I have previously written about the issues surrounding the continuing failure to remove Lord Ahmed’s title after he was convicted of child sexual abuse and my view stands that it is not just titles that people should have removed if they have been found to have inflicted child abuse or failed to stop child abuse, but also public symbols such as statues.
I appreciate that the removal of statues can be a contentious issue, as seen by the removal of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol as a result of him being a slave trader and his involvement in the death of thousands of people that he had enslaved. However I fully agree that certain things can no longer publicly stand as being representative of our modern society.
Sculptor Eric Gill detailed in his own diaries, that were published after his death in 1940, the sexual abuse that he inflicted on his daughters and family dog. Yet his statue of a naked child still stands outside the BBC Broadcasting House headquarters, see below.
Eric Gill with his statue outside BBC Broadcasting House (Photo by Howard Coster/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A man tried to damage the statue earlier this year due to Gill being a child abuser and although the method may have been wrong, the reasoning was right and in my opinion, as a lawyer who represents victims and survivors of child abuse, the statue should be removed.
As Catherine Bennett stated in the Guardian earlier this year, “sometimes a statue is indefensible – the BBC should get rid of Eric Gill”. The decision to leave the statue standing is a slap in the face of those who have suffered abuse and there is no logical reason why the BBC could not replace the statue with the work of another artist.
It was recently announced that the statue would be repaired.
A number of men who suffered childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Bob Higgins, the former youth coach at Southampton Football Club, have recently raised similar issues in respect of a statue of Ted Bates that still stands outside the club’s stadium. Ted Bates was the former manager of Southampton Football Club and in the Football Association’s report he is found to have failed to act on allegations of child abuse by Bob Higgins.
There is still no law in place in England that would have made it a criminal offence for Bates’ alleged failures to act on these concerns, but it is a moral failing and it potentially resulted in children suffering abuse that could have been stopped or potentially even prevented.
As a result, I fully support Higgins’ survivors who are demanding that the statue of Ted Bates be removed and say it should be replaced with something that symbolises the strength of Higgins’ survivors to disclose their abuse and to ensure that Higgins was finally convicted in 2019 and sentenced to a total of 24 years for his crimes.
These statues are not mere objects, but instead signify respect and grandeur to these individuals and what they did.
I think that it is of the utmost importance that as a society we have a clear message that those that commit child abuse and also those that fail to stop child abuse should not be allowed public signs of acceptance. It cannot be right in 2022 that they continue to stand and as a result they need to finally come down.
This blog was updated 9 May 2023.