A group of child abuse survivors tell MPs that, unless Home Secretary Theresa May replaces the entire panel she has appointed to oversee the inquiry, they will boycott the whole process.
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They discussed their concerns over the setting up of the inquiry with the chair of the Commons home affairs select committee Keith Vaz. The meeting came after the resignation of the second person due to chair the probe last week.
Ian McFadyen, who survived sexual abuse as a schoolboy, described the meeting as a step in the right direction, but added that only a High Court judge could now be trusted to be impartial and that the inquiry needed statutory powers.
He said that, with the appointments of former chairs Baroness Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf, survivors had “all been told that this is it, accept it and get on with it”. He insisted that survivors were not just being unreasonable, and trying to scuttle the process: “This is an inquiry into establishment cover-up and, possibly, going to the heart of government.
“They have the best of intentions, I’m sure, but politicians’ fingers need to be away from this. For it to be impartial, they need to not have any involvement,” he told Channel 4 News.
Andi Lavery, another survivor of abuse as a schoolboy, told Channel 4 News “it was unanimous in the room, we will not co-operate with the inquiry in any shape or form” unless the panel changes.
On Monday, Theresa May was forced to go to the House of Commons to apologise after Fiona Woolf became the second person she appointed to lead the inquiry to resign. Ms Woolf’s departure followed that of Baroness Butler-Sloss four months ago, who also resigned over her links with establishment figures.
Fiona Woolf had been under pressure to reveal her links to former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, who is expected to feature in the inquiry, for weeks before she finally stood down.
But Mr McFadyen said that some survivors – including him – would have been able to accept her as chair if she had been up front about her background.
‘Led down the garden path’
“They needed someone to come forward and say ‘these are my connections, this is what I have to disclose and there is nothing else to hide’ before taking the job. It is not her associations that are the problem, it is the due diligence,” he said, while acknowledging that he could not speak for all survivors.
He said that so far, here had been little transparency or consultation from the government over the selection of the panel and the chair. Many survivors, he said, “feel they are being led down the garden path by the Home Office”.
Mr McFadyen said that some survivors would not be happy with a judge leading the inquiry and acknowledged that one would be unlikely to have no links to the establishment. But he said that engaging with survivors openly over those links could smooth the process.
“I am not naïve about it but I need to get some level of impartiality,” he said. And he added that, in order to achieve that, survivors themselves should not sit on the inquiry’s panel.