This just in: the nation’s child abuse inquiry has finally revealed its new panel – and only one of the panelists, Malcolm Evans, is a new recruit. We are assuming that the Malcolm Evans in question is the Bristol University professor who is dean of the social sciences department there. Malcolm Evans OBE is an English legal scholar and has a strong background in human rights.
The remaining members, Ivor Frank, Dru Sharpling (both barristers), inquiry expert Professor Alexis Jay, and legal adviser and leading human rights lawyer, Ben Emmerson QC, are all original inquiry members. The current line up confirms our prediction that the new inquiry would be dominated by legal minds. Quite why it took so long to unveil a largely old inquiry panel is not known but survivors consulted on the new panel appear to be pleased with the result. And that’s all that matters.
Original panel members that did not make it onto the new panel are survivors Graham Wilmer and Sharon Evans, Dame Moira Gibb, Professor Jenny Pearce and Professor Terence Stephenson. The new inquiry panel is greatly slimmed down – from 7 (8 if you include the expert adviser position) to just 4. This was a deliberate move on Goddard’s part – she is hoping that a smaller panel will be more cohesive, and less cumbersome.
We are also told that Theresa May is still considering the timeline for the inquiry and in line with Chair Lowell Goddard’s thinking, is contemplating going further back than the 1970s. There will however, be no cut off date for claims which can still be investigated, no doubt a welcome initiative for survivors who fall foul of the agreed timeline.
Mrs. Goddard will be writing to survivors to let them know of her intention to set up a standalone panel, which will be a survivors’ and victims’ consultative panel (SVCP). She will be asking survivors and victims for their views on how this panel should work and who should be on it. The idea behind the SVCP is, as Goddard puts it, to ensure that the core panel is as impartial as possible whilst being able to work closely with survivors and victims.
Terms of reference have now been agreed, and will be published today. We are also told that with the terms of reference confirmed and new panel in place, the inquiry now has statutory status. This will allow the Chair to compel witnesses to give evidence before the inquiry, and to secure materials relating to the inquiry.
You can read Theresa May’s full statement here, and a statement which Chair Lowell Goddard has made today, has been published on the Inquiry’s website.
You can also catch the criteria for the panel which has now been published, and which lists the skills panel members are required to possess.