Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - an update

16 November 2016
  • As has been well publicised, Dame Lowell Goddard resigned from the Inquiry on 4 August 2016 and Professor Alexis Jay, who has been a Panel member since the commencement of the Inquiry, has been appointed as the Chair.
  • Ben Emmerson QC, the Counsel to the Inquiry resigned from his role on 29 September. Rumours of his resignation had been rife, over concerns about the structure of the Inquiry and workload. Just as speculation over his likely resignation hit the Press, he was suspended, on 28 September – in relation to apparent concerns about his leadership of the Counsel team. Ben Emmerson's colleague and second-in-command, Elizabeth Prochaska, also resigned. It was reported on 16 November that another senior lawyer has resigned, namely Aileen McColgan, the barrister leading the investigations into the Anglican and Catholic Churches. It is believed that she had concerns over the competency of the Inquiry’s leadership. There is speculation that two further lawyers may resign over similar concerns.
  • On 17 October Professor Jay set out her strategy to ensure the Inquiry meets its remit and considers both past and present failings by institutions in England and Wales. This statement came in the wake of comments made by Dame Lowell Goddard and Ben Emmerson saying that the scope of the Inquiry should be reduced. Professor Jay said that she viewed calls to forget the past with a degree of scepticism. This suggests that she will not be seeking to narrow the Inquiry. Her message is that the scope of the Inquiry will not be reduced. Whether or not the Inquiry will deliver on this remains to be seen. Professor Jay also set out four strands that would be the focus of the work of the Inquiry, namely
    • Cultural – examining attitudes, behaviours and values within institutions that prevent us from stopping child sexual abuse
    • Structural – looking at the legislative, governance and organisational frameworks within and between institutions
    • Financial – considering the financial, funding and resource arrangements for relevant institutions and services
    • Professional and political - focusing on the leadership, professional and practice issues for those working and volunteering in relevant institutions.
  • On 31 October, the Inquiry published an update on its work over the last 18 months and set out an overview of the work that is planned for the months ahead. The update summarises the purpose and remit of the Inquiry as well as the work carried out so far. It refers to the Truth Project and promises a report on the sessions with victims and survivors that has been have been held so far. These commenced in June 2016 and the aim is to complete the roll out of private sessions by March 2017. A number of research projects are currently underway as part of The Research Project, namely:
    • An assessment of published evidence about child sexual abuse in the Anglican and Catholic Churches;
    • An assessment of published evidence about the role of institutions located in other jurisdictions in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse; and
    • An assessment of published evidence about child sexual abuse in custodial institutions.

Commitments for the future include the development of a series of research briefing notes on the following topics to support the following investigations:

    • Child sexual abuse in residential schools;
    • Child sexual abuse in residential care; and
    • The impact of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors.

Although 11 preliminary hearings were held in March and July 2016, no hearings have yet started. The Inquiry plans to commence the first public hearing in February 2017.

By Joanna Lada-Walicki

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