On 28 June Rachael Maskell MP met with the Justice Secretary of State, Alex Chalk MP, to discuss the tragic case of Declan Curran, 28-years after he took his life, together with Declan’s brother Kev.
Kev and his family have fought hard for justice for Declan, and children across the country who have been failed by the justice system. Declan received no support following child sexual abuse and was told he could not talk about his case with anyone, including his family, for risk of the trial collapsing. Just days before he was due to testify in court against his abuser, he took his life at age just 14. His perpetrator went down for just 2 years due to the abuse of other children; his sentence was halved.
Since then, Kev has fought for children to receive psychological and therapeutic interventions following their abuse, and stated that the child, the victim, should be at the centre of all proceedings.
When the Victims and Prisoners Bill was introduced to the House of Commons, Rachael Maskell MP, raised Declan’s case with the Secretary of State for Justice, and so moved by the case, Alex Chalk MP agreed to meet the MP and Declan’s brother. When they met, the Cabinet Minister was generous with his time, and listened intently to all that Kev had to say.
Opening with showing the Justice Secretary a picture of his brother, Declan, Kev talked of the way that the justice system failed him, and their family. Kev, now wants to change the system so that no child is isolated following abuse, something that can still occur, although less so, today.
Alex Chalk listened intently and talked through the changes that he is introducing through strengthening the Victim’s Charter and ensuring that the police and Crown Prosecution Service know their responsibilities to the survivor of abuse. Further to this, there will now need to be a justifiable cause as to why defence barristers have access to the survivor’s medical notes which will result in far better protection for people who have been assaulted.
Rachael Maskell MP said, “After such tragedy, I am in awe of Kev and his family for their tenacity in campaigning for justice. Kev, in being able to tell Declan’s story to the Justice Secretary has been able to give hope to many victims of child sexual abuse so that they get the help they need.
“As a result of raising this matter, we will see progress in the law, however I will follow this Bill closely as it works its way through Parliament, now in Committee for line by line scrutiny.
“It is not just the law which has to change, the Crown Prosecution Service needs to ensure that the interests of victims of abuse are always at the centre of its decisions and the police need to be sensitive to children’s’ experiences. Much has changed since Declan lost his life, but improvements are still necessary. I am grateful that, in meeting with the Justice Secretary, we were able to further the case for ‘Declan’s Law’.”
Kev Curran added, “I felt proud to speak for thousands of child victims at such a high level of government. The Minister spoke with integrity that no child should be denied support, I just want assurances written into the Bill. Children must never be denied professional support at the time they need it. It’s a horrific crime to live through, affecting you mentally and emotionally. I still carry those scars but want to use them to bring about change.
“For years I felt like I was a lone voice shouting into a void, feeling unheard, discarded and heartbroken. A feeling shared by countless survivors who have reached out to me through my campaign for Declan’s Law. The system let us down and didn’t offer necessary counselling. This still happens, almost 3 decades later. This is why I have sought justice and rights for children who experience trauma.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is turn the tragedy of Declan’s suicide into real change that can protect future child victims. The law and its processes need to understand traumatised children, putting their wellbeing at the heart of the process.
“I’m eternally grateful to Rachael that through her intervention in the House of Commons my silence has now been broken and I was able to share my lived experience with the Justice Secretary.
“I found Alex Chalk very compassionate and empathetic towards me and he thanked me for my passion in continuing to fight for child victims rights. He not only validated Declan’s story, but all children who have experienced child sexual abuse.
“Being a former barrister gave the Justice Secretary a rare insight into the complexities of pre-trial therapy. It is now important that the progress in the Bill translates into stronger guidance and action by the CPS, better protecting children’s wellbeing with the right support. While children are still refused support today, the Bill and changes to the Victim’s Code must ensure that they are protected so that no child has to ever again suffer in silence while enduring a sexual abuse trial.”