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UK news in brief

29 January 2021


Judith Gillespie (centre), who chairs the inter-departmental working group on mother and baby homes, with the Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill (left), and First Minister, Arlene Foster outside Stormont, after the publication of the report, on Tuesday

Judith Gillespie (centre), who chairs the inter-departmental working group on mother and baby homes, with the Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’...

Church of Ireland apologises for stigmatisation

THE Anglican Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John McDowell, has apologised and expressed his “shame that members of the Church of Ireland stigmatised women and children” over several decades, particularly unmarried women who had been placed in Ireland’s mother-and-baby homes from the 1920s to the end of the century. He was responding on Wednesday to an investigation report on church- and state-run homes, published earlier this month, which found that decades of religious discrimination contributed to the abuse of tens of thousands of mothers and the needless death of thousands of children (News, 15 January). The Church, he said, had acted “in a way which was very far removed from Christian principles and which resulted in an unloving, cold and judgmental attitude towards pregnant women who deserved better. . . The birth of a child should always be a time for happiness, and that many young women experienced it as joyless and cold is a matter for bitter regret. I am sorry and apologise for the role we played in treating unmarried women and their children in this way.”


Barrister comments on school race row

A BARRISTER, Jon Holbrook, is being investigated by his chambers after he referred to a school pupil as a “stroppy teenager of colour”. Mr Holbrook, of Cornerstone Barristers in Gray’s Inn Square, last week retweeted a post by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which referred to the case of Ruby Williams, a pupil at Urswick School, a C of E secondary school in Hackney, east London, who was awarded compensation of £8500 in an out-of-court settlement in February last year after being repeatedly sent home because of her Afro hair (News, 14 February 2020). Her family had taken legal action against the school. Mr Holbrook commented: “The Equality Act undermines school discipline by empowering the stroppy teenager of colour.” He has since defended his “political views”, which, he said, had nothing to do with his work at Cornerstone.


National child-protection strategy launched

A NATIONAL strategy launched by the Government last week to protect children from all forms of child sexual abuse has been welcomed by the Children’s Society. Under the Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, the Government has pledged to invest in a UK Child Abuse Image Database to identify and catch more offenders more quickly and avoid repeat exposure; make it easier for parents and carers to check criminal records for child sexual offences with the police; and introduce stronger sentencing for serious violent and sexual offenders. The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell, said: “This strategy is a golden opportunity to improve support for child victims of horrific crimes and send a clear signal that child sexual abuse and exploitation are crimes that will not be tolerated. That is more important than ever right now as successive lockdowns have left many children increasingly vulnerable and isolated, with worrying increases in instances of online child abuse and children coming to serious harm.”

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