Child abuse inquiry is hit by ANOTHER crisis as two more victim groups say they've lost confidence in Professor Alexis Jay's leadership

By Matt Dathan
Daily Mail
November 20, 2016

Victim groups expressed concerns about Professor Alexis Jay, pictured, the fourth chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and have demanded an emergency meeting with the inquiry's panel to discuss their work

Chuka Umunna, a Home Affairs Committee member, has said he did not have confidence in Prof Jay as chair of the inquiry and wanted to see a judge appointed in her place

[with video]

The troubled inquiry into child sex abuse was hit by a fresh crisis today after two more victim groups said they had lost confidence in its leadership.

They expressed concerns about Professor Alexis Jay, the fourth chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and have demanded an emergency meeting with the inquiry's panel to discuss their work.

The Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) group said it wanted to 'to find out exactly where this is going, because none of us really know' as it said questioned Professor Jay's qualifications to lead the inquiry.

And the White Flowers Alba group, which also represents alleged victims of child abuse, warned that the crisis surrounding the inquiry was deterring key witnesses from speaking out.

It comes after the Shirley Oaks Suvivors' Association withdrew its support for the inquiry last week, issuing a damning statement condemning the probe for allowing the 'guilty to wash their dirty hands'.  

Phil Johnson from MACSAS told today's Sunday Times: 'I and others are concerned about Jay. I do not question her personal integrity but I do question her expertise.'

He added: 'We don't think she has the legal expertise or the robustness to be able to challenge people in a courtroom environment.'

Andi Lavery of White Flowers said: 'Jay will carry on doing the investigation when there are no witnesses that shows how ridiculous this is.'

'Who picked Jay? She is not a good choice to us but we didn't get asked. We want the inquiry to stop dead and be restructured like the one in Australia.'

Meanwhile the Government's solicitor general Robert Buckland has reportedly expressed concerns about a police investigation into alleged child abuse by the former prime minister Sir Edward Heath.

He is understood to regard the investigation by Wiltshire police - which has spent£674,472 over 16 months but found no evidence of wrongdoing by Sir Edward - as a costly 'fishing expedition,' according to the Sunday Times.  

The latest attack on Professor Jay and her crisis-hit inquiry came after she issued a staunch defence of her work yesterday.

She said some forces want to stop a light being shone on 'dark institutional failings' after a victims' group quit the probe, branding it an 'unpalatable circus'.

And vowed to push on with the IICSA after the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (Sosa) and Labour MP Chuka Umunna called for to quit.

Sosa delivered a blistering critique of IICSA - calling it a 'stage-managed event' which has 'lurched from crisis to crisis'.

But Prof Jay, writing in The Times, said: 'I have fought for this inquiry - for its independence, its reputation and its vital capacity to right a terrible wrong - since it opened, and I don't intend to stop fighting for it now.

'There are some people who would like to see us fail because it suits their agenda to not want dark institutional failings brought into the light.

'But shine that light we will, because there are many, many people in this country who spend every waking minute of every day living with the damage and the pain caused by child sexual abuse.'

Sosa, which represents victims affected by abuse at children's homes run by Lambeth Council in south London, said it feared Prof Jay is 'an uninspiring leader' who is not the right person to uncover the truth.

Downing Street and Home Secretary Amber Rudd have voiced their support and panel member Drusilla Sharpling said Prof Jay's work exposing prolonged abuse in Rotherham meant she had the expertise needed.

Sosa chairman Raymond Stevenson said members voted on Saturday that they no longer wanted to be part of the inquiry.

'The inquiry needs to sort itself out. They need to get rid of Alexis Jay, who's been parachuted in by the Home Office. She's not the right person,' he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna said he did not have confidence in Prof Jay as chair of the inquiry and wanted a judge of High Court level or above to replace her.

An inquiry spokesman said: 'Our investigation will continue and will examine the scale and nature of the abuse that may have taken place under the care of Lambeth Council with pace, confidence and clarity.'

The inquiry, first established by then home secretary Theresa May in 2014, has been fraught with problems and controversy.

Described as the most ambitious public inquiry ever launched in England and Wales, it is running several investigative strands spanning decades.

Following her resignation earlier this year, former chairwoman Dame Lowell Goddard said there was an 'inherent problem' in the inquiry's 'sheer scale and size'.


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