CSA Inquiry

All posts tagged CSA Inquiry

Child sex abuse inquiry in crisis as victims walk away

Published December 4, 2014 by JS2

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is told her inquiry is “not fit for purpose”

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 19.59.50

Victims of alleged historic abuse have told Theresa May, the Home Secretary, they are withdrawing support from the Government’s child sex inquiry.

A total of 23 individuals, some of whom suffered alleged abuse in childhood, sent Mrs May a letter claiming the inquiry is “not fit for purpose”.

It comes ahead of a make-or-break meeting between the Home Secretary and some of the largest groups for child sex abuse survivors on Friday which could lead to the inquiry being further undermined.

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), said his organisation would withdraw its co-operation if Mrs May does not pledge to give additional powers to the beleaguered inquiry, by granting it statutory status.

“We are the largest survivors’ group and we have some very significant concerns about this inquiry,” Mr Saunders said.

“Mrs May has said she is willing to meet us about our requests but if she says no we will probably walk away.

“I am not hopeful that we will get what we want.

“The Home Secretary has said she is willing to consider granting the inquiry statutory status at some point in the future but that she will not do so at this stage.

“We think this is wrong – it’s a deal-breaker.”

The letter to Mrs May said the 23 signatories were declining an offer to attend the meeting on Friday.

“We, alongside many survivors, have made numerous representations to you regarding our view that the Inquiry as it stands is not fit for purpose,” it said.

“The Home Office seems to be running the inquiry to meet others’ needs rather than those of survivors and the public.

“We therefore have little option but to end engagement with the Inquiry and call on other survivors, whistleblowers, associated professionals and agencies to follow suit.”

The letter said the inquiry’s terms of reference went “well beyond the original declared intentions … to investigate government and establishment cover-ups of paedophiles in their ranks”.

It accused Mrs May of failing to address potential conflicts of interest among members of the panel inquiry, after two people appointed to chair it had to resign for similar reasons.

The period to be examined should be extended from 1970 to 1945, the letter added.

The letter suggested the signatories would resume co-operation if the current panel was scrapped and replaced “on a transparent basis”.

They also said Mrs May must grant it statutory powers, which would allow officials to seize more evidence and demand the attendance of witnesses.

Fiona Woolf, the head of the child sex abuse inquiry,resigned in October after questions were raised about her links with Lord (Leon) Brittan, whose role as home secretary in the Eighties is expected to come under scrutiny.

The City lawyer, who is also Lord Mayor of London, was the second chairman to have to step down after the Home Office failed in both cases to properly investigate potential conflict of interest in their background.

Baroness Butler-Sloss, a retired judge, resigned in Julyafter it emerged her late brother had been attorney general during part of the period under examination and may have been involved in taking legal decisions connected with sex abuse allegations.

Mrs May told Sky News that she was aware of the letter.

“The issues in the letter have been spoken about before,” she said.

“But I am clear we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to the bottom of this issue.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Home Secretary is absolutely committed to ensuring the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has the confidence of survivors and that is why she is meeting them and their representatives to hear their views and to ensure the right person is appointed to lead the inquiry panel in its vital work.”

David Barrett

Pressure mounts on child abuse inquiry chair to quit after victims say she is ‘beyond the pale’ for dining with top Tory Leon Brittan

Published October 22, 2014 by JS2

WOOLF

  • Theresa May appointed Fiona Woolf after her original choice quit
  • Lady Butler-Sloss stepped down because her brother was attorney general 
  • But Woolf admitted she is a dinner party friend of top Tory Leon Brittan 
  • Brittan rejects claims he failed to act on 1980s dossier of abuse allegations 
  • Lawyer for victims said Mrs Woolf was ‘beyond the pale’ over links
  • Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg distances himself from Mrs Woolf 
  • Victim of child sex abuse launches legal challenge to her appointment

The new chairman of the government inquiry into child sex abuse is facing growing pressure to resign today – after victims dismissed her as ‘beyond the pale’ over her links to top Tory Leon Brittan.

Fiona Woolf admitted she entertained Lord Brittan and his wife three times at dinner parties at her house, and twice went to his central London home for dinner. The former Home Secretary is accused of burying a dossier on child sex abuse given to him in 1983.

It emerged however that the list of meetings with Lord Brittan which she gave to MPs may have been incomplete, after a photograph surfaced showing her chatting to the Torry peer’s wife at a prize-giving last October.

Lawyer Alison Millar representing child abuse victims said the revelations showed Mrs Woolf was not fit to oversee the official inquiry. A victim of historical child sexual abuse has also launched a legal challenge to Mrs Woolf’s appointment.

Nick Clegg today distanced himself from Mrs Woolf and a host of MPs called for her to step down.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the decision to pick Mrs Woolf, the Lord Mayor of London, had been made after ‘an extensive process and recommendation’ by Home Secretary Theresa May.

But the Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron went further and called for her to quit. He said: ‘This is Theresa May’s appointment and again it looks like she has picked someone whose independence can be seriously questioned.’ Labour frontbenchers Jim Murphy and Caroline Flint also called for her to step down.

Asked whether Mrs Woolf should step down, Ms Millar – represents a number of abuse victims whose cases are likely to be raised in the inquiry – said: ‘Yes. I think this evidence of dinner parties with Lord Brittan really puts her beyond the pale in terms of her credibility with my clients.’

Ms Millar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This is not about Fiona Woolf’s ability or her integrity. This is about her independence and her ability to lead this inquiry in a way that is credible to the survivors of abuse whom I represent.

‘The people that I am in contact with because they are my clients, or I am in contact with otherwise, the general view among them is that Fiona Woolf really does not have the necessary credibility to lead what is such an important inquiry for them.

WOOLF 2

Abuse survivor Phil Frampton, who supports other victims of abuse in care homes, told the Today programme: ‘I am absolutely appalled at Fiona Woolf’s appointment. It’s like putting Wayne Rooney in charge of an investigation of the nuclear energy industry.

‘What appals me is that this is about very, very serious crimes and horror for children, and adults who are living with it still. It’s like putting a few puppets in place to deal with the seriousness of the situation.’

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming called on Mrs Woolf to stand down, describing her appointment as ‘a mistake’. Mr Hemming, who was one of the first MPs to call for an inquiry, told the BBC:

‘Appointing Fiona Woolf is … a mistake. She’s clearly a fully fledged member of the establishment. I think she should stand down because an independent observer would think there’s a possibility of bias.’

Another victim of alleged abuse in local authority care, who could not be named for legal reasons, told the Today programme: ‘Everyone deserves a chance, but I thought she lacks a huge amount of credibility from a victim’s perspective.

‘She talks about ‘victim communities’. There is no such thing as a victim community. All the victims have had to live their lives in mainstream society carrying some terrible, terrible scars and being ostracised by society by and large.

‘And yet we have the lord mayor of London to represent victims. It’s laughable.’

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, who led the campaign for an inquiry, said Mrs Woolf and Lord Brittan were ‘clearly good friends’ and she should stand down.

Mr Danczuk said she seemed ‘out of her depth’ in her appearance before the MPs’ committee yesterday. And he made the extraordinary claim the Home Office may have been trying to ‘protect’ Lord Brittan with the appointment.

‘I have serious concerns about the relationship between Fiona Woolf and Leon Brittan,’ he said. ‘He is surely somebody who has to be investigated as part of the inquiry – not least because of his role as Home Secretary at the time.

‘The public will be concerned they are trying to protect Lord Brittan.’

He added: ‘The vast majority of people I know, if you have somebody round for dinner in your home, you would consider them a good friend. She should not be doing this job.’

Lord Brittan is likely to be called to give evidence to the inquiry about allegations – which he denies – that in his time as Home Secretary in the Eighties he was at the centre of an Establishment cover-up of sex abuse claims.

Mrs Woolf, who lives on the same street as the peer, also met his wife for coffee several times, sat on a prize-giving panel with her, and sponsored her £50 for a charity run.

WOOLF 4

Former Home Secretary Lord Brittan is accused of failing to act on a dossier about alleged VIP paedophile rings given to him by MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1983.

The peer has denied the claims. Mrs Woolf, giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday, insisted the inquiry would ‘relentlessly uncover the truth for the victims’.

Details of Mrs Woolf’s contacts with the Brittans emerged in a letter she sent to Home Secretary Theresa May, published yesterday.She said they lived on the same street since 2004, and invited the couple to a party at her home in January 2008, October 2008 and February 2009.

She also attended dinner parties hosted by Lord Brittan in November 2009 and February 2012. Mrs Woolf told the committee she was given Home Office help in drafting the letter.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, said it was a ‘bit odd’ a draft of the letter was seen by the Home Office before it was sent to Mrs May. ‘Surely you should have written your own letter?’ he asked.

Labour MP Paul Flynn pointed out the first choice as inquiry chair, Lady Butler-Sloss, had withdrawn because her brother was Attorney General during some of the period in question. ‘You seem to be an Establishment figure as well. Shouldn’t you resign in the interest of the report being accepted?’ he asked.

Labour MP for Bassetlaw John Mann said it was ‘totally impossible’ for Mrs Woolf to chair the inquiry.

Mrs Woolf was given the full backing of Downing Street and the Home Office. A Number 10 spokesman insisted Mrs Woolf had the Prime Minister’s confidence, and she and the panel would ‘carry out their duties to the high standards of integrity required’.

Before MPs Mrs Woolf, a former president of the Law Society and the current Lord Mayor of London, insisted she was not a member of the Establishment and was an ‘ordinary solicitor’. She said Lord Brittan was ‘one of thousands’ of people she knew in London.

WOOLF 3

Tom Mctague