1 The Independent Inquiry into Child
Sexual Abuse |
1. On 7 July 2014, the Home Secretary announced the
establishment of an Independent Panel Inquiry to consider whether
public bodies and non-state institutions had taken seriously their
duty to protect children from sexual abuse. In the interests of
establishing the inquiry as quickly as possible, it was to be
a non-statutory inquiry, but the Home Secretary gave an undertaking
that it would be given access to all necessary government papers;
that it would be free to call witnesses as required; and that
if the panel chairman deemed it necessary, the Government would
be prepared to convert it into a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries
2. Baroness Butler-Sloss, former President of the
Family Division of the High Court, was appointed Chair of the
panel on 8 July, but she stepped down on 14 July after MPs and
survivor groups expressed concerns about the possibility that
the inquiry might have to consider decisions taken by her late
brother, Sir Michael Havers, as Attorney General in the 1980s.
3. Fiona Woolf CBE JP, the Lord Mayor of London,
was appointed Chair on 5 September, but stepped down on 31 October
after concerns were raised about her social contacts with Lord
and Lady Brittan. When she gave evidence to us in October, it
emerged that a letter she had written to the Home Secretary setting
out her relevant interests, including her contact with Lord and
Lady Brittan, had been re-drafted seven times at the suggestion
of the Solicitor and Counsel to the Inquiry, and shared in draft
with the Home Office before it was finalised.
Mrs Woolf said that she did not believe that the inquiry would
have the necessary widespread survivor support if she were to
continue to chair it.
4. In October, the Home Secretary published the terms
of reference for the inquiry, and announced the names of the Panel
members; Counsel to
the inquiry, Ben Emmerson QC; and the appointment of an expert
adviser to the panel, Professor Alexis Jay OBE, who had recently
completed the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation
in Rotherham. In November, the Home Secretary announced that she
was holding meetings with survivor groups and having discussions
with MPs about possible candidates to chair the Panel, and that
the proposed new chair would attend a pre-appointment hearing
with this Committee.
5. On 4 February 2015, the Home Secretary told the
House that she planned to appoint Justice Lowell Goddard, a judge
of the High Court of New Zealand, as the new Chair of the inquiry.
She also announced that she would be dissolving the existing Panel
and establishing a new, statutory inquiry under the Inquiries
Act 2005. She emphasised that this decision was by no means a
criticism of the existing Panel members, whom she invited to apply
for the new Panel. Applications
for the new Panel would be judged against a set of published criteria.
6. Prior to the announcement of the new proposed
Chair, we took oral evidence about the panel inquiry from witnesses
including some members of the original panel, representatives
of survivor groups, Fiona Woolf CBE and Ben Emmerson QC. During
those evidence sessions we heard witnesses' views on the Home
Office's process for selecting candidates for the new chair. Panel
members and representatives of survivor groups told us that they
had not been consulted before the appointment of the first two
Chairs. Alison Millar,
a solicitor who acts for several survivors, said that:
there has been a lack of transparency
so far about how people have been appointed - both as chair and
to the panel - and there has been a lack of consultation and engagement
with interested parties, and most particularly those affected
by abuse, over the way this inquiry should be handled, what the
terms of reference should be and, most crucially, how it can involve
people in the process. The way it has been handled so far is a
matter of regret to my clients.
7. There were well-publicised problems with the
appointment of the Panel, which resulted in the early resignation
of two previous Chairs. It is important that a Chair is now appointed
who will command the confidence of survivors.
The work of the panel since its
8. The Panel met for the first time on 12 November
and announced that it intended to hold a series of listening meetings
to seek the views of survivors of child sexual abuse on the work
of the Inquiry and to consider how personal support could be offered
to those interacting with the Inquiry. In the absence of a Chair,
Ben Emmerson QC, Counsel to the Inquiry, acted as a facilitator,
in effect taking on the Chair's role on a temporary basis.
9. While there is no doubting Mr Emmerson's impressive
credentials as a lawyer, it is clear that he did not win the confidence
of all the members of the Panel. With the benefit of hindsight,
it might have been a mistake for the Inquiry Counsel to fill the
void created by the absence of a Chair. A dispute arose between
Mr Emmerson and Sharon Evans, one of the two survivors on the
Panel. We make no comment on this dispute, except that it seems
to have arisen at least in part as a result of the vacuum left
by the absence of a Chair.
10. Four sessions were held during December 2014,
in London, Bristol and Manchester, but on 21 January, the Panel
announced that it had postponed the remaining sessions until after
the Home Secretary had made her decision on the future of the
panel and had appointed a new Chair.
11. In her statement to the House on 3 November,
the Home Secretary acknowledged that some campaigners had called
for the inquiry to become a statutory inquiry. Panel members told
us in oral evidence that they had agreed unanimously that the
inquiry should be put on a statutory footing; that they had written
to advise the Home Secretary of this view;
and that they remained confident that the panel could take its
work forward under a new Chair.
This was also the consensus among a group of survivors whom we
met privately on 6 November, several of whom emphasised the need
for the inquiry to have the power to compel witnesses to give
12. The panel's expert adviser, Professor Jay, said
that the most important issues for moving forward were the appointment
of a chair who would could lead panel members effectively, and
the conversion of the inquiry to a statutory inquiry.
Professor Jenny Pearce OBE, a Panel Member, pointed to the need
for strong leadership and robust methodology to deal with conflicting
views and perspectives:
politics will come into the nature of
the inquiry, so too will different voices of different groups
of survivors and victims who have been abused or harmed. Those
different voices may well be in conflict with each other and may
well be using different channels, including the media, to try
to advance different perspectives. What the panel and inquiry
have to do is to develop a methodology that is robust enough to
make sure that all voices are heard and that the different pressures
of fighting or debate outside the work of the panel is accounted
for and embraced, rather than challenged.
13. We thank all the members of the original Panel
for their work. The work that has already been done, in particular
the material gathered at listening meetings, must be made available
to the new Panel. The original Panel was unable to operate effectively
without leadership and the appointment of a Chair for the new
Panel should not be delayed further. The terms of reference for
the inquiry need to be established and the new Panel appointed
as quickly as possible so that the inquiry team can get to work.
Parliament must be kept actively informed about the future work
of the inquiry.
14. The Home Secretary has asked us to complete this
pre-appointment process to a very challenging deadline, which
we have done. The Home Secretary also invited us to nominate
a candidate of our own. We declined to do so, as this would have
compromised any subsequent pre-appointment hearing, potentially
bringing the whole process into disrepute. We do not believe that
select committees which are to conduct pre-appointment should
ever be asked to put forward candidates of their own.
15. Given the very limited time available for this
process, we have sought views from as wide a range of people as
possible. We have issued a general call for written submissions,
which has been publicised on our website, we have written to all
Members of the House of Commons seeking their views, and we held
a private meeting with survivors on the morning of Wednesday 11
February, before we took evidence from Justice Goddard. The Chair
of the Committee wrote to the Home Secretary on 9 February, asking
for further details of the appointment process: the number of
candidates who were considered for the post, the number shortlisted,
the salary for the post and any additional terms and conditions
relevant to the appointment. In her reply, she said that she had
received over 150 nominations, from survivors, survivors' representatives,
MPs, and members of the public. In addition, the Home Office had
contacted Commonwealth countries, via the Foreign Office, to identify
any suitable candidates.
However, she declined to specify the salary range, saying only
that it would be "in line with other public appointments
of this nature". We are concerned that the Home Secretary
has not disclosed Justice Goddard's proposed salary range to us.
This is not in line with the open and transparent approach we
would expect in the course of a pre-appointment process.
16. The Home Secretary also refused to tell us how
many candidates she had interviewed for the post, saying she did
not believe it would be appropriate for her to do so. We are disappointed
with this response, which does not display the openness and transparency
we would expect from the Home Secretary towards the Select Committee,
especially as she had made it clear that she wanted to ensure
complete transparency in the process.
17. We welcome the role of this Committee in this
pre-appointment hearing, which we believe is a valuable contribution
to the independence and transparency of the inquiry process. The
Committee's involvement should have been invited from the start.
18. The controversy of the last few months has
demonstrated the need for the inquiry to develop a robust methodology
for dealing with the conflicting views of different contributors
to the inquiry and for demonstrating transparency of the inquiry
process whilst maintaining individuals' confidentiality. The panel
will need to ensure that different views are heard and taken account
of, and that all survivors of abuse have confidence in that process.
Qq 13 ff and letter from Fiona Woolf to the Chair of the Committee, dated 29 October 2014 Back
The Panel Members were Sharon Evans, Ivor Frank, Dame Moira Gibb,
Barbara Hearn OBE, Professor Jenny Pearce OBE, Drusillla Sharpling
CBE, Professor Terence Stephenson and Graham Wilmer MBE Back
HC Deb, 4 February 2015, col. 275 Back
Not yet published Back
Q21 and Q112 Back
See Appendix 3 Back