The latest on the Child Abuse Inquiry’s start date and structure can be found on the Inquiry’s FAQ’s page, but the level of detail leaves much to the imagination, and raises more questions, than answers.
To be fair to the Inquiry, its Chair Justice Goddard is not due to take the helm until April, 13th. Until then, the Frequently Asked Questions page is far from complete, and offers little to soothe or stabilise anxieties about its intentions.
What the Inquiry doesn’t seem to realise, is that despite the process being new and fresh for Chair and other panel members, it is a continuation of a long and disappointing saga for most, and action is required, now.
As of yet, there are no guidelines at all on how the inquiry will carry out its work, when evidence will be taken, how whistleblowers will be able to contribute, nor how much the Inquiry is likely to cost.
As the Inquiry is not a public authority for the purposes of the Freedom Of Information Act, we will also have to rely on the Inquiry’s will to be transparent, and efficient. We also know that the Inquiry is funded by the Home Office, and Central Government, which may also fuel concerns that the Inquiry is not fully independent, and may suffer with conflicts of interest as a result.
The page also only addresses evidence given by victims, survivors and whistleblowers. There is no information at present on who else may be asked to give evidence.
Whilst it is only right that the Inquiry should have time to get itself organised and take the time to ensure that their working structure is perfect for the task at hand, there are things they could be doing to alleviate the silent pause in the process.
We are not sure whether the current terms of reference on the site are the latest, most up to date terms but they are thin and lacking in clarity. Mention of the removal of a cut off date, combined with a desired timeline to be investigated should be in the terms for example, along with clear definitions for words and phrases used. Words like “Institution”.
The Inquiry also needs to get digital, fast. A Wikipedia page on the Inquiry should be created, detailing how it came about, the timeline of its evolution and the developments and set backs it has experienced to date. Australia’s child abuse inquiry website is currently ranked 6 by Google – ours does not even make it to 1. The Inquiry also needs a Twitter Feed and a Facebook page, as well as a You Tube account, sooner rather than later.
There’s a lot to do, and no doubt the Inquiry are furiously working away to set the terms and scope of the investigation. This period is critical. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to set proper parameters for the analysis of some of the most grotesque crimes against humanity. We hope the end result is stunning, for all the right reasons.