The IICSA has moved quickly in the last few months to begin its substantive work. At the end of November it announced its initial 12 investigations and most recently it has added the thirteenth investigation, the resumption of its previously announced investigation in connection with Lord Janner. What should be made clear is that these are just the initial investigations and further investigations will be announced. Within these investigations, some specific case studies have been identified, for example the Benedictine Community within the Roman Catholic investigation and the Diocese of Chichester within the Anglican investigation. They will not however be the only case studies within those investigations. More will follow through the life of the IICSA, which is currently for at least another four and a half years.
Invitations for those organisations wishing to apply for core participant status in connection with the Anglican, Rochdale and Lambeth investigations have now been made. Applications should be submitted by 5 February. The application process for the Lord Janner investigation will open on 25 January with responses required by 22 February. Organisations cited which are of relevance to this investigation are Leicestershire County Council, the Labour Party, law enforcement bodies, government departments, the security and intelligence agencies. There will also be consideration of the Kirkwood Report.
The first preliminary hearing will be on 9 March. That is in connection with the Janner investigation. The purpose of preliminary hearings is to consider procedural issues relating to the investigation in question including the timetable for public hearings at which evidence will be formally heard. Preliminary and public hearings will generally be open to the public. A decision has yet to be made as to whether there will be live broadcasting of the hearings. Transcripts will be available on the IICSA website a few hours after the end of each hearing.
There has been less focus upon the research projects which were also announced at the end of November. They fall in to the following groups:
Original research projects
- An analysis of the nature and prevalence of sexual abuse of children with disabilities and/or special needs
- An analysis of representations of children, victim and perpetrators in the media and the impact that has on the prevalence of child sexual abuse, public attitudes and institutional responses
- An analysis of the nature and prevalence of sexual abuse of children who are fostered or adopted, covering both private and local authority arrangements
Analysis of data from victims and survivors
- This will be an assessment of information provided to the Truth Project
Rapid evidence assessments to support the existing investigations
- This is to include assessments of existing evidence in connection with child sexual abuse in children’s homes, the Roman Catholic & Anglican churches, residential schools, children in custody and charitable investigations
- An assessment of the relationship between the viewing of indecent images of children via the internet and the risk of contact offending against children by those who view such images.
- An assessment of the lessons to be learned from jurisdictions outside England & Wales in relation to institutional responses to child sexual abuse. The statement of requirements for this assessment has now been published. It includes consideration of different models of co-operation, funding arrangements, information sharing, evaluation of interventions. It will, amongst other matters, specifically consider criminal and civil proceedings and the relationship between the two; no-fault insurance regimes; publicly available insurance registers; and structure and source of funding streams. This report is to be provided by the end of May 2016.
Rapid evidence assessments to inform future investigations
- Child sexual abuse in faith communities and religious institutions other than the Roman Catholic & Anglican churches
- Child sexual abuse in public, private and charitable health facilities
- The effectiveness of safeguarding procedures in non-residential schools
- The fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system in securing accountability for sexual offences and the extent to which existing procedures protect the rights and interests of those affected
These research projects are extensive and from them it is possible to begin to see some of the intentions for existing and future investigations. For example, the Accountability and Reparation investigation will no doubt be contributed to by the findings of the assessment about other jurisdictions and also from the consideration of accountability following criminal prosecutions for sexual offences. It is not entirely clear the extent to which it will be possible for external bodies to contribute to these research projects but organisations which do have relevant information may wish to consider how they can voluntarily co-operate and provide assistance to the IICSA.
The November announcement also detailed the regional offices which were to be opened. Liverpool has already been operating as a pilot and will be formally opened in April. Thereafter offices in Cardiff and Darlington will open in May 2016. The towns where the South West, Midlands and South East regional offices are to be based are yet to be announced but all will be open by autumn 2016. The evidence given by victims and survivors via the Truth Project is a key part of the overall work of the IICSA. To assist in this the IICSA has now published a tender for the procurement of an Inquiry Information Line, which will be the means by which victims and survivors can engage with the IICSA or request a meeting with the Truth Project. The current information line is receiving 40-80 calls per week and it is anticipated this will increase to 150-250 calls. The contractual period for the provision of this service is April 2016-April 2019 with an option to extend to December 2020. The indicative price for this service is £800-950,000 net. Applications are also now sought for Truth Project facilitators, who will facilitate and listen at the private meetings at which victims and survivors will be heard. They will be paid £400 per day for their work.
Cost and time are crucial issues for the IICSA to manage and in doing so seek to avoid public criticism, all too common with past unrelated inquiries. The intention of the IICSA remains clearly to have concluded and produced a report by the end of 2020. The progress over the past few months supports that intention. So much progress on so many fronts clearly means significant costs will be incurred. At the end of November the IICSA published a business update in which it noted it had as at the end of September spent just over £4.1m. That will have increased given all the additional output and progress since then. The IICSA has a budget of £17.9m for its first year. It is hard to think that the budget will be any less for each future year. There can be no doubt that the IICSA is doing all it can to ensure that this is a thorough exercise.
Meanwhile any organisation which has had or has any involvement through its work and employees with children should be undertaking a two pronged exercise:
- To consider its current approach to safeguarding and how that is and will continue to be embedded throughout its work thus ensuring the safety of children now and in the future
- To look back at its history, to consider how it and those it has had responsibility for have behaved, to accept that things may have gone wrong and to learn lessons from those errors
Completing that exercise should prepare any organisation for engagement with the IICSA.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner