Whilst letters sent to the Committee from Inquiry lawyers who resigned have not yet been published (we can expect them some time this week), further news continues to come to light about the extent of the tensions between the different bodies at the investigation.
It’s emerged that Survivors and Victims assisting the Inquiry have been asked to sign a code of conduct, and it’s this requirement that’s been at the heart of a 600 strong Group making a swift exit. You have to give whoever is doing the PR at the Inquiry, kudos – anyone with the slightest understanding of survivors would have realised this request would only enrage and further traumatise these Groups. There’s a delicious irony to the Inquiry asking survivors to sign a code of this kind. The Inquiry panel has singlehandedly managed to demonstrate the worst professional conduct ever seen within a statutory investigation.
As public pressure mounts to lay blame at Inquiry individuals’ doors, teams have begun to turn on each other. The legal section of the Inquiry is pointing the finger at new Chair Professor Jay, condemning her decision to shift the balance of the Inquiry process away from pseudo legalistic trial-by-waffle court hearings, to a more collaborative model. The upshot of this is perhaps less work for the legal team, which may account for the temper tantrums we’re seeing in the press. Lawyers at the Inquiry are also suggesting that Jay wilfully ignored an allegation of sexual assault against its former Lead Counsel, Ben Emmerson, and tried to cover up other failings at the Inquiry. The allegation of a sexual assault cover up has put the civil servants at the IICSA on the defensive. They’ve retaliated by saying no allegation was ever formally raised with the Chair or any other ‘official’ at the Inquiry.
Some may say Professor Jay set the wheels in motion for the Inquiry’s implosion. Within hours of being appointed Chair, she summarily dismissed her Lead Counsel (now being investigated by his own Chambers over the allegation of assault at the Inquiry) and expressed concerns over the way the legal team was operating. So much so, that she ordered an inquiry into the team’s conduct. But in a surprise move, she backtracked, dropped the inquiry into the legal team, and diplomatically shook hands with her most senior lawyer in a formal letter published on the Inquiry website. That she allegedly fired him without his knowledge, forcing him to discover his termination through an online media outlet, may well have aggravated things.
The reasons remain unclear as to why events played out the way they did, but it’s clear that there are enormous conflicts of interest at the Inquiry, and we doubt they center around the needs of victims and survivors. It would also be unfair to suggest Professor Jay is responsible for the terrible mess at the Inquiry. She saw a thorn in its side and decided to pull it out, with devastating consequences.
There may well be a bigger story before the letters are published this week. A conference which promises to give people an inside look at the Inquiry’s tensions and the ‘real’ reasons for lawyers resigning, takes place tomorrow. The media might report on the conference, so we could get some interesting feedback from this event. If you are attending, please do let us know how it went.
It’s widely accepted that the Inquiry has failed on all levels, but at Researching Reform, we see things differently. Had it not been for victims’ and survivors’ vigilance, inappropriate Chairs and unethical behaviour at the Inquiry would have gone unchallenged, leaving survivors and the public with yet another empty government investigation which would never have offered up the truth. Sometimes, good things, take time.