Monday, 3 November 2014

Another one bites the dust in child sex abuse inquiry

I will be giving my views on BBC News 24 at 7pm tonight on the inquiry. It comes as no surprise to read in press that Fiona Woolf has resigned as chair of the historical child abuse inquiry.  It’s been reported that she resigned last Friday, not as a result of pressure from Theresa May but because she felt that victims lacked confidence in her. 

As I said in a recent radio interview (read my earlier blog dated 27/10) I was surprised that the government chose Fiona Woolf to lead the enquiry in the first place as she does not have a history of representing the rights of the poor and oppressed members of Society.  So quite apart from her connections with Leon Brittain, which has been much reported in the media, she never  had the respect and trust of the survivors, hence the enquiry was doomed from the start.

Labour has said ‘the candidate must have the confidence of victms’ groups’ whilst Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile said: ‘they should have experience of dealing with child abuse and child protection.  I agree with both Labour and Lib Dem’s sentiments, the new Chair must have the respect of the survivors.  Potential successful models should include the Royal Commission in Australia and the Irish Redress Board.  Both of which have worked well for victims.

It has been said that Human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield is apparently the ‘victim’s choice to head the inquiry but Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to tell MPs later that she will consult victims before appointing a new chair for the historical child abuse inquiry. 

One would have thought that such a consultation should have been a fundamental factor worthy of consideration from the start!

It is considered to be a poisoned chalice to hold this job, as whoever takes it on must have the trust of a group of people who generally rile against authority with a passion, and see conspiracies round every corner, for the very good reason that they have been abused by someone in authority and a position of power in infancy. The inquiry is almost doomed to failure from the start, two chairpersons having resigned already.

One would have thought that a retired judge with the independence that inevitably flows from such a job, with no pre-conceived bias has to be a natural choice. Such a person will be thought by victims to be fearless in the face of government opposition to disclosure of documents. Also it would seem fundamental to announce that the inquiry should be statutory in nature with all the consequent powers that will inevitably flow from such a move. It is, after all, what the survivors want.

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