Monday, 27 October 2014

Should Woolf resign from the National Historic Abuse Inquiry?

Fiona Woolf
I was on LBC Radio the other day giving my opinion on whether Fiona Woolf should resign from the Historical Abuse Inquiry set up by the Home Secretary in response to the many scandals linking Central Government with a cover up of abuse allegations in days gone by. They asked me whether or not she should resign because of the recent revelations that she had had dinner with Leon Brittain  4 or 5 times and had supported one of Lady Brittain's charities. I said:-

  1. I was surprised that the government chose Fiona Woolf to lead this enquiry as she does not have a history of representing the rights of the poor and oppressed members of Society, quite the reverse in fact because she has quite a history as a company and commercial lawyer. That is the wrong background for the head of an enquiry which is forseen as attacking the establishment and upturning stones under which we expect to find scandals.
  2. I was expecting someone like Keir Starmer or Michael Meacher QC. For all I know they were both approached and refused. After the disaster which followed the appointment of Lady Butler Schloss, one would have thought that more care would be taken this time.
  3. The point is that, although Fiona Woolf may be very capable, she does not have the respect and trust of the survivor community, hence the enquiry is doomed from the start. Whilst there are some very good other panel members who have collectively come from the former abusees and survivors of abuse, Ms. Woolf will be in charge of tactics and direction. So it will be up to her to decide whether
    1. It should be turned into a public enquiry.
    2. What documents should be demanded from government - that is crucial to uncovering the truth.
  4. The survivors obviously think that someone weak and lack lustre has been appointed so that the inquiry will never get to the truth because it will not adopt an aggressive and "won't take No for an answer" type of approach.
  5. I find it hard to believe that Teresa May has made a hash of this for a second time. Wouldn't you have thought she and the department would have done their homework first, as it has obviously led to an embarrassing appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee.
  6. There should be a former judge, or at least someone who has chaired enquiries in charge.
  7. So what format should the enquiry take?
    1. It should be a Royal Commission along the lines of the Australian model which is a resounding success, which does have the respect of the survivor community. One can read about the enquiry here -
    2. They should look at the Irish Redress Board as a good model of an inquiry, which , despite some controversy, worked well for the victims. They had two arms - Commission of Inquiry, which heard allegations, some of which resulted in criminal prosecutions, and a Redress Board which heard applications for Compensation from Survivors. It was very victim focused and enabled the victim, who was at the centre of it all, to give live evidence, which was recorded. To read more, follow this link...
  8. Quite frankly I am glad I am not on the panel, because membership of the panel almost guarantees being pilloried by survivors whose vitriol and mistrust, which is quite understandable, will not assist it being a successful form of process.
  9. How long will Ms Woolf last - it looks as though she is here to stay with the full backing of government. She is also being supported by her fellow panel members, who have gone public to say that because there is such a broad spread of panel members with all the right characteristics, it doesn't really matter.
  10. I think that the Leon Brittain's allegations are really very secondary to the main issue which is the support and trust of the survivors, which, sadly is very lacking

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