As five key inquiries proceed in to matters relating to child sexual abuse there is clearly potential for overlap and the need for organisations to prepare to be involved in more than one Inquiry. Equally some victims may wish to participate in more than one or a different Inquiry. A former resident of the Kincora boys home in Northern Ireland wanted just that.
He made a Judicial Review application to have the investigation into abuse at Kincora removed from the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) and transferred into the realm of the Independent Inquiry in to Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales. Kincora had been the focus of an Inquiry in 1985 as part of investigations into a number of homes in Northern Ireland but became the focus for media and social interest due to the suggestion of involvement of police and military intelligence and high profile figures.
The former resident argued that the potential involvement of security forces personnel and a potential state cover up of the activities in Kincora meant that the powers granted to the HIA were insufficient. The Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland expressed confidence in the HIA as the appropriate forum. However some local politicians including the former First Minister, Peter Robinson, expressed disappointment that Kincora would not come under the scope of the IICSA. This has not been accepted by the HIA which has already received information and documentation (although the full extent of the disclosure is not yet known.) However in January the HIA said that it had sought details from the UK Government of all files it held relating to Kincora.
Mister Justice Treacy refused the application as being premature. He felt that if the HIA, chaired by Sir Anthony Hart a highly respected retired High Court Judge, felt they did not have sufficient information or was not receiving proper co-operation the matter would be raised directly. In light of this ruling one former resident of Kincora (Roy Garland) publicly stated that he will not give evidence to the HIA as he has no faith it will reach the truth. Another key witness, former Army Captain Colin Wallace, who attempted to expose the scandal in 1974, has also said he will not testify. Other former residents are also reluctant to come forward. An appeal against the ruling was heard last week and judgement should be available reasonably quickly to allow the HIA to proceed within the statutory timetable set. There certainly would seem to be a potential overlap between the work of the HIA and the focus of the IICSA on people of prominence in public life and the armed forces.
The complex interlink of emotions, memory and desired outcomes are exemplified here and the need for justice to be seen to be done is central in all the Inquiries. This would seem unlikely to be the only time when there are challenges as to which Inquiry is considered the appropriate forum to investigate abuse or where there will be more than one Inquiry considering the same matters albeit from different angles. The proximity of Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales means survivors and abusers may have moved freely between those jurisdictions and the limited flow of information between institutions as well as organisations within the public and private sectors means the potential for abuse across jurisdictions is a significant concern.
It is of course not just specific event/organisation inquiries where there is overlap, that is clearly also the case in some of the thematic investigations. Hence the IICSA announced overseas investigation has the potential for consideration of matters already revised by other inquiries, such as the child migration module in the HIA; and the lengthy report prepared by the Royal Commission in to civil litigation and redress (which itself draws heavily on the practices and outcomes of the Irish Residential Institutions Redress Board) must be a matter for consideration by the Accountability and Reparations Investigation. We have already seen the stance which the Scottish Government looks likely to take with regard to limitation and that will inevitably have implications for other jurisdictions.
With offices in all jurisdictions we will match up the details and keep you informed of overlaps in the evidence, institutions, Inquiries and parties.
A further blog will follow as soon as the judgment in Kincora is available.
Written by Fintan Canavan, partner