The main development in the Inquiry obviously came yesterday (4th August 2016) with the resignation of its Chair, Dame Lowell Goddard.

This follows a number of preliminary hearings last week in relation to the investigations currently underway. The then-Chair of the Inquiry took the opportunity to restate the importance of the Inquiry and to provide an update on its progress to date. The preliminary hearing in respect of the Inquiry’s investigation into children outside the UK provided a good indication of the course that specific investigation was intended to take in the short and long term. One of the themes emerging across the investigations so far is accountability and reparation for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.

The Inquiry has now been established for well over a year and had been making steady progress in relation to its three projects and 13 investigations. The now ex-Chair indicated that the Inquiry will publish periodic updates. In particular, as it concludes its work on each of the 13 initial investigations, she said that the Inquiry would issue a report on its findings to include “tangible and achievable recommendations”, with the aim of the Inquiry process itself acting as an engine for driving accountability and change within the sector.

The Inquiry committed to using a number of different methods for investigation, including issues papers. It published the first two of these yesterday, 4th August, which sought views on the adequacy of criminal compensation and the appropriateness of the civil justice system as means of achieving accountability and reparation for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. The Inquiry has said that it would follow the consultation process with public seminars at which key issues can be discussed. The Inquiry also proposed a seminar in relation to mandatory reporting of suspicions of child sexual abuse (an initial proposal in relation to which is the subject of a current Home Office consultation, which BWB will cover in a future publication).

In terms of the investigation into children outside the UK, the Inquiry decided to divide this broad topic into a number of case studies, the first of which concerns the sexual abuse of children subject to compulsory child migration programmes. The Inquiry said that it planned to look at whether government departments, public authorities, private and charitable institutions based in England and Wales took sufficient care to protect child migrants and whether adequate support and reparation has been offered where they had not. As part of this, currently scheduled for February 2017, it will hear evidence from factual and expert witnesses concerning the history and context of child migration, as well as statements from a small number of victims and survivors. Evidence from institutions involved in the selection and sending of migrant children is also planned. It is worth noting that, as this only forms part of the investigation into children outside of the UK, the Inquiry is mindful that it must work efficiently and proportionately, so that it has sufficient time and resources to devote to future case studies.

The impact of the Chair's resignation yesterday on this position remains to be seen. Although we are told by Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, that the Inquiry will continue without delay, we query whether the new Chair, once appointed, will continue as planned under their predecessor. 

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Posted on 05/08/2016 in Legal Updates

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