Leading QC Working With Survivors To Give Them Central Role In Child Abuse Inquiry

It’s a hugely interesting development – Michael Mansfield QC, who heads up Mansfield Chambers has offered, along with Public Interest Lawyers to help survivors secure a central role within the nation’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

This move comes after concerns that the Inquiry would not be able to investigate the establishment independently as it stands, despite its Survivors Panel and regular meetings with victims of child sexual abuse.

Lead by the SOIA (Survivors of Organised & Institutional Abuse), which is an offshoot of the White Flowers Campaign, a project designed to monitor and assist the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, this initiative seeks to involve all survivors and victims of child sexual abuse who wish to have a voice or guide the inquiry as it progresses.

We were very kindly sent an email with the details of this latest development, so we add it in part below:

Core participants/ What does it mean and why is it important?
“For the Inquiry to have any legitimacy it must place Survivors first and foremost. It was no good asking the Establishment to investigate themselves. There was and is corruption saturating every level of the Establishment. That is why it is vital for Survivors and Whistleblowers, under the umbrella of Whiteflowers, to mount “collective action” as Michael Mansfield QC, put it, to force the Inquiry to be a meaningful and credible process.
This can happen if we pull our weight behind the SOIA application to be treated not just as witnesses or consultants but as Core Participants.
(SOIA welcomes involvement for the application of Survivor supporters, Survivor Groups, Whistleblowers and Survivors of opportunistic or domestic child abuse.)
Practically, SOIA will make an application to the Inquiry assisted by PIL, (Public Interest Lawyers) and Mansfield Chambers (who have worked for free) to the Inquiry for us to be treated as ‘core participants’. If this application is granted Survivors will have a permanent and independent place within the Inquiry.

What is the legal definition of a core participant?
Under the Inquiry Rules (2006) the Chairman may designate a person as a core participant if she considers whether that person played or may have played a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the inquiry relates whether that person has a significant interest in an important aspect of the matters to which the inquiry relates, or the person may be subject to explicit or significant criticism during the inquiry proceedings, in the report or in any interim report. Then where two or more core participants each of whom seeks to be legally represented and the chairman considers that:

  • Their interests in the outcome of the inquiry are similar
  • The facts they are likely o rely upon are similar, and

It is fair and proper for them to be jointly represented
Then the chair can designate a single representative BUT the core participants must agree.

So:
We are campaigning for SOIA to be recognised as a core participant and we need Survivors and their supporters to unite and support that application.”

If you would like to get involved, please get in touch, either via email or through the comments section below and we will send you further information and the application form for you to fill out.

Good luck to you all. xxxx

Many thanks to Terri Thatcher for sharing this item with us.

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Care Leavers’ Association: National Meeting To Discuss Anglo-Welsh and Australian Child Abuse Inquiries

The Care Leavers’ Association, a leading charity run by care leavers, for care leavers will be holding a national meeting on Saturday 18th July in Manchester.

Lunch will be offered at 1.30pm, with the meeting starting at 2pm, and ending at around 5pm.

Care leavers will be speaking, and films about care will also be shown. The Association also hopes to discuss the nation’s inquiry into child sexual abuse and Australia’s own inquiry into abuse with a view to highlighting the links between the two inquiries.

Many thanks to Dana for alerting us to this meeting.

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Researching Reform Turns 6 – So We’re Taking You Backstage :)

We have to confess to not knowing we were having a birthday until last night, when the kind folks over at WordPress sent us a lovely birthday wish (read automated birthday congrats :) ) so we’re delighted to say that Researching Reform turned six yesterday.

This made us feel a little nostalgic, so we thought we would share some fun facts about the blog with you, which we’ve accumulated in our very mature sixth year:

  • Up until recently, the editor of Researching Reform was by far the most prolific poster in the comments section, however, we have recently been overtaken by some lovely, loyal readers of the blog. They are the super Dana and Daveyone! Thank you to all our readers and commenters, the blog would not be what it is today without you, and a special thank you to Dana and Davey for sharing and posting.
  • To date, we’ve written nearly 1,500 posts, which are read world-wide from the United Kingdom and America, all the way to Australia, stopping off at places like Ukraine and South Africa along the way.
  • Some of the search terms which have led people to the blog over the years have been thought-provoking. Amongst the most popular are items relating to family judges who make the headlines, and questions about paedophilia. And sometimes the search terms have concerned us so much, that we’ve logged details with the relevant specialist agencies in law enforcement.
  • Our readers come from all walks of life: parents, young adults, activists, key stakeholders in government departments, politicians, peers and lawyers, and even the occasional celebrity.
  • The blog has welcomed nearly 90,000 visitors since it started in 2010.
  • By far our most read post, or page, which has been accessed over 7,000 times, is the article we wrote about Lord Blackheath and the part he had to play in knowingly sending children abroad to be sexually abused in Australia.
  • Most of our visitors come from the UK, the US, Australia and Canada, in that order.
  • The most typed searched term, perhaps not surprisingly, is “Researching Reform.” One of our favourites though, is “Born naughty?”

We’d like to take this anniversary and make it a celebration about the people who come to our blog, whether to find answers, give them or just a piece of their mind. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure writing here and researching family law and child welfare and we hope you’ll continue on with us on what we hope will be a long and exciting journey.

Thank you xxxxxxx

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The Buzz

Although we have a dedicated page for all things newsy relating to the child abuse inquiry, we thought we would add a selection of articles published in the last 24 hours, below:

Buzz

Everything You Need To Know About The Newly Opened Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse

Today is officially the first day that the nation’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse gets underway, and with it comes a host of updated materials, from a new website to all the latest on the Inquiry itself.

We’ve added everything you need to know, below:

  • The eagerly anticipated revamped website is now up and running. It is not as aesthetic or as sophisticated as its sister Inquiry into child sexual abuse over in Australia, but it’s better than the original offering, and easy to navigate.
  • It looks as if the official name for the Inquiry is the IICSA – Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse. That is the name we will be using, and on Twitter, with the hash tag #IICSA.
  • The Chair for the Inquiry, Justice Goddard, gave her statement today – it runs to 30 pages, but explains in detail the background to the Inquiry and the goals she has set for it.
  • The Executive Summary is a more modest 5 pages, and outlines the key points in Goddard’s statement.
  • The Inquiry is to focus on three guiding principles: to be comprehensive, inclusive and thorough, and as Goddard says in her statement, “To keep asking questions until we get answers”.
  • The work load is to be divided amongst the panel members thus:
    • Allegations of abuse by people of prominence in public life – which Goddard will lead.
      ○ Education and religion – led by Panel member, Prof. Malcolm Evans OBE
      ○ Criminal Justice and law enforcement – led by Panel member, Drusilla
      Sharpling CBE
      ○ Local authorities and voluntary organisations – led by Panel member, Prof. Alexis Jay OBE
      ○ National and private service organisations – led by Panel member, Ivor Frank
  • There will be a section of the Inquiry called The Truth Project – This will allow survivors and victims of abuse the chance to share their experiences with the Inquiry.
  • There will also be a segment called The Public Hearings Project, which will run like a conventional public inquiry with witnesses giving evidence on oath and being questioned by counsel.
  • We are very pleased to report, as per our wish for the Inquiry’s chosen central source, that experiences of victims and survivors will be the “core currency” of the Inquiry. It’s obviously not completely clear what that means, but we hope it means the Inquiry will be looking to these experiences for guidance and ways of moving the inquiry forward.
  • The Victims and Survivors’ Consultative Panel (VSCP) has now been established and eight panel members have now been elected. We are thrilled to see Lucy Duckworth on this panel and wish her and the other members luck and courage as they undertake this incredibly important role within the Inquiry.
  • Offices across the country are to be set up to facilitate the gathering of evidence.
  • All key appointments have now been confirmed:
    • ○ Secretary to the Inquiry, John O’Brien
      ○ Counsel to the Inquiry, Ben Emmerson QC
      ○ Solicitor to the Inquiry, Martin Smith of Fieldfisher, and
      ○ An Academic Advisory Board, led by Prof. Jenny Pearce OBE
  • The budget for the coming year has been set at £17.9 million.
  • The Attorney General has just granted protection to whistleblowers. The Attorney-General gave an undertaking on 15 June 2015 that no document or evidence provided to the Inquiry will result in, or be used in, any prosecution under the Official Secrets Acts or any prosecution for unlawful possession of the evidence in question. His letter can be read here. 
  • A recap of the key announcements made today

In her closing remarks, Goddard invites child protection departments to get pro-active and start rifling through their own files to find materials that may be of use to the Inquiry. While this is well-meaning, we can’t help but think this could result in more, and not less materials being shredded. We hope we’re proven wrong.

We wish the Inquiry masses of luck and hope that it goes beyond previous investigations, does not stop at making recommendations and finds a way to stem the tide of ongoing child sexual abuse, once and for all. It’s a tall order, but it’s about time. Bonne chance….

IICSA Home Page

Government Promises Full Scale Review Into Crematoriums After Lost Baby Ashes Scandal

Further to our post on the lost baby ashes scandal, which detailed how a crematorium in Shropshire managed to lose the ashes of several cremated babies, leaving the families devastated, the government has today promised a full scale review into cremation services.

The press release details further proposals, which include looking at putting forward new cremation rules, and a review of out of hours coroner services.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer also announced today an additional review into existing crematorium facilities, to make sure they are adequate.

A quote from Justice Minister Caroline Dinenage in the press release states:

“I am taking action to make sure that after a cremation infant ashes are returned to bereaved families.

“Parents should not have to experience any additional grief like those affected by the issues in Emstrey have faced.

“I am also continuing work to make sure bereaved people are at the very heart of the coroner system – it is paramount that the services are there to help the whole community.”

This will hopefully be welcome news for those families affected.

Lost Baby Ashes Scandal – A Nationwide Phenomenon?

A petition on the website Change.Org raising concerns over crematoriums and the way they handle ashes of deceased babies has garnered over 62,000 signatures. It is calling on the government to launch a nationwide investigation into this area, amid fears that the recent scandal in Shropshire is just the tip of a terrible iceberg.

A recent inquiry into the disappearance of baby ashes at a crematorium in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, highlighted poor training and out of date equipment for the failure to return the ashes of babies to grieving parents. Understandably, this revelation only heightened the pain and suffering of the parents involved, a phenomenon in the Shropshire area which know has affected around 60 families to date.

The parents involved have now asked for an apology from the crematorium, which we hope they will receive and in some small way ease their suffering.

The petition aims to go a step further, as families around the country have begun to come forward with similar stories sparking the suspicion that this phenomenon may be a nationwide problem.

We have signed the petition because we believe no child should ever be lost, and no parent should have to lose their child twice. If you feel the same way, please join us by signing the petition.

A big thank you to Dana for alerting us to this item.

Researching Reform For Jordans: Will A Moratorium On Material Destruction Be Enough To Safeguard Child Abuse Evidence?

This month for our column over at Jordans we look at the nation’s child abuse inquiry and its latest guidance on the destruction of materials. We also ask whether the moratorium on the destruction of files and papers relating to child protection will be enough to stop more files going missing.

You can catch our article for Jordans here. 

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Child Abuse Inquiry Spends £1.2 Million – Before Questioning A Single Witness

That’s the news this morning, and the cost breakdown is equally astonishing.

The Daily Mail reports that the Inquiry has already racked up £1,261,316 on various things.

We add a break down of known costs below:

  • Between July 2014 and the end of March, the Inquiry spent £1,261,316,
  • This is around £4,706 for each of the 268 days since it was announced,
  • A further breakdown reveals that £725,525 went on staff,
  • With £177,480 of the staffing costs going to Ben Emmerson QC, who is counsel to the inquiry,
  • £145,723 was spent on office accommodation,
  • £203,838 was dispensed for IT services,
  • £164,730 was spent on legal costs and;
  • £16,534 was used for travel and victims’ events, with the remainder used for ‘running costs’ like recruitment and training.

Justice Goddard’s salary and accommodation have not yet been published.

Given that the Inquiry is now seeking to hire 20 or more barristers to get the job done, we can expect these costs to rise. The figures really are astonishing given that the Inquiry has no state of the art website at this time, no running process yet for getting the investigation underway and no actual clue about what kind and quantity of materials they need. And they haven’t even started taking evidence.

What do you think? Are these costs in line with other inquiries of a similar size and history or is someone having a laugh at the nation’s expense?

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Statutory Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse Will Open Next Week

This just in: the nation’s inquiry into child sexual abuse will formally open on Thursday 9th July, at 10am at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (QEII) Centre, Westminster.

Chair for the Inquiry, Justice Goddard, will make a statement outlining the inquiry’s guiding principles, and summarise the steps taken so far. She will also explain how the inquiry intends to run, timescales and how evidence will be taken.

You can read the full statement on the Inquiry’s website and there’s a good article written by the BBC on the announcement, too.

Read a little more about the current panel members in a previous post.

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