York filmmaker Kev Curran and his family underwent a terrible tragedy. Now he needs your support to help ensure others don’t go through the same ordeal
I find it so difficult to do this, but I must find the strength to reach out and ask for help – because time is ticking.
I set up a petition for ‘Declan’s Law’, inspired by the tragic death of my brother Declan who took his own life aged just 13 – and also for my mum, Anne, who grieved his loss her entire life.
I want to make a vital change to the law, but I need help to get 10,000 signatures to get a response from the government.
The petition calls for a vital change in the law. It would make it mandatory for the police and crown prosecution service (CPS) to provide counselling to all victims of child sexual abuse – without it prejudicing justice.
The petition deadline is 28 November
During one of the last phone calls I ever had with my mum, she broke down and cried telling me “They made me feel like it was my fault, I was screaming for them to help you, but they wouldn’t allow it.”
She said if she insisted, and it affected the trial, they told her it would be her fault. “I’m so sorry” she sobbed. I told her it was not her fault and that she did her best in horrendous circumstances, but it lit a fire in my heart. It was so upsetting I was determined to do something about it.
Jailed after his death
Social workers and the CPS said they were unable to offer Declan counselling because of fears of prejudicing a sex offender’s trial because it would contaminate the evidence.
Declan, 13, was found dead at the family home in York the day after he saw his accused sex offender then on bail in a nearby street.
Six weeks later the same man was jailed for four years at York Crown Court for sexual assaults on three other boys.
His sentence of four years was halved on appeal.
Mum had repeatedly appealed for professional counselling for her children, who were traumatised victims of child sexual abuse waiting for an impending trial at crown court.
The trial (which should have been fast-tracked because it involved children) collapsed due to Declan’s suicide. We had been waiting a year for the court case when Declan took his own life.
Crimes against Declan were left on file and his video interview detailing the abuse he suffered was never seen by a jury. The CPS and the perpetrator’s defence cut a deal. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
I honestly believe had events like this unfolded in today’s world there would be public outrage and the story would be all over the front pages of the national newspapers, an independent enquiry would be underway to learn from the failings.
Anne was a York councillor and mother to nine children. She sadly died two years ago, never really recovering from the loss of Declan. I promised her that even though I couldn’t change what happened to Declan that I would always fight to change things for other children.
So that is what I have been doing with Declans Law, but it’s really hard work and soul destroying when you can’t reach enough people to make the change, I can’t give up, it’s part of my journey, it’s too important.
Victims still suffering
During my campaign for Declan’s Law I have had many conversations with other survivors and professional counsellors – and it was shockingly evident that victims were still being dissuaded from accessing support before and during trials, feeling pressured and worried that it may affect the outcome of their case.
The idea that victims of horrific crimes who are traumatised already are somehow colluding with professionals to shape “their story” is an insult, it only perpetuates misperceptions, makes victims feel disbelieved and disproportionally treated by the criminal justice system.
The system needs to change in favour of victims so they can speak, their voices safe from contaminating evidence. That’s why I want it to be law.
As a survivor myself I know that proper support would have been impactful on my life. It was a time of turmoil, and my abuser was on bail walking around the streets. He was guilty of crimes against me but never faced trial for the horrific things he was accused of doing to Declan.
One organisation that has supported my campaign for Declan’s Law is the Maggie Oliver Foundation. Maggie Oliver is best known as the detective turned whistleblower who resigned from Greater Manchester Police in late 2012 in order to expose the now infamous Rochdale Grooming Scandal.
Founder Maggie Oliver said: “We wholeheartedly back Kev’s plea for more pre-trial support for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
“The recently updated Victims’ Code clearly states that everyone has a right to support following a crime, but at The Maggie Oliver Foundation, we still hear daily from traumatised victims and survivors who have been left to fend for themselves after reporting sexual abuse.
“In too many cases we still hear of police officers dissuading victims from seeking counselling or therapy for fear of jeopardising any trial. With waiting times for court cases at an all- time high, this leaves victims feeling trapped and unable to move forward on their recovery journeys for many years.
“Too often with tragic consequences as in Declan’s case.”