Welcome to another week.
With the recent news that Justice Lowell Goddard has handed in her resignation as Chair for the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, speculation has been mounting as to who will replace her.
Professor Alexis Jay, a current panel member and former social worker who led the independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, and who also chairs the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland, is the front runner to take up the role. Widely respected by victims and survivors of abuse, and without any establishment links, she is considered to be a strong choice. However, some are calling for Jay to act only as an interim Chair until a permanent replacement can be found, though the Inquiries Act does not make any provision for a temporary Chair.
Sue Berelowitz, the former deputy children’s commissioner, has also publicly announced that she would take on the role if asked by Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. Berelowitz is a controversial choice. Outspoken and reactionary (she made waves with her stark warning about media reporting and greater transparency in the family courts being responsible for child suicides), Sue has a great deal of experience working with issues relating to child sexual abuse having assisted on inquiries of this nature before, and brings a child-focused approach to the table. But will her views on transparency help or hinder the Inquiry should she be appointed as Chair?
Michael Mansfield QC, also favoured by survivors, victims, and lawyers, is a possible choice for Chair, unafraid to challenge the establishment and has said in the past that he would take on the job if asked, though he has little direct experience with child abuse cases.
Lead counsel for the Inquiry Ben Emmerson QC may also be in the running; his knowledge in the field of human rights and his engagement with the Inquiry, making him familiar with survivors and other key players make him a practical choice, but a risky one. He has been implicated in panel tensions and very public rows over the Inquiry’s process, which have slowed things down and grated away at public trust in the Inquiry.
Berelowitz, Mansfield and Emmerson were previously shortlisted for the role before Goddard was nominated, so it’s likely that they will be re-considered. However there are others who could also be put forward for the position. Although never made public, a list of 150 candidates was produced before Justice Goddard was chosen, meaning that there are potentially a large number of people who could be offered the job.
Our question this week then, is just this: who do you think should Chair the nation’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse?