Shambolic child abuse inquiry is failing in its most important role

The Guardian


Sandra Laville
Thursday 29 September 2016

Trust and confidence are the two things stripped away from children who are sexually abused by adults, often for life. As adults themselves, many describe how they struggle and fail to trust anyone, particularly authority figures who wield power in institutions.

The one thing, perhaps the primary requirement, of a national public inquiry into the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children over decades within England and Wales, was to seek their trust and gain their confidence.

Yet in the last few months the shambolic goings on at the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) – the sudden departure of another chair, the manoeuvrings in secret over its remit, the future of the project to gather the testimonies of victims and the suspension late on Wednesday night of its lead counsel Ben Emmerson – may have dealt a fatal blow to those aims.

Secrecy and a lack of transparency have encroached upon the inquiry, sitting in its Millbank offices looking out over the seat of power. And – according to those with knowledge of the inquiry process – driving in the background throughout has been the silent hand of Home Office apparatchiks, who remain behind the scenes, as the shambles unfolds. When heads fall – three chairs, members of the senior counsel team and now potentially Emmerson – the bureaucrats from the Home Office and government remain in place. No wonder some victims laugh at the idea it is independent.

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