Victims’ Group Quits Abuse Inquiry Branding It an ‘unpalatable Circus’

By Kate Proctor
Evening Standard
November 18, 2016

Demanding action: Chuka Umunna MP said a High Court judge needed to lead the inquiry into child abuse and there was “no point carrying on with the wrong person in the job” PA

The independent inquiry into historical child sex abuse was thrown into further turmoil today when the largest victims’ group withdrew, branding it an “unpalatable circus”.

The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association, which represents 600 victims of alleged sexual abuse, said it has lost confidence in the inquiry’s leadership. The group’s withdrawal is yet another blow for the inquiry, which is on its fourth chairwoman in just two years and has seen a number of senior lawyers resign in recent months.

The group represents former residents of children’s homes run by Lambeth council who claim they were abused by paedophiles over several decades. It said it believed the inquiry was a “botch job” and chair Professor Alexis Jay was the wrong person to lead it. Its representative, Raymond Stephenson, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme the inquiry was “failing tragically” and “failing publicly”. He added: “They need to get rid of Alexis Jay, who has been parachuted in by the Home Office.

“She hasn’t done anything wrong, she’s just not the right person. We have to make a decision based on what we feel.”

Chuka Umunna MP, whose Streatham constituency has former Shirley Oaks’ residents, said: “I’ve very reluctantly come to the conclusion that we need a new chair of the inquiry.

“For a long time people have had concerns about the appointment of the current chair, whether they have the heft and forensic capacity to lead an inquiry of this type.

“A High Court judge needs to do this. That’s what the survivors want. There is no point carrying on with the wrong person in the job simply because we have already changed the person in that position several times.”

The Shirley Oaks case represents one of the 13 strands of the inquiry being investigated by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

Professor Jay is the inquiry’s fourth chair after New Zealand judge Dame Lowell Goddard quit during the summer. Further frustration arose for the Home Affairs Select Committee when she refused to give evidence in person about her decision to leave the post.

Professor Jay’s background as a social worker has not instilled confidence in the survivors, said Mr Umunna, and this issue has been “swept under the table”.

This week the Prime Minister said she had full confidence in the inquiry.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “The independent inquiry has a vital role to play in exposing the failure of public bodies and other major organisations to prevent child sexual abuse.

“We must learn the lessons of the past and we owe it to victims and survivors to get behind the inquiry, and its chair Alexis Jay, in its endeavour.








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