Former IICSA Chair Claims Inquiry Is Too Big To Uncover The Truth

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The Law Of... committing to historic sex abuse inquiries

After her shock resignation from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), Dame Lowell Goddard has claimed that the size of the inquiry raises questions about its manageability.

Dame Lowell Goddard Claims IICSA Is Too Big To Uncover Truth

Peter Garsden, Head of Abuse Law at Simpson Millar, explains how the Dame's candid comments are likely to be perceived by survivor groups who are relying on the IICSA to deliver justice, for some of which he is representing a group action.

"Inherent Problem In The Sheer Scale And Size"

The former-Chair's comments came in a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee, in which the New Zealand Judge recommended a complete review of the inquiry in its present form.

At the time of her resignation, Dame Goddard issued a statement claiming that the inquiry was plagued with a legacy of failure.

Her recent comments seem to be recommendations to the Select Committee, as she claimed that there is "an inherent problem in the sheer scale and size of the inquiry (which its budget does not match) and therefore in its manageability."

With the inquiry now on its fourth Chairwoman, Professor Alexis Jay – who successfully uncovered systematic failings in a duty of care that resulted in thousands of sexual assault cases in Rotherham – has the difficult task of building momentum for the inquiry.

Announced in 2014, the inquiry is still to accept a single submission of evidence from a survivor of abuse.

Pinning Hopes Of Justice On The IICSA

Despite the Dame's comments, the IICSA will continue with its ambitious investigations and Alexis Jay's experience is said to have given survivor groups fresh optimism about the future of the inquiry.

In a statement published after Dame Goddard's comments Professor Jay said:

"As I said when I was appointed, the Panel intends to ensure that the Inquiry undertakes its work with pace, confidence and clarity."

"I want to reassure victims and survivors that the panel will not be seeking any revision of the Inquiry’s terms of reference or introducing any new restrictions on its scope."

With the inquiry launching 13 investigations, holding 11 preliminary hearings, and receiving over 47,000 documents, progress has been made by the inquiry.

Responding to Dame Goddard's comments, Peter said:

"Thousands of survivors are hoping that this inquiry finally delivers them some sense of justice and to try undercutting and derailing the work of the inquiry now seems like a gross dereliction of duty."

"Admittedly, the inquiry is wide-ranging, however it is not without scope – the inquiry is merely investigating where institutional failings led to abuse, as opposed to every instance of historical abuse."

"If a person of influence held these views about the inquiry, then the right time to air their concerns would have been before the inquiry started, as it is then that the scope is agreed upon and survivors are consulted."

"There are a number of steps that could be taken if Professor Jay does decide to change the way the inquiry works, for example multiple Chairs could be appointed with each chair having their own area of responsibility."

"Similarly, Professor Jay could delegate the task of holding hearings to Courts and Tribunals across the country, which is a move that was taken by the Australian Commission of Inquiry."

"While victims may be disheartened and feel angry at the Dame's comments, Professor Jay's reassurances will go a long way and it is important to remember that there are a number of steps that could be taken that could mitigate the need to change the inquiry's scope, not least of all is an increase of resources."

"Following the former-Chair's advice and conducting a full review of the inquiry now would only delay the victim's access to justice and would contribute to the feeling of an establishment cover-up, which is causing a deep mistrust in the organisations that are supposed to be representing victims."

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