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The statement by Alexis Jay, the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, should be welcomed as an important step in the right direction.
It makes it very clear to the naysayers – from Harvey Proctor to The Sun newspaper – that the inquiry is not to be wound up and will continue and examine events covered up in the past. She could not be clearer.
“I disagree with those who say we should not consider what happened in the past. This is a necessary part of our work. Lessons have to be learnt from institutional failures and any cover-ups which have come to light, and only in this way can we look to the future with confidence. I have to say that I regard calls for us to forget the past with a high degree of scepticism, not least because some institutions may have the most to hide and a vested interest in not turning a spotlight on what happened in the past.”
She also believes the terms of reference are deliverable possibly within five years by 2020. So it will not drag its feet for over a decade.
But for me the most interesting part of her statement – and why it is particularly important – is the context she lays down for the future of the inquiry She is moving away from a heavily legally dominated inquiry which would have dramatic hearings – which lawyers love – to a more rounded approach that it should have had in the first place.
This paragraph is the crucial one:
We need a clear focus on the truly big changes required across institutions in England and Wales. This ensures that our findings and recommendations are widely relevant and that no institution can avoid the reach of this Inquiry. To do this, we will align the elements of this Inquiry across four major themes:
a. Cultural – examining the attitudes, behaviours and values within institutions which prevent us from stopping child sexual abuse;
b. Structural – examining the legislative, governance and organisational frameworks in place, both within and between institutions;
c. Financial – examining the financial, funding and resource arrangements for relevant institutions and services; and
d. Professional and political – examining the leadership, professional and practice issues for those working or volunteering in relevant institutions.
To my mind this is providing a structure for future investigations and putting a much greater emphasis on changing how society views child sexual abuse and how we are going to fund a much better service to help survivors and become aware of what a big problem child sexual abuse is in this country.
This comes as Simon Bailey, Norfolk’s chief constable who is co-ordinating current police investigations through Operation Hydrant, has said that as a conservative figure there are 100,000 people viewing child sexual abuse images in England and Wales. If that is not a wake up call to the scale of the problem what is.
It also chimes in with the admission from Margaret Hodge in her book Called to Account on how naive she was in the 1980s not believing that Islington child sexual abuse was rife because her officials and the police told her it was not true. She admits her biggest failing was not to talk to the victims and survivors at the time.
Why I say the job is half done – is that we do not know whether all the individual inquiries – from Greville Janner to Westminster and the Church of England will go ahead as planned.
Given following Ben Emmerson’s resignation she has no counsel to the inquiry that is not surprising. But I would suspect that these inquiries will have to be narrowed in scope to prevent the process being overwhelmed. It will require some very judicial decision making to decide which cases will need to be emphasised.
However survivors like Andi Lavery are totally wrong headed to call for her resignation. He does not represent the views of all survivors and it is not even clear whether he has even consulted them before demanding such action.
Her appointment has taken the direction of the inquiry away from just a series of legal type trials to a proper, well rounded scrutiny of the toxic issue of child sexual abuse. And her role should be welcomed not denigrated.
The tide is turning against the vile trolls who have worked so hard to undermine the IICSA. The abuse they have metered out to survivors, their families and survivor support services like the Lantern Project, Reflections UK, Voicing CSA and everyone else who dared to challenge their twisted, narcissistic behaviour, has caused much distress to many. But we are stronger than they are and they will be exposed for the harm they have caused.
I just hope that we can have an enquiry that is not hampered by powerful forces in the Establishment or hijacked by individuals with their own agenda. Also I hope the enquiry looks at the many possible linkages between the cases. During my own research I came to the conclusion that they was and probably still is a vast network throughout the British Isles.
The Prime-minster was correct when she stated People in Britain do not yet “appreciate the true scale” of child sexual exploitation that runs through society “like a stick of Blackpool rock”,
A group of men in their 60;s & 70’s where discussing the subject a while back and over half said that they experienced some form of inappropriate behaviour from a teacher or teachers. What was more worrying was that they had all attended different schools and in different education authorities. Not a surprise its been brushed under the carpet for so many years.
David, in addition to having your blind eye still turned to Corbyn’s role in Islington (the MP who didn’t bark in the night or in the day or over the decades), you’re now offering yourself as mouthpiece for Hodge’s self-serving inversion of the truth. Hodge chose to ignore the truth when she was told it by Islington social workers. If somebody’s warned you off Islington, then be up front about it. If not, then get the truth out of Hodge and get her to tell you when she’s going to get round to a proper apology to Liz Davies and the other Islington survivor and whistleblowers whose lives and careers she allowed to be blighted. You should not be colluding with her efforts to obscure the full truth of what happened.
I could not agree more, Corbyn’s role exposes him as what he is just another member of a private club who make laws to cover their own backs. As for Hodge & other Blairites, I just hope to live long enough to see them all exposed.
It’s not just lawyers who “love” dramatic hearings. Sometimes they provide the public with an insight into what lies underneath the stones or help two and two to make sense as well as four.
With her Rotherham investigation background, Alexis Jay has certainly seemed a more hopeful prospect as chair than her predecessors. But she’s not doing much better than them on the transparency front so far, judging by how much she has helped the public understand what has been going on. Like Drusilla Sharpling, Malcolm Evans and Ivor Franks, Alexis Jay was presumably retained in the post-Woolf clearout because she met the appproval of the man who was apparently running the show on the Home Office’s behalf, Ben Emmerson. Jay must not betray expectations by fuelling suspicions that the political establisment has decided that the public has no right to know what has been going wrong with the Inquiry, and why.
Jay’s “more rounded approach” and her clear focus on changes required may ensure that the Inquiry’s findings are relevant to the future, but for all her fine words about not ignoring the past, the “four major themes” of her statement oof reassurance are all focused on analysis, with no mention of the primary task of this (or any) Inquiry, which is fact-finding. Jay has offered a sort of explanation how the Inquiry is going to conclude its work by 2020 but she hasn’t given much indication how her new focus will impact on the task of determining the truth about the past.
And she doesn’t seem to be offering much by way of keeping the public informed of the progress of the Inquiry if public hearings are going to be an insignificant component of her work. Vaz got Woolf to agree to provide HASC with an interim report before March of last year. Jay in her graciousness will provide an interim report some time in 2018. She seems to be no more keen on full and frank communications than anyone else to do with the Inquiry has been so far.
Jay seemed to have the makings of a good chair of the Inquiry, it would be unforgivable if she was the next in line helping to frustrate it.
Yes take your point. That’s why I said the job was only half done because it is not clear how she is going to handle the specific strands alreday set up. From what i gather, despite denials, Ben Emmerson had his own way of doing things and I don’t think they necessarily agreed about her approach.
I don’t often find myself sharing Quentin Letts’s viewpoint but his accoount of the HASC hearing yesterday is pretty much to the point. The senior figures involved with this Inquiry more than any other shouldn’t be playing word games and obscuring issues. If they want to keep the public’s trust they need to be explaining as clearly and straightforwardly as possible what the Inquiry is doing, and that includes explaining the problems that have got in the way of it doing its job. Credit to Letts, and of course to Raymond Stevenson, for that insight into what was going on at the HoP yesterday. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3849732/If-Kiwi-Dame-tartar-not-say-QUENTIN-LETTS-asks-fears-Lowell-Goddard-raised-six-months-ago-done.html
One word that summed up the ‘performers’ yesterday – Lightweights.
I agree it feels like a positive progress but more tough decisions to make.
After Rotheram I wanted Alexis Jay on this one from the outset, but this is such a bigger and more challenging enquiry. I love that the (unconscious) `culture` of abusive institutions is being named as a core feature to identify, but being able to bring about changes will be a massive (very positive) project in its own right.
For those of us who work with abused survivors, we have seen and known about what’s happening for ever, and experienced decent people within abusive institutions blocking acknowledgement or support for survivors, Unfortunately the historical preference to consult lawyers and ex-civil servants over psychotherapists etc & survivors can just maintain the institutional status quo. At the moment i feel more positive.
In my blog I posted up the original documentation of when I informed the Neighbourhood Forum (local councillor Margaret Hodge) of my concerns about the sexual exploitation of Islington children. Its a poor copy (most documentation having been erased from history) but it is online:
Please do not add to the myths. As whistleblower and tireless campaigner for justice for the survivors, I and the Islington Survivor Network, deserve so much better from an investigative journalist. As have I said to you in person, I have experience of a far higher standard of journalism over the years and now expect the same from you. You have a following and a voice which brings with it serious responsibilities to represent the truth. It isn’t a game or a time for political posturing – it is about the pain and suffering of survivors and whistleblowers.
Margaret Hodge certainly has made various apologies over the years and has repeatedly stated that officers misinformed her. I was one of those officers but not at a senior level. I was working closely with police throughout – so exactly which police and senior officers lied to her? She says she wishes she had spoken with children and survivors – she could have spoken with me. I have asked her what she has done to make sure those senior officers in police and social services were reported to their professional regulatory bodies and I have had no reply. Has she sent their names to IICSA or the IPCC? If she was really serious about apologising she could assist Islington Survivors Network. We have no resources and many survivors are coming forward and alleged perpetrators being identified. Our main support comes from ShirleyOaksSurvivors – the ones evicted from the Home Affairs Committee yesterday when they spoke out. What an opportunity that was for everyone there to demonstrate on the moment their support for survivors and how that opportunity was sorely and tragically missed.
Liz I take your point. It sounds like she only talked to senior officials who either knew or didn’t want to know what was going on. It also sounds like she didn’t talk to other social workers or even community groups which you cite in her own borough.I plan to have a talk to her on a range of matters in the next few weeks so I will raise this with her and ask why she hasn’t done anything about it.
The day I realised that the panel inquiry I had been appointed to by Theresa May was dysfunctional was when Chief Constable Simon Bailey met with us. I am not allowed to tell you why, but what transpired at that meeting set in train a loss of trust that ended up with the fiasco we have today.
Very interesting Graham, but respect why you can’t tell me
Is not the fact that you cannot discuss things which clearly outrage you symptomatic of the cover up culture which has bedevilled CSA investigations for 50 years?
At one level the inquiry was pointless when it commenced as successive government have known what up and why but not all the detail of who did what and when, who was prosecuted who was not and why. The only aspect of the inquiry which continues to have validity is the truth project which appears to being set up professionally, unlike the People Tribunal, with local centres and professional support services. However having identified the individual needs of victims the present organisation and funding of health and social services, including income support is not only inadequate but likely to become worse.
It remains to be seen if the present Chairperson and expert panel are able to insist that that government provide the available documentation to enable them to make public with confidence the nature of the cover up and the involvements from the heads of the institutions through the hierarchical structures and to so in such a way which create the political climate in which the institutions will begin to make the fundamental changes which will a different.
It was evident to anyone with any knowledge of inquiries that the way the Hearing were organised was counterproductive, would take years, provide new fortunes for the lawyers involved and achieve noting. There is a major question still re the chair and the panel why it has taken over a year for changes to be made although we are yet to see what the changes will be and if they will make a difference. If not I am confident the Labour party, if not Parliament across political parties will agree to stop the money and say enough is enough.
I appreciate most people still do not understand the significance of the Gates Inquiry in this respect. The two female expert members on the panel together with female government adviser rebelled after the first day of hearings not because we had been told the core participants representing the in institutions had started with a pact not to attack in others and to concentrate on the neighbours and foster parents who had complained and plus whistleblowing senior police officer but because our appointed Counsel took the same line. Their threat to resign made the difference and because the panel members led the questioning and were skilled in doing so and made painstaking of the documentation available, despite main file having been removed and destroyed, it proved possible later to present the evidence for an alternative view of events to that which the lawyers representing the institutions persuaded the author of the Chairman’s report to present. I give one example of the 100 instances where had difference choices, better judgements be made the chid in question may have been alive to this day. A professional claimed to have returned to the family home to make a second visit. This was said at the hearing but a check of the actual record revealed different writing and initials. A second visit may have been made but not by the officer in question. As with Hillsborough even written records merit close attention. A new area Children’s Officer I read through the files of an officer who had left the authority before reallocating cases. One of these was well written but did not ring true so I made a visit and quickly found visits had not been made. In another situation . When investigating a various complaint as a Director of Social Services and demanded to see the files I was surprised how little information there was, so made further inquiries and was advised of the practice of keeping two sets of files.
On one hand Leveson appears to have been forced to adopt the Goddard approach of sidelining the expert panel because on that instance there was the threat of judicial review particularly because of the involvement of Baroness Chakrabarti . The inquiry refused to allow the Core Participants to directly question witness. However the sum total outcome of Leveson 1 to date is zero and government is yet to be forced to hold Leveson 2. The decision of the police to use the position as core participants at the 2nd Hillsborough Inquest to go for accusation and slur .They insulted the deadand abused their families. lengthened the inquiry and increased costs at public expense. It took decades of Tory and Labour governments covering up for the second inquest findings……. but justice in terms of the reforms to prevent the cover ups stopping which are to protect reputational damage, political and personal interest may never become a reality.