Child Abuse Inquiry Facing "Credibility Crisis', Labour Says

By Matthew Weaver
The Guardian
November 16, 2016

Aileen McColgan was leading the inquiry’s investigation into abuse in the Anglican and Catholic churches. Photograph: Handout

The troubled inquiry into historical child sexual abuse is facing a “crisis in credibility” according to Labour, after another senior lawyer resigned and two more threatened to do so.

Aileen McColgan, who was leading the inquiry’s investigation into abuse in the Anglican and Catholic churches, quit over concerns about the inquiry’s leadership, according to BBC Newsnight.

Two other barristers have told the inquiry of their desire to leave over similar concerns, the programme reported. An inquiry spokeswoman refused to comment on McColgan’s departure.

The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, called on Amber Rudd, her Tory counterpart, to “address this crisis of credibility” by explaining the inquiry’s problems to parliament.

“The victims of child sex abuse have put their faith in this inquiry. The very least they deserve is some openness from government and an explanation for what is going on,” she said.

Rudd said she still had confidence in the inquiry. Speaking at a policing conference in London on Wednesday, she added: “I saw the latest news on the inquiry today. I would say it is a matter for the inquiry. They are an independent inquiry so they will manage their own recruitment process.”

Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, called on the inquiry to be more transparent and said her committee would seek evidence from McColgan about why she quit.

Prof Alexis Jay became the fourth person to head the inquiry after Dame Lowell Goddard resigned amid criticisms of her leadership style. Photograph: PA

McColgan’s departure is the latest blow to the inquiry, which has been hit by a series of high-profile departures. The current chair, Prof Alexis Jay became the fourth person to lead the inquiry after the previous incumbent, Dame Lowell Goddard, resigned amid criticisms of her leadership style.

In September, the inquiry’s lead counsel, Ben Emmerson, resigned a day after he was suspended. Emmerson’s junior colleague, Elizabeth Prochaska, also stood down.

Cooper described the latest resignation as a “concern”. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, she said: “This is a really important inquiry into historical child abuse and it has had a very difficult two-year history so far. What we want is for it to get back on track. There are a lot of survivors depending on it to do a good job.

Yvette Cooper described the latest resignation as a ‘concern’. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

“We have contacted the other lawyers who have resigned and we have asked them for written evidence and I hope we will be able to do so with Aileen McColgan as well.”

Jay has completed a review of the inquiry’s work, but the findings have not been published. Cooper called on Jay to be more open about the inquiry’s problems.

“If we can have some transparency about the things that have gone wrong in the past then that will help us be confident that it is all back on track now,” she said.

“We are in a difficult interim position at the moment, because we know that there were a lot of problems under the previous chair. We don’t know what they were and she’s refused to give oral evidence to us.

“We have a gap now before the new chair has had the chance to set out the results of her review into the inquiry. Prof Jay did an extremely good job on the inquiry she did into Rotherham. and it is important that she should be able to set out her conclusions about how the inquiry should go forward.

“We are caught between those two with a lot of questions unanswered. What is unclear is how much this has been about legacy problems and personality issues … or whether there are ongoing problems for the future.”

Meanwhile, Andi Lavery of Catholic survivor group White Flowers Alba, who has core participant status at the inquiry, has called for Jay’s resignation.

In a letter to her, Lavery said: “If there is no accountability within the inquiry, how can those institutions who harmed us ever be held to account.

“You and your staff don’t even have a dialogue between us who know much about those institutions. The attitude displayed and behaviour exhibited towards us is appalling.”

An inquiry spokeswoman said: “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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