IICSA Internal Review Avoids Key Questions


The Law Of... reviewing the work of abuse inquiry

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published an internal review into its work, claiming that there will be no reduction in the abuse inquiry's work.

Abuse inquiry will not face reduction in scope

Laying out a timeline for its work in 2017 and answering questions on the inquiry's scope, as well as addressing the investigation into the allegations of the late Lord Janner, the update has provided some form of direction to an inquiry besieged with delays since its inception in 2014.

Responding to the report, and explaining how the survivors might feel about the review, Peter Garsden – Head of Abuse Law at Simpson Millar – says that there were some key questions omitted from the review.

No Scale Back Of Scope

The first point of contention addressed by the internal review was the scope of the investigation, which was criticised as being too large to deliver results by former Chairwoman Dame Lowell Goddard.

Many commentators in the press have derided the inquiry's scope, pointing to a long timeframe and a potentially large bill for its planned tasks.

The review acknowledged that the inquiry has two key tasks, uncovering past institutional failures that led to abuse and making useful recommendations of tackling institutional abuse so that children do not suffer abuse in the future.

It did note that some rebalancing may take place so that it can focus sufficient attention on making recommendations on the future, as the inquiry's key focus should be protecting children moving forward, but this rebalancing does not surmount to a removal of investigations of historic abuse.

All of the current strands and processes already established will remain unchanged, as the Truth Project, research and analysis into historic abuse, and public hearings will continue to make up the central focus for the investigation's work.

The inquiry will continue its work on the 13 existing investigations that were outlined by Dame Goddard before her resignation earlier this year.

Lord Janner Investigation

Despite stating that all of the current strands of inquiry will continue, the inquiry did announce changes in the scope and timing of the public hearings into the responses of allegations of sexual abuse by the late Lord Janner of Braunstone.

Allegations of child abuse by Lord Janner – for which our Peter Garsden is representing a group action – first emerged back in 1991, however it was deemed that there was not enough evidence to proceed with a charge.

A second criminal charge was avoided in 2002, as the Crown Prosecution Service did not receive relevant documents and a third charge – brought in 2007 – did not result in conviction as it was again claimed that there was not enough evidence.

On the basis of overwhelming evidence, a charge was finally brought in 2015, however before his death late last year Lord Janner only appeared in court on one occasion and that was just to give his name so that the Magistrates' Court could refer the case to the Crown Court.

The IICSA took up the Lord Janner investigation in a bid to deliver justice to alleged victims, however it has already delayed one public hearing and it now seems that there will not be a hearing on Janner until 2018 and that there could be a move away from a finding of fact on the case.

Still No Lead Counsel

While the internal review did offer a clear schedule for four public hearings in 2017, as well as a number of seminars designed to gather information on child sexual abuse, there were some questions that were not addressed by the internal review.

Namely, there has still been no news on the plan to replace Lead Counsel Ben Emmerson, who resigned after he was suspended by the inquiry.

Of the internal review, Peter said:

"I welcome the initiative shown by the IICSA to review itself and make efforts to rebut criticism."

"On the one hand I am pleased at the announcement that four public hearings will be held next year, however on the other I am very disappointed that there may be no findings of fact in relation to the allegations against Lord Janner."

"I am also concerned that we still appear to be lacking a Lead Counsel to replace Ben Emmerson QC and hope that this lack of Lead Counsel will be addressed soon, so that the inquiry can push for momentum in 2017 and leave behind the troubles it has faced over the last two years."

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