In October 2014 a claim for judicial review was issued which challenged the format, leadership and structure of the child sexual abuse enquiry. This continues despite the recent reporting of potential government concessions.
Instructed by survivor Joanne Heath, TV Edwards solicitors and Garden Court Chambers are proceeding with this challenge to ensure that the Inquiry has the confidence of survivors. Only through a lawful, transparent and rigorous process can real change be effected in the manner with which both statutory and non-statutory bodies working with children protect them from harm.
Following the issue of judicial review proceedings, Mrs Fiona Woolf stood down as Chair of the Inquiry panel. Thus far she has not been replaced. Without a Chair there have been on-going difficulties with conflicts between panel members, allegations of bullying and worse, the publication of personal confidential information relating to survivors.
However disastrous the course of the enquiry has been over the past few months, survivors remain committed to unity in their campaign to secure an Inquiry which is fit for purpose. The meeting organised by the White Flower group at the House of Commons on 14 January demonstrated the strength in unity and the determination of survivors to obtain justice.
The judicial review is aimed at the concern that the Inquiry, as currently set up by the Secretary of State, does not and will not provide an adequate or proper means of investigating the systemic failures that have led to such persistent and widespread abuse and exploitation of children. It is of paramount importance that the government is held to account to ensure that the Inquiry is not prejudiced by the previous lack of transparency and consultation in the recruitment of the Chair and panel members.
It is vital that this Inquiry which the Secretary of State has described as "once in a lifetime opportunity" is set up in the form of a Statutory Inquiry with proper consultation with survivors and their representative organisations on the selection of panel members, the terms of reference, and it's powers and scope.
The government has now been presented with a significant opportunity to ensure that this Inquiry is set up on a sound footing so that survivors can have full confidence in the outcome. Although the government has signalled that changes are to come, there has as yet been no concrete or transparent proposal for a systematic investigation and analysis of the role that each statutory and non-statutory body has had in being complicit in or contributed to systemic failures to protect children from child sexual abuse and exploitation. The Inquiry needs to be armed with proper investigative powers so that finally there is a proper understanding of the failures of the past, that there are lessons learnt and effective remedies are put in place to protect children and survivors in the future.
The issue is not about following a precedent of how other Inquiries have worked in the past. Those Inquiries have not resolved the problem still faced by children and survivor's today. This Inquiry is unique and the solution as to how this Inquiry operates should be bespoke. The government has it in its power to set up an Inquiry which is fit for purpose in its powers, its members and it's terms of reference and should do so without further delay.
Anyone interested in contributing to the consultation on the above documents, should contact Jane Pritchard using the details below.
Solicitor, Partner, Head of Housing, Public Law and Community Care
TV Edwards LLP
DDI: 0203 440 8202
Mob: 07786 151166