Baroness Butler-Sloss, who was very briefly Chair of what is now the Statutory Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, has made a series of critical comments about the Inquiry, at a recent Chatpolitics event.
Speaking at the event, Butler-Sloss, whose statements were recorded, said:
“The real problem about this inquiry is the victims have now been given a false view that they’re all going to be heard.
“There are an enormous number of victims out there, and of course they won’t all be heard. I am absolutely sure that they will not be pleased with the result.”
At first glance, the comment appears to be a rather poor show of sour grapes. Butler-Sloss was forced to stand down as Chair for the Inquiry after it emerged that her brother Sir Michael Havers was Attorney General at a time when some of the worst alleged abuses in the 1980s took place. Her less than sensitive communications with survivors and her passionate defense of the Church, were conflicts which also caused concern.
The pointed attack on the Inquiry though, is clear. Butler-Sloss accuses the Inquiry panel and the Home Secretary of giving victims false hope that their voices will be heard and their cases looked at. Quite how she comes to this conclusion is not clear, but if our Inquiry is set to be anything like Australia’s own investigation into child sexual abuse, there should be plenty of forums for victims and survivors to speak out.
The sentiment that victims and survivors won’t be pleased with the result is yet another muddled thought that makes it virtually impossible to tell whether she’s referring to all victims, the ones she thinks won’t be heard, the Inquiry itself or the possibility that all those with cases won’t all be able to speak out.
The report also suggests that Butler-Sloss considers the Inquiry will be doomed to fail. Quite whether this was something she actually said, or has been inferred from the above statements is not clear, but there is some truth in that.
The Inquiry is going to need to offer something new, radical and brave in the face of an ever-growing list of Inquiries and repetitive recommendations, which no one wants to see appear in print again.
The only way this investigation can make a difference, is if it gets to the very heart of child sexual abuse and our seeming inability to shield our children from it.