It’s fair to say at this point that the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse is perhaps one of the most embarrassing Inquiries the world has ever seen.
As more bad news hits the headlines, the investigation continues to bleed lawyers at an alarming rate. Senior lawyer and King’s College law professor Aileen McColgan, who is also a barrister, resigned this week after she raised concerns about the Inquiry’s leadership.
This disaster is entirely the government’s fault. Every single Chair appointed with the exception of the current Chair whose expertise is in social work, has had a legal background and all have insisted on filling the investigation full to the brim with lawyers. This was an entirely unnecessary and costly exercise, which resulted in the lawyer heavy panel essentially driving the structure and content of the Inquiry. This should never have been allowed to happen and is something we highlighted right at the start of the Inquiry’s selection process as a potential problem.
Now, the Inquiry is cemented by a legal perspective and any attempt to shift or balance it out is clearly being met with aggressive resistance. Because that’s what lawyers are trained to do.
The only way out of this awful mess is to quickly appoint an independent body, not related in any way to the government, to oversee the administration of this Inquiry. Its first job must be to assess exactly what’s going on, and to readjust the balance of power back where it belongs – with the Chair.
Lawyers are wonderfully powerful assets when used sparingly and with noble purpose, but they should not be allowed to dictate terms of an Inquiry that is bigger than the legal issues it embraces.