As we approach six years since Teresa May first announced an inquiry into child sexual abuse we consider in a series of blogs the work undertaken to date and what is yet to be achieved by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). We consider the work of the Truth project, research published, investigations and reports. Today consideration is made of some practicalities
An otherwise unexpected achievement of IICSA has been to hold its first virtual hearing and in so doing possibly pave the way for further statutory inquiries to proceed at least in part using such a virtual approach. As the UK headed in to lockdown, IICSA should have been in the middle of a two week hearing in to Religious Organisations and Settings. The hearing had already been halted and the issue was then whether to delay resumption indefinitely to a time when a face to face hearing was possible or to try a virtual hearing. With no doubt much behind the scenes work and IT organisation the hearing was able to proceed and many witnesses were still able to give their evidence via Zoom. Some witnesses unable to participate will do so in August but it has meant that some progress has been made rather than there being a lengthy delay. For many witnesses who would otherwise have had to travel to London to give their evidence, it is likely to have resulted in more efficient use of their time.
Up to 31 March 2020 IICSA’s direct expenditure was just over £136 million. That represents the costs of staffing, legal, estates etc. It does not include the costs incurred by those organisations which have engaged with the investigations.
IICSA not only looks back to what has happened in the past but makes recommendations most crucially about the improvement of safeguarding in the future. However ,it is limited in the steps it can take to ensure implementation of its recommendations. One way it is seeking to do this is by the launch of the Recommendation page on its website. Here it is possible on an investigation by investigation basis to see what steps have been taken since recommendations were made. These include:
- a range of apologies and making available of documentation by organisations involved in child migration;
- changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority rules including to the same-roof rule;
- development by NHS England of chaperone guidance for healthcare services;
- ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse; and
- development of a compliance framework for the Victims’ Code.
The Recommendations page also details the many other recommendations made in respect of which a response is currently being progressed or awaited.
Paula Jefferson, Partner, BLM