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….

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