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Theresa May Insists She Has "Absolute Confidence" in Child Abuse Inquiry Chair Hours before Its Probe into Lord Janner Allegations Is Delayed Due to Ongoing Police Investigations

By Rebecca Camber
Daily Mail
November 16, 2016

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3940964/Child-abuse-inquiry-plunges-chaos-senior-lawyer-quits-two-barristers-poised-leave.html

Theresa May insisted she still has 'absolute confidence' in the chair of the troubled child abuse inquiry chair hours before it announced it was delaying its probe of allegations against Lord Janner because of ongoing police investigations.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said it had postponed hearings relating to the late Labour peer to allow separate investigations by the police and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to take place.

A spokeswoman for the inquiry said they had taken the decision to delay its investigations into Lord Janner, who is alleged to have abuse youngsters over a period spanning more than 30 years, to 'avoid potential issues around witness overlap'.

But the spokeswoman insisted: 'We are still absolutely committed to holding oral hearings on this investigation.'

The latest roadblock to the inquiry came after the Prime Minister was again forced to defend Professor Jay, the fourth person to head up Britain's biggest public inquiry.

Last night Professor Aileen McColgan became the seventh lawyer to quit the panel amid serious concerns about the competency of Professor Jay.

Trouble: Professor Aileen McColgan (left) has quit the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse amid serious concerns about the competency of its fourth chair, Professor Alexis Jay, pictured right

Trouble: Professor Aileen McColgan (left) has quit the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse amid serious concerns about the competency of its fourth chair, Professor Alexis Jay, pictured right

The departure of Professor Aileen McColgan, a law professor at Kings College London, dealt another major blow to the inquiry due to her experience of leading inquiries into child abuse in the Anglican and Catholic Church.

The IICSA was set up 18 months ago to investigate claims of historical child sexual abuse in top institutions.

Another two barristers are also poised to quit after telling the inquiry that they have no desire to work there any more, BBC Newsnight reported last night.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy told Mrs May at Prime Minister's Questions today there are 'further serious allegations' from other panel members that have not been investigated and asked to know why she was still standing by Professor Jay.

But Mrs May replied: 'We owe it to the survivors and victims for the inquiry to continue and I have to say having seen the work that Professor Alexis Jay has done in the Rotherham inquiry that she undertook I have absolute confidence in her ability to undertake this inquiry.'

Lord Janner died aged 87 last December. The allegations against him - which date back to the 1950s - were due to be examined at hearings of the public inquiry.

Theresa May, pictured at today's Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, insisted she still has 'absolute confidence' in the chair of the troubled child abuse inquiry chair despite another senior law quitting last night

Announcing the delay in the probe against his alleged offences, a spokeswoman for the IICSA said: 'The Inquiry's hearing into the institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse against the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC has been delayed.

'This is in order to allow the ongoing police and IPCC investigations to continue so that we can avoid potential issues around witness overlap.

'We are still absolutely committed to holding oral hearings on this investigation.'

Richard Scorer, head of abuse at Slater and Gordon, which represents a number of Lord Janner's alleged victims, called for 'swift clarification' on when the inquiry hearings will begin.

He said: 'Further delays to the inquiry are extremely disappointing for alleged victims who have already had to wait decades for justice.

'We understand the legal reasons for the delay, given the ongoing police investigations, but the survivors need swift clarification on when the inquiry hearings will begin.

'We are however pleased that we have received a formal written assurance from the Inquiry today that there will be oral hearings in the Janner module, and that all core participants will be fully consulted should the inquiry be minded to make any changes to the format of its investigation.'

The fresh blow for the crisis-hit probe comes after the Mail revealed three weeks ago that a number of lawyers were considering their position following bombshell claims that the inquiry counsel, Ben Emmerson, QC, sexually assaulted a female member of staff in a lift at the inquiry headquarters in September, which he denies.

Mr Emmerson, who quit on September 29 after being suspended over concerns about his 'leadership', is now facing an investigation by his own chambers, Matrix which he is a founding member of.

According to BBC Newsnight, Professor McColgan had concerns over the competency of the inquiry's leadership and the way it had previously responded to the resignation of lawyers.

The leading female human rights barrister is at the same chambers as Mr Emmerson, who has been completing handover work from home since he dramatically quit.

The latest departure will pile pressure on Professor Jay who is already facing claims of a cover-up after a source close to the inquiry told the Mail that the inquiry leadership knew of alleged sexual assault, even though the victim did not make an official complaint.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy, pictured standing in the Commons, told Mrs May at Prime Minister's Questions today there are 'further serious allegations' from other panel members that have not been investigated and asked to know why she was still standing by Professor Jay

Professor Jay has incurred the wrath of MPs for refusing to answer questions about Mr Emmerson's departure and that of her predecessor, Dame Lowell Goddard, who has been separately accused of racist remarks when she was chair, which she denies.

Since the inquiry was established in March last year, more than 30 members of staff have left - around 1 in 6 of the 183 staff employed.

Last night Labour MP Lisa Nandy said: 'The loss of so many senior members of the inquiry over a short space of time should sound alarm bells for government.

'It really is time that there is some oversight and accountability of this inquiry which is too important to fail.'

She told the BBC: 'We have had a whole series of ministers and civil servants and members of the inquiry panel telling us that the inquiry is back on track and yet repeatedly we learn that there are still issues with the inquiry and it is no wonder that a number of survivors don't have confidence that the inquiry can succeed.'

Andrew Lavery of survivors group Whiteflowers Alba said: 'Professor Jay has to go. Lawyers are walking away in drives as this is a mockery of justice.'

Last night an inquiry spokesman refused to discuss the latest resignation, saying: 'We have a large legal team comprising a number of junior counsel, senior counsel and solicitors. They come and go subject to their professional obligations and we are not commenting on specifics. '

 

 

 

 

 




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