Woman 'groped by top QC at child abuse probe HQ': Father of victim reveals she is distraught following the scandal and says 'For this to happen there of all places is astonishing'

By Rebecca Camber And Stephen Wright
Daily Mail
November 20, 2016

Ben Emmerson (pictured) is facing an investigation by his own law firm into claims that he groped the woman

His lawyers say that Mr Emmerson (pictured) 'categorically denies' the claim he groped the woman

The woman allegedly sexually assaulted at the headquarters of the child abuse inquiry by its top lawyer has been left distraught by the scandal, her father has revealed.

He said it had taken a huge toll on his daughter, threatening her future and financial security after the inquiry refused to investigate her allegations.

'She has had a brilliant job and this has been a real strain on her, financially too,' he added. 'My daughter will come out of this with honour.'

Ben Emmerson, QC, lead counsel to the inquiry, is facing an investigation by his own law firm into claims that he groped the woman at the office of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). His lawyers say he 'categorically denies' the claim.

Now his alleged victim's father has made a dramatic intervention in the controversy that threatens to derail the £100million probe.

Speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail, he said: 'She has been very upset by this. She was down this weekend and she was quite depressed by it.

'We as a family have found it deeply unsettling. I just hope this does not damage her future. I do not know what this inquiry [by Mr Emmerson's chambers] is going to conclude. But for this happen at a child abuse inquiry is astonishing.'

He suggested the bungled handling of the incident by the inquiry had alarmed other female staff and prompted the resignation last week of Aileen McColgan, a law professor who was leading the investigation into Anglican and Catholic Church abuse. She is the seventh lawyer to quit the probe.

The father of the alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, added: 'I do not know Mr Emmerson, who I have heard is a very distinguished lawyer. I think he has troubles.'

He spoke out as Mr Emmerson was pictured for the first time since the scandal erupted – and with the public inquiry's latest chairman Professor Alexis Jay set to come under intense pressure to step down. According to reports, Professor Jay, the inquiry's fourth chairman, is to be hit by damaging claims by barristers who have left the inquiry that she was aware there was a culture of bullying, harassment and even allegations of a sexual assault but did not take action – and also tried to cover it up.

Four former lawyers at the IICSA have written to MPs on the Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee to detail their concerns.

Their letters could be published tomorrow, delivering a potentially fatal blow to Professor Jay's chances of survival and casting further doubt on whether the inquiry can continue in its current format.

According to reports the letters – from Hugh Davies QC, Elizabeth Prochaska, Toby Fisher and Professor McColgan – will expose the extraordinary discord at the inquiry's headquarters in Millbank, Central London, over the past year.

Top human rights barrister Mr Emmerson had not been seen in public since it was reported last month that he pushed a female work colleague against the side of a lift wall. He was allowed to quit shortly afterwards on September 29, just 24 hours after being suspended by the inquiry over concerns about his 'leadership'.

Pictured in recent days, Mr Emmerson was virtually unrecognisable as the well-heeled barrister who counts George and Amal Clooney among his close friends

The divorced father of four cut a forlorn figure as he ventured out in Hampstead, North London, walking along the street in sandals, jeans and clutching a packet of cigarettes. Despite his scruffy appearance, the barrister, who was on £400,000 a year, has been paid £1,700 a day after being allowed to carry on working for the inquiry at home. He has earned around £55,000 for a handover. He has refused to speak publicly but his lawyers have said: 'Mr Emmerson categorically denies any allegation of sexual assault or bullying or any other misconduct at the inquiry. Any such allegations are completely false'.

A spokesman for the inquiry said it would 'not be appropriate' to comment on the lawyers' letters which have been sent to MPs. A spokesman has also said: 'It is not true that an inquiry worker made a complaint of sexual assault to the chairman, or to the panel, or to an official.'


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