Survivors Welcome Scrapping Of Sex Abuse Panel
Survivors have welcomed reports, in a letter seen by Sky News, that Theresa May is planning to scrap the panel set up to investigate allegations of historical child sex abuse.
The letter, signed by more than 60 victims and representatives who wish to remain anonymous, lists a series of demands for the Home Secretary regarding the Child Sex Abuse Inquiry.
It calls for a statutory inquiry to be declared, a public announcement that the existing panel will be scrapped and replaced on a “transparent fit-for-purpose” and the appointment of an inquiry chair who has “demonstrable experience and ability in challenging the establishment”.
It reads: “Following the mistakes of the last six months, we consider your proposals as an opportunity to place the inquiry on to a firm footing whereby it can focus on dealing with organised and institutional abuse and cover ups at the highest levels.
“It is important that the inquiry is centred on bringing perpetrators before the courts, holding those that have failed in their professional duty or covered up allegations or been obstructive to account and delivering justice for survivors.”
On Sunday a letter to panel members obtained by the investigations website Exaro News revealed the Home Secretary says she is considering three options in the hope of regaining the trust of “survivors” of sexual abuse.
She wrote: “Survivors have stressed that if they are to have confidence in the inquiry, it must have the power to compel witnesses.
“I am clear I want to give the inquiry those powers and there are three options for doing this. i) Convert the current inquiry into a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, subject to consultation with the chairman once appointed. ii) Set up a statutory inquiry under the 2005 Inquiries Act. iii) Establish a royal commission.”
But the panel believe that the decision to disband the inquiry has already been made.
The Home Office has not confirmed or denied reports the panel is to be dismissed.
A statement released on Saturday night said: “The Home Secretary is determined that appalling cases of child sexual abuse should be exposed so that perpetrators face justice and the vulnerable are protected.
“She is absolutely committed to ensuring the Independent Panel Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse has the confidence of survivors. The Home Secretary is also clear that we have to balance the need to make progress with the need to get this right.”
Sky News has asked the Home Office “whether the Home Secretary or any other Home Office representative has told any panel member that the panel will definitely be scrapped” and whether the Home Secretary has decided yet “whether she will disband the existing panel”.
So far, they have not responded.
In her letter, Mrs May explained that “survivors also feel that the process by which the panel was appointed should have been more transparent”.
There is a feeling within the current inquiry that too much attention is being paid to a “vocal minority of survivors”.
Panel member Sharon Evans, chief executive of Dot Com Children’s Foundation, herself a survivor of abuse, has written to the Home Secretary expressing that she is “devastated” at the prospect of the inquiry being dissolved and informed Mrs May the panel had been told in off the record terms that they will be stood down after Christmas.
Mrs Evans noted that the panel has met with 70 survivors so far. Some 90% of them support the inquiry as it is, she said.
But the inquiry, which was set up in July of this year to investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions failed in their duty to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales, lost two chairpersons – Fiona Woolf and Baroness Butler-Sloss – due to conflicts of interests.
Some survivors have also said they have lost confidence in the rest of the panel.
Six months on, the Home Secretary will be keen to gain the trust of survivors and the public as a whole.