Former Inquiry panel member, Professor Alexis Jay, has been chosen to replace Justice Goddard as Chair for the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual abuse.
In a statement on the Inquiry’s website, Professor Jay says:
“I am committed to ensuring this Inquiry does everything it has set out to do and does so with pace, with confidence and with clarity.
“Be in no doubt – the Inquiry is open for business and people are busier than ever working hard to increase momentum. The Panel and I are determined to make progress on all parts of the Inquiry’s work, including speaking to victims and survivors.
I am determined to overcome the challenges along the way. I will lead the largest public inquiry of its kind and together with my fellow Panel members we will fearlessly examine institutional failures, past and present and make recommendations so that the children of England and Wales are better protected now and in the future.”
In a letter to the Home Secretary in which Professor Jay responds to the Government’s invitation to Chair the Inquiry, Professor Jay accepts, and declares she has no direct interests relating to the subject matter of the Inquiry. The letter goes on to detail her experience as a social worker, manager and Chief Executive and Chief Inspector of Social Work For Scotland. However she is perhaps best known for her report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, often referred to as the Jay Report, which was very well received by survivors and victims of abuse.
Professor Jay’s appointment is important for several reasons. It of course symbolises the latest effort in finding a reliable and appropriate Chair but it is also the first time that the Inquiry has hosted a Chair without any legal qualifications. This may prove challenging if the Inquiry continues along its adversarial path, holding trial-like hearings and flirting with Inquiry boundaries as set out by the Inquiries Act, but it is also a blessing. The Inquiry is heavily dominated by legal minds, which whilst very useful for pouring over detail and pulling out potential violations of law, is not so well suited to teasing out the narrative which has allowed abuse in this country to go undetected and ignored for so long. That requires someone who has direct experience with the subject matter of child exploitation and a solid understanding of victim and survivor culture. Professor Jay may well be able to offer the insight necessary to make the Inquiry much more efficient and potentially ground breaking.
We wish Professor Jay much luck and strength.