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Star power ‘bewitches’ those vulnerable to abuse, says human rights lawyer

November 19th, 2014
04:35 PM ET

By Henry Hullah, CNN

We must monitor people with power in order to protect the vulnerable, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson told Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

An expert on the “culture of silence” surrounding abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, Robertson explained the common theme that ran through the church, the media and beyond.

“The revelations started with the Catholic Church in Ireland,” he told the program.

“Then we discovered it in celebrities here and a number of them have been convicted and now we’re finding other examples.”

“And what comes across to me, having studied it is the utter vulnerability of seven, eight, nine year olds to power."

"[In] a sense, in the Catholic Church, the priest as the representative of God – any command is unflinchingly obeyed. The star, entering the star’s dressing room at the BBC, it’s an enormous power.”

“It does bring home how we must ensure someone guards the guardians because the guardians can’t be trusted.”

The power that “bedazzles” the young and vulnerable was something Robertson stressed mustn't be underestimated and should be monitored because it overwhelms its victims almost instantly.

“It’s so easy, and that’s why there must be checks on dressing rooms, checks on all sort of places where people with power over children can bewitch and bewilder them.”

‘What must be done is to punish and to reveal’

In the UK, Ofsted, the official body for investigating British schools, has said that protecting children from sexual exploitation is still not a high enough priority for some local councils.

But far higher up the ladder of power, the UK establishment is finding itself not only the investigator of wrongdoing - but also being investigated. Robertson told the program that public outcry has put those in power in a precarious position.

“What the British establishment is facing, unprecedentedly, is a demand from victims and from the public not to do its usual trick of putting the establishment in charge to investigate the establishment.”

With these “unprecedented” circumstances, Christiane Amanpour asked what specifically needs to be done in the future to protect those most vulnerable.

"I would think the Australian experience of a Royal Commission, which has got total powers to reveal what's gone wrong and to make recommendations, that's a very good start," he told her. "Here we haven't got started."

“What must be done is to punish and to reveal...The first thing is to get an independent investigation off the ground.”

“The second thing is to abolish, in countries in Europe, all these Napoleonic time limits which allows offenders to get away with it.”

“And then we have to actually put in place workable protection, and that means we have to be aware not only of the consequences for kids who are being molested but also for the propensity for men who are not necessarily pedophiles… who take advantage of children.”

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