Can the child abuse inquiry retain the integrity it needs to survive?

The Conversation

Donna Peach
Lecturer in Social Work, University of Salford

When the then home secretary Theresa May commissioned the enormously ambitious Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in July 2014, victims and survivors of abuse had reason to hope that justice would be served. For decades, the sexual abuse of children in England and Wales was ignored or hidden and, some would argue, perpetuated by institutions meant to protect them. To many survivors, the inquiry is a chance to make good at last.

Investigating decades of alleged child sexual abuse, taking in a number of large institutions and potentially thousands of victims is an enormous task. Nobody can have thought it would be be easy – but the road so far seems rockier than anyone anticipated.

The inquiry is now under the stewardship of its fourth chair, Professor Alexis Jay. Over the years it has been dogged by resignations, acrimony and reports of misconduct by senior figures. Allegations of racism were reportedly levelled against its former chair, Dame Lowell Goddard, who is now refusing to testify to the committee about her resignation. There are also reports of an allegation of sexual assault against Ben Emmerson QC, who also resigned from the inquiry’s team. Both Goddard and Emmerson categorically deny the allegations against them.

Now it faces a new crisis: one of the major survivor groups involved, the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) has withdrawn its participation in what it termed a “contrived investigation”.

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