Monday, 22 December 2014

Should the National Child Abuse Enquiry be scrapped?

Theresa May before the Select Committee
It is a shame that there has been a leak of a letter Theresa May has sent to all the existing members of the Independent Enquiry into Child Abuse, which contemplates scrapping what has taken place so far, and starting again.

There seem to be three options:-
  1. Turn the existing arrangement into a statutory inquiry.
  2. Set up a fresh statutory inquiry
  3. Establish a Royal Commission
Let me make it clear that I welcome the concept of an enquiry into the problem of the covering up of child abuse in the past, which seems to have infiltrated every being of our society. When it was first announced 6 months ago, so did the victims/survivors. Sadly many of them have lost complete faith in what has taken place so far, yet the predominent feeling about Ms May is positive.

So far the Home Office, under the stewardship of Ms May, seem to have made so many errors:-
  1. Failure to consult with the survivors/victims before the enquiry was announced to find out what they wanted.
  2. Failure to research the background of Lady Butler Schloss to make sure she would be an acceptable chairperson for the survivors.
  3. Failure to do the same in relation to Fiona Woolf.
  4. Failure to spend time looking at other enquiries around the world (eg. Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland, Australia) and learn from them. Take the Redress Board in the Republic of Ireland. In that case, the government tasked a leading Irish QC (Sean Ryan) to do a paper which set out his ideas on how the enquiry should be run. They listened to him and followed his lead. It was a success.
  5. Failure to distance itself from the decision process of how the enquiry should be set up - how can the Home Secretary effectively decide upon a chairperson when allegations are being levelled against the very body which is involved in setting up the enquiry?
  6. Failure to announce a statutory enquiry with legal powers from the beginning.
  7. Failure to set up a Royal Commission along the lines of the Australian model which has the respect, and acceptance of the survivors. It is Legally Constituted.
I have much sympathy with the panel members who are now under intolerable pressure and criticism from, effectively, their peers, who are also survivors. I think that the panel are now seen as the "government's lap dogs", who were on the side of the angels but have now gone to work for the devil, who are the government. It is unfair that some of them are now being pilloried.

What makes it worse is that because they are on the panel, they cannot really speak up for themselves through Social Media or the media. When one is appointed to a quasi judicial role, then radio silence is the usual requirement. The temptation is sometimes too great, largely because of the obvious sense of injustice.

I think that what has happened is that the Home Office realise that the panel members are coming under so much pressure, and are being affected so badly by Social Media, and criticism by other survivors, that their primary responsibility is to protect them, and do something different, hence the recent annoucement.

Undeniably the Home Office must take the blame for this intolerable period of inactivity. If the enquiry had got under way before now, we would not be in this totally unacceptable no man's land of proscrastination.

My Number 1 money is on a Statutory Enquiry and in 2nd place a Royal Commission. The objection to a Royal Commission, apparently, is that it will take too long to set up. Meanwhile victims/survivors continue to suffer and get angrier by the day....

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