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The national and increasing concern over the nature and prevalence of peer-on-peer abuse led to the Government introducing its Advice on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in Schools and Colleges in December 2017 (since updated in May 2018). It also led to Farrer & Co devising a peer-on-peer abuse toolkit (toolkit) in collaboration with Dr Carlene Firmin – a link to which has been included in the Government’s Advice.

Reports and articles in the press published since have reinforced the concern, and how essential it is to respond to alleged incidents of peer-on-peer abuse appropriately, for example:

  • a national survey of Headteachers and Safeguarding Leads across more than 300 schools in England and Scotland highlights the issues faced in addressing the problems caused by peer-on-peer abuse. The results show that online peer-on-peer abuse is a growing problem in schools; with 83% of respondents saying incidents have increased over the last 3 years,
  • a secondary school has reportedly paid tens of thousands of pounds in damages plus £30,000 legal fees over its handling of an allegation of rape made by one of its former pupils against her then classmate, after the girl was expected to carry on attending lessons with the boy she had accused, and
  • a Local Authority has reportedly awarded a five-figure compensation settlement to a family for failing to protect their six year old daughter who was sexually assaulted by fellow pupils while at her primary school. The ruling is understood to be the first time that the high court has approved a settlement relating to sexual assault involving primary school children.

In light of changes made to the relevant legislation since the toolkit was published in December 2017, and driven by the need to ensure that schools (and other organisations) adopt a best practice approach to peer-on-peer abuse, Farrer & Co have collaborated with Dr Firmin, and a number of other experts in the field, to produce a revised version of the toolkit, published today.

This article highlights several important proactive and preventative steps that schools should take to minimise the risk of peer-on-peer abuse, discusses the appropriate action that should be taken in terms of responding to and managing concerns or allegations, and ends on the importance of learning lessons.

Click here to read the full article. 

If you require further information about anything covered in this briefing note, please contact David Smellie, Adele Eastman, or your usual contact at the firm on +44 (0)20 3375 7000.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, February 2019

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