The nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse is bleeding lawyers.
Tony Fisher, one of the original barristers who joined the Inquiry and acted as first junior counsel, making him a senior member of the legal team, is the latest in a string of lawyers to leave the Inquiry. BBC Newsnight reports that Mr Fisher resigned after becoming concerned about the investigation’s “Progress and Direction”, but what does that mean, exactly?
Since Professor Jay’s appointment as Chair, the Inquiry has moved fast. She released her report on the current status of the Inquiry and set down recommendations to make it less clunky and more effective, in record time. The Wales Office is now open and she has just released an update on further developments. We haven’t seen organisation and determination like this since the Inquiry was set up.
What is new, of course, is the direction the Inquiry is taking. Whilst it is not limiting itself in terms of periods of time or types of non recent and recent abuse, it has decided to move away from the heavily trial-like focus of its original approach. Previous Chairs have all had legal backgrounds so convincing them to use what is essentially an incredibly outdated form of investigation, would have been an easy task. Professor Jay however, is the first Chair to come to the investigation as a non lawyer and with her experience and knowledge of child protection, has come to the conclusion that there are other, better ways to uncover the truth about this country’s appalling child sexual abuse narrative.
This has no doubt upset the enormous legal team at the Inquiry, who may have found that their roles have reduced a little as a result, and whilst lawyers at the Inquiry serve an important purpose and shouldn’t be excluded from the investigation’s work, we happen to agree with Professor Jay’s direction. In order for this Inquiry to keep moving and make strides, it needs to balance a legal outlook, with a child protection one.
That is exactly what Professor Jay is doing, and exactly what needs to be done.