The judicial review claim issued in October 2014 challenging the format, leadership and structure of the child sex abuse inquiry, continues despite the recent reporting of potential government concessions.
Instructed by survivor Joanne Heath, TV Edwards Solicitors and Garden Court Chambers are proceeding with the challenge to ensure the inquiry has the confidence of the survivors, so that through a lawful transparent and rigorous process, can demonstrate outcomes and action points to effect real change in the manner in which both statutory and non-statutory bodies working with children can appropriately protect them those in their care.
Following the issuing of judicial review proceedings, Mrs Fiona Woolf stood down as Chair of the inquiry panel and thus far has not been replaced. Whilst the legal case included a challenge to Mrs Woolf’s appointment, it was only one of the grounds of challenge. The claim was and continues to be concerned that the inquiry set up by the Secretary of State does not and will not provide an adequate and proper means for investigating the extent and nature of systems failure that led to such persistent and widespread abuse and exploitation of children. Following on from the earlier appointment and resignation of Baroness Butler Sloss as Chair, it is paramount that the government are held to account to ensure the future of the inquiry is not prejudiced by the previous lack of transparency in the recruitment process for the Chair.
Transparency in the set up of what must be a statutory inquiry, proper consultation with survivors and their representative organisations, on the selection of the panel members, the terms of reference, powers and scope of the inquiry are all essential. The government has now been presented with a significant opportunity for the government to ensure the future of the inquiry is on sound footing, survivors must have full confidence in the outcome. Although the government has signalled that changes are to come, there has to date been no concrete and transparent proposals for an inquiry which sets out a systematic way of investigating and analysing the role each statutory and non-statutory body was complicit and/ or contributed to systemic failures in child protection. Any such inquiry needs to be armed with proper investigative powers so that the effective and real outcomes and lessons can be learned.
Jane Pritchard of TV Edwards Solicitors stated:
Ms Heath in bringing this claim, like so many survivors of child abuse, is immensely brave and committed to effecting change. For her it is about ensuring the government works together with survivors to expose the current and historic failings in the various public and non public bodies.
A solid inquiry panel, without compromise in its formation, which has all the necessary powers to provide not just answers but actions, will have the confidence of survivors"
The court must now consider whether to grant permission for the claim to continue in the New Year following the submission of amended grounds.