It’s difficult at this stage to work out whether the Inquiry panel are simply devoid of common sense or just looking to profit from the process, but the news that the nation’s Statutory Inquiry Into Child Abuse is to hire a further 21 barristers is going down like a lead balloon.
Justice Goddard, the new Chair for the Inquiry has decided (we might assume with guidance and prodding from others in the legal sector), to hire 21 more barristers to help with the running of the inquiry. This does not surprise us, as we mentioned in an earlier post that the inquiry would become lawyer-centric in its next incarnation, with the vast majority of panel members now from the legal sector.
Not surprisingly, this has upset survivors and victims of abuse. Some are calling the move an exercise in profiteering, others a form of alienation which may well deter survivors from coming forward. Lawyers inside the inquiry have long been viewed as a domineering force within the investigation, so as far as PR moves go, this latest development is a disaster for the panel.
It has now become impossible to tell whether the forces inside the inquiry are well meaning or whether they are simply using the investigation as a way to carve out careers and profit from a historic inquiry which will be remembered for years to come – perhaps though, for all the wrong reasons.
What the inquiry must do now is explain its position. There is no mention of the decision to hire more barristers on the Inquiry website, no attempt at explaining the reasons behind the move – a massive faux pas on the part of the panel members. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we highlight the need for openness and generosity in this process, the panel seems intent on behaving as if it is a law unto itself.
Our Statutory Inquiry is now teetering on the brink. If it wishes to remain relevant, and to garner the kind of credibility it craves, the current Chair and panel members will need to start focusing on communicating with their wider audience and show a softer side to survivors, and the world at large.