Child abuse inquiry counsel questioned by MPs: Politics Live blog

The Guardian

Andrew Sparrow
Monday 26 January 2015

Afternoon summary

Ben Emmerson QC, counsel to the child abuse inquiry, has told MPs that the panel conducting the inquiry needs to be disbanded. Giving evidence to the Commons home affairs committee, he said:

I am as counsel to the inquiry in a position to express an opinion on whether the current arrangements continue to be tenable, and I don’t think they do.

And he suggested that he strongly expects Theresa May, the home secretary, to disband the panel and to announce a new inquiry, with statutory powers. All members of the panel, apart from one, would make suitable candidates to serve on the new panel, he said. But Sharon Evans should be dropped, he suggested.

Emmerson said that Evans had caused “a great deal of damage” to the inquiry by leaking information and by speaking to the media without approval. She was in breach of her duty of confidentiality, he said, and had made misleading statements that had an impact on the work of the inquiry. He even said that, in some areas, Evans could not tell the difference between truth and error. And he claimed she had “done no service to the survivor community”.

It may be that in some areas Mrs Evans finds it difficult to distinguish between an accurate statement and an inaccurate one …

Her conduct has been a massive distraction and has caused a great deal of damage in the final stages of this interim inquiry …

My professional assessment is that the conduct of Mrs Evans in releasing this information has effectively rendered it impossible for the panel to have full confidential discussions with one another, and has therefore brought about a situation where it’s simply not possible for it to operate in full.

And I would say this; in doing so, while I understand that she is herself a survivor, she has done no service to the survivor community.

An internal Home Office report has been released showing the Home Office did decide that Evans had breached confidentiality. The home affairs committee published it on its website. In it Mary Calam, a Home Office director general, told Evans:

Such breaches of confidentiality are extremely serious. They must inevitably undermine the trust of Panel members in each other and therefore the ability of the Panel to operate effectively. They also undermine the confidence of survivors and others who engage with the Panel on the basis that information they provide and discussions they have with Panel members will remain confidential.

Calam also said that Emmerons had not bullied Evans, although Calam said he accepted Evans found his conduct “very distressing”.

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