In a move which has left several if not all of the current Child Abuse Inquiry Panel members livid, it’s been reported that Home Secretary Theresa May has written to the panel to let them know she will be scrapping the panel and starting again.
This move comes days after we published our piece on the Inquiry advising the very same course of action, over at our Column for Jordans Family Law. Of course we don’t know whether Theresa May read our article, but her plan of action reads very similarly to what we felt the government should do in order to mount the kind of inquiry survivors could place their trust in, and be a part of.
If the news items today are anything to go by, May is hoping to give the Inquiry some teeth by giving it statutory status, which would enable the panel chair to compel people to give evidence and would also allow the Inquiry to enforce criminal sanctions against those who deliberately conceal evidence or refuse to come forward. May is also considering turning the Inquiry into a Royal Commission.
As a result, current panel members would have to be scrapped, but could be re-appointed if considered appropriate. Amongst the arguments put forward by current panel members for not scrapping, well, them, is the view that to do so would be to pander to a small vocal minority that does not represent the majority of abuse survivors. This is utter bollocks of course. The panel members do not themselves know how the majority of survivors feel, and the minority who are speaking out represent a much larger group who do feel that a new panel would be best. And regardless of the size of the group raising concerns, those concerns should still be addressed and resolved, because without that resolution the Inquiry has no credibility whatsoever. (The other excuses given are even less convincing and completely irrelevant to the Inquiry’s future, but can be accessed in the news items linked to above should you feel like casting your eyes over wanton drivel).
Pouting panel members aside, it’s not clear yet when and if May will scrap the panel, despite reports to the contrary over at Exaro news. She has hinted at three possibilities, all of which she is still currently considering. The third option has not been openly reported upon but may simply involve keeping the current panel and raising the Inquiry to that of statutory status. But with some of the panel members facing criticism over their conduct towards survivors and two failed chairs with a third replacement nowhere in sight, now is the time to put this panel to bed and let a newer, fresher, professional panel rise from the ashes.
As we wrote in our article for Jordans, we would like to see a panel that represents the best of British Child Welfare – diverse professionals, from all walks of life, with a passion for children and a deep insight into the world of child abuse. That panel should include survivors, as well as members of religious communities and professionals from diverse ethnic backgrounds with cutting edge knowledge of child sexual abuse and its many different guises. We expect nothing less from the new panel.
And we want to see the list of candidates (all 100 plus of them) for the chair position, out in the public domain and be able to cast our own vote as to who should lead this most important Inquiry.
Good luck, Theresa.