The Theresa May experiment to appoint survivors to the new inquiry into historical child sexual abuse is over.
Both the new ” non establishment” chair Justice Lowell Goddard in her evidence to the Commons home affairs select committee and Graham Wilmer,a former member of the panel, in a letter disclosed today on Exaro confirm this.
As Lowell Goddard said: “There are inherent risks in having people with personal experience of abuse as members of an impartial and independent panel.”
Frankly the row and bitter campaign by some organisations, l am afraid like the Survivors Alliance, against people appointed to the panel has ended in excluding survivors voices in the writing of the report. They have shot themselves in the foot.
They will obviously be some appointed to an advisory panel – but no one should kid themselves – that they will have the same influence as a member of the panel. It will be up to the judge to decide how often and how much they will be consulted but up to her and her QC adviser, Ben Emmerson, to decide what will appear in the report. A radical experiment in setting up an inquiry to deal with one of the nastiest and most persistent blots in British public life – the exploitation of children by paedophiles – has been killed with the help of the very people who suffered that fate.
As Graham Wilmer wrote: “I wanted to inform you that I will not be making any application to be part of the new Goddard inquiry, either as a panel member or as part of any survivors’ advisory group, in whatever form that may take.
“My reasons are these: firstly, I am led to understand that the new panel will not include any survivors, so making an application would be pointless in any case.”
He also blames what he describes as “the clarion voices” of people who falsely claim to represent those who suffered sexual abuse in their childhood, “and the aggressive and abusive tactics of the lone-wolf campaigners, together with the questionable motives of some lawyers and others who claim to represent the interests of survivors.”
There will still be people appointed to the panel but it is now clear they will be professional experts none of whom have had any experience of child sexual abuse themselves.
In my view this a very great shame – it was very difficult to achieve. But survivors will be able to speak to the inquiry and also to the new People’s Tribunal now in the process of being set which has survivors on its steering committee.