Quinn 17 July 2017, 90.
  40. Quinn 17 July 2017 83/16-18; 84/4-11.
  41. Quinn 17 July 2017 80/13-19.
  42. Quinn 17 July 2017 92/11-25 – 93/1-15; FHN000082_12.
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