After yesterday’s very successful meeting in the House of Commons for survivors of child sexual abuse – it’s estimated around 400 people attended – Michael Mansfield QC has, in a statement, confirmed that he would be willing to Chair the nation’s Inquiry into child sexual abuse.
In his statement, which was not read out at the meeting due to a lack of time, Michael welcomed the opportunity to Chair the Inquiry, and even suggests creating a People’s Commission, rather than going ahead with the current Inquiry should the government’s proposals for reviewing the Inquiry fall short.
Other statements were also released by The White Flowers Campaign today from actress Samantha Jane Morton, Pauline A. CLARE, England’s First Female Chief Constable, Jim Gamble, former Head of CEOPs and Carl, a survivor of child sexual abuse.
All of the statements are added below:
Statement from Michael Mansfield QC
“I welcome this opportunity to make my position clear.
From the start of this initiative, for me last July, when I became aware of the public petition, I have been more than willing to consider chairing an Inquiry into Child Abuse as requested by the survivors and their families. I say ‘consider’ because I am currently engaged in the Hillsborough Inquests representing the families of the deceased. There would therefore have to be some negotiation around this. Logistically there are many ways in which difficulties can be accommodated or resolved, particularly as the early stages of any Inquiry are devoted to preparatory matters.
I am honoured to be approached by the families because much of my working life and practice at the Bar has been spent representing communities, groups, and families seeking truth and justice in the face of obfuscation, hostility and deceit by the authorities.
As you are acutely aware, however, the authorities have a habit of ignoring the wishes and needs of those most affected. This has happened yet again on a massive scale until the whole process was ground to a standstill by the second proposed chair standing down. Now of course all kinds of blandishments are being offered to the survivors. I’m sure no one will be taken in and everyone will exercise circumspection.
There are many other issues besides the chair. There are question marks over some of the panel members and the behaviour of at least one already; the terms of reference are restrictive both historically and geographically.
Plainly a Government Inquiry, properly constituted and empowered, would have the best chance of succeeding. I am sanguine about the real possibility of achieving this when none of the obvious steps were adopted in the first place. The ramifications are hugely political and everything will be done to ring-fence these risks.
It is for these reasons that I am also prepared to consider an alternative course should the Government renege on their promises and obligations, namely a People’s Commission. I have served on a number of these over the last decade concerned with Northern Ireland, Palestine, Iran and London. They have all provided an effective forum for the exposure of malpractice and the determination of accountability. Usually they come into play when the normal institutions have failed. Therefore should this Government or the next fail to meet the basic criteria, the alternative could then be engaged.
Put shortly I want Government to fulfil its democratic remit. To that end I would wish to assist in that exercise as chair of full and fair Inquiry. ”
MM 10 Jan 2014
Message from Samantha Jane Morton
“A message to survivors – We will not be forgotten, we will not be quiet. The abuse that we suffered is happening right now to a child / infant that is in desperate need of rescuing. We come together as one to stop child abuse and so the perpetrators of these horrific crimes can be brought to justice. I keep peace in my heart which I share with you all.”
Samantha Jane Morton, Mother, Campaigner for Children’s Rights, Actress, Writer, Director
Pauline A. CLARE, England’s First Female Chief Constable
“I’m sorry I’m not available to attend the public meeting at the House of Commons on the 14th January 2015 – though I would like to say that I support the intentions of that meeting. (the 7 listed issues).
The sexual abuse of children has impacted on the lives of so many young and vulnerable people and has wrecked the lives of many others. It is time the truth is established about what has happened in the past and that offenders are identified and brought to justice for their crimes. It is also important that this is done in a timely manner and in a way that give confidence to victims and survivors that they have been heard. And finally that measures are put in place to protect vulnerable young people in the future.”
Pauline A. CLARE, Former Chief Constable of the Lancashire Constabulary (1995-2002)
9th January 2015
Survivor Carl’s Message
“Pete McKelvie wishes you to know of this statement from Carl he hoped to read out yesterday. Carl is a survivor of horrendous rape and brutality at the hands of the most powerful elite yet to be identified and brought to the Police’s attention. Carl’s allegations include murder.
Carl wants to speak out in the hope that the many petrified victims also abused by this most powerful group of Establishment abusers will have the courage to come forward. He also wants to emphasise how supportive and determined the Police team that he has disclosed to are and express his disappointment that the Government and The Home Office have to date failed to deliver a truly Independent Inquiry fit for purpose.
“Some of you will follow me on Twitter, some of you will have read some of my story via my blogs and the national media. I was full of hope for this national inquiry into child abuse, however I also have to recognise that without the delay I would not have finally gone to the police. Despite the majority of Main Street media ignoring the calls for inquiry, over a very short space of time over 100 MPs from all parties, survivors of child abuse and supporters were speaking with one voice. Over 100,000 people makes one loud voice and something which could not be ignored.
”However, here we are 191 days since it was announced, we have to inappropriate chairs appointed and subsequently resigned, a panel has been established and had met with survivors and groups that support the, the Home Secretary has even met with survivors and survivor groups. And now with rumours that the panel will be scrapped, no news on the next chair, no news from the Home Secretary and the continued silence from the prime minister. Are we any further forward? I’m not sure.
”What I have seen is division amongst survivors, people having a go at each other, and it appears we are no longer speaking with one voice. What I would like to see from today is that we get this unity back. We all want the same thing, we want an inquiry that is fit for purpose, that is open and transparent with us and that has teeth to get to the truth. It’s ok to have different ideas, that’s what makes us who we are, but on such an important issue that affects so many, let’s use the power of our collective voice to make a difference. I desperately want this inquiry to take place, I want it for me, I want it for my friends that I held close as they died, I want it for other people who have been though the horror of abuse in childhood and I want it for today’s children and future generations. No child should have to go through what I and others went through.
”Finally I just wanted to say that we are all human, we all make mistakes and sometimes say things we either didn’t mean to say or didn’t think first. I personally would not he here now if it had not been for a friend of mine encouraging me to use my voice. I would not have been able to speak out, carried on, or reported it to the police without the continued support from Mark Conrad at Exaro, Peter McKelvie, Tom Watson and more recently Tom Symonds.”
Message from Jim Gamble, former Head of CEOPs
“Following the memorial I sat amongst the audience as I did not wish to push myself forward, on a day that was all about survivors, their stories, hopes and fears.
I have tweeted several times about the day which left me sad, emotionally exhausted, but overwhelmingly impressed.
I thought the meeting represented a good start and was certainly a step in the right direction. If you repeat it, I think it would be important to give survivors from the audience an opportunity to speak and question. Fewer speakers would allow for this.
It would also be good to either survey the attendees, as this would strengthen your future negotiating position and, or, have two or three key points to agree/disagree during the meeting.
What you have achieved is remarkable. Bringing so many people together and managing the pain and anger in the room was no small thing. Harnessing the power of yesterday’s group and focusing their influence must, in my opinion, be your next step.
I don’t think it’s too late for government to pause and plan a way forward using a more sensitive and sensible approach.
This is what I think should happen.
The government should first and foremost establish a fund to support survivors. This would give them better access to specialist services, resources and other support. Such a gesture would be an immediate recognition of the fact that they have been let down over many years by establishment bodies and governments.
The inquiry should begin/recommence with a survivors forum. Not dissimilar to your large meeting yesterday. The group must be as inclusive as possible and be given the difficult task of achieving consensus on key/critical terms of reference. They should then be asked to elect an advisory panel. That panel would provide advice and oversight from a survivors perspective to government. It would provide a forum to discuss the pros and cons of different types of inquiries and achieve some sense of agreement on what is needed and the best method of achieving it, i.e., statutory v Royal Commission.
A chair should then be appointed and an expert panel established via a ‘transparent’ process. All of this would be overseen and informed by the survivors oversight panel, who would have representation on the expert panel. Whilst survivor experience must be represented the expert panel would also require investigators, academics and other appropriate child protection professionals.
I am sure many of the individuals on the current panel are good people, this is not about them, it’s about a process that lacks transparency and therefore undermines the confidence of many survivors in it.
This approach would be a good first step in the long process of rebuilding trust.
Once established the inquiry should be fundamentally independent and that includes government. An inquiry imposed by government is very different from one facilitated by it.
If this process had been followed in the first instance survivors would have had ownership and government credible advice and support.
The handling of appointments has been disastrous and demonstrates that the current government don’t do detail. They don’t take time to listen, to plan or to consider better options.
The recent Wanless review, of reviews, only reinforces the need for government to be distanced from the inquiry. That review was in my opinion about the government retaining control. You cannot successfully review yourself by choosing the method, no matter how honourable the individual. The loss of documents by the Home Office needs to be investigated, not reviewed and their approach to it demonstrates they have yet to learn lessons from the past.
I am content for you to share this email with whomever you think appropriate. If I can help in anyway please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Jim Gamble, QPM Chief Executive