Today the Home Affairs Committee heard oral evidence from the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary, and Mark Sedwill, Permanent Secretary, Home Office regarding the work of the Home Secretary. Dame Lowell Goddard who had been invited to attend did not and sent a memo (reported on yesterday) specifying her reasons for her resignation.
As Amber Rudd is due to attend before the Home Affairs Select Committee tomorrow and a memo from the former Chair is commented on in the press, the new Chair has made a statement announcing an internal review. However there is no change to terms of reference or the introduction of any new restrictions on the scope of the Inquiry.
Professor Jay has said hat she has initiated a wide-ranging internal review of the Inquiry’s ways of working and they are looking at different approaches to evaluating the information received. To date the Inquiry has received over 500,000 pages of evidence.
The full statement from Professor Jay can be accessed here.
Paula Jefferson, Partner
The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2016 / 2017 has been revealed on 6 September. Before June 2017, the Scottish Government intends to introduce the Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament. When making the announcement of the legislative programme upon this, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland said that the Bill “fulfils a recommendation from the Scottish Human Rights Commission.” She added “As the Human Rights Commission has pointed out, the three year limitation rule is not appropriate for child abuse” explaining that, “the reasons for victims not coming forward until later in life are entirely understandable.” She concluded by advising the Scottish Parliament that “This Bill will ensure that the justice system works better for victims of such terrible crimes.”
Written by Frank Hughes, Partner
As we reported on this blog on 28 July 2016, Lady Smith, a Scottish Judge since 2001 and, from 2011, a Scottish Appeal Court Judge, is the new Chair of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Unlike the English and Welsh Inquiry, the present remit of the Scottish Inquiry excludes non-State institutions. Hence, for instance, those alleging abuse in religious settings in the community, in contrast to State-provided care institutions, are not covered at present by the Scottish Inquiry.
Pressure is, though, building to extend the Scottish Inquiry’s scope. Alan Draper, spokesman for In Care Abuse Survivors (Incas) was reported, in the 31 August 2016 Herald newspaper, as saying that “we put forward (to the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney) a powerful argument about extending (the scope of the Scottish Inquiry).” He adds, though, that he is “not hopeful”.
After the media frenzy around the resignation and appointment of a new Chair, the IICSA is continuing its work as normal and has published many of the outstanding decisions from the July hearings. There has been a subtle change of emphasis as can be seen in some of the decisions and an attempt to clarify the scope and purpose of the Inquiry.
A new case study has been added to the Accountability & Reparations (A&R) Investigation bringing the total to five. This case study relates to Stanhope Castle Approved School. The rationale for consideration of this as a case study is that unlike the other cases studies, which will look at the adequacy of reparation obtained, this case study will consider what happens when there is no possibility of reparation. In association with the announcement of this case study the Stanhope Castle Survivors Group was granted core participant (CP) status.
We are all aware of the positive and negative uses of social media. Current Inquiries in to non-recent abuse are using social media as a way of making their work known to a wider audience. In fact, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse twitter page (@IICSA_media) has over 1200 followers and the hashtag #CSAInquiry is used widely by those commenting on the Inquiry.
However social media use has also resulted in online bullying and trolling with reports of young people driven to take their own lives due to comments and campaigns on such platforms as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Sexting and revenge porn posts, trolling, online blackmail and anonymous abusive posts are a new phenomenon not even contemplated a few years ago. Light hearted comments between friends, always intended to be private, can be hurtful to others who see them inadvertently.
Alexis Jay has been appointed as the new Chair of the IICSA. She is already a member of the Inquiry panel and is highly respected including for her work in connection with child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
As reported last night Dame Lowell Goddard has resigned from the IICSA. No formal reasons have been provided for her resignation. In a statement she has said that accepting the role “was ….. an incredibly difficult step to take, as it meant relinquishing my career in New Zealand and leaving behind my beloved family. The conduct of any public inquiry is not an easy task, let alone one of the magnitude of this. Compounding the many difficulties was its legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off and with hindsight it would have been better to have started completely afresh. While it has been a struggle in many respects, I am confident there have been achievements and some very real gains for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in getting their voices heard.”
Dame Goddard has resigned from the IICSA. More details will follow on the Abuse News Blog first thing tomorrow where we’ll provide further information about the resignation and what this could mean for the future of the Goddard Inquiry as Home Secretary Amber Rudd pledges that it will continue ‘without delay’.
Paula Jefferson, Partner