Wednesday, 4 February 2015

NEW Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse with NEW Chair

The Honourable Justice Goddard has been appointed by the Home Secretary to chair the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Justice Goddard is a Justice of the High Court of New Zealand.

See the Home Secretary's Statement to the House of Commons 4th February 2015.  The statement makes it clear that the original inquiry is terminated and the panel dissolved.  Now there is to be a new statutory inquiry with a new panel.  Please note, in particular, the following extract from Mrs May's statement - (my emphasis and some links added):

"I will now turn to the form of the inquiry. As I told the Home Affairs Committee on 15 December, I am clear that the inquiry should have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence. I also said there were three ways to do that: first, by establishing a royal commission; secondly, by converting the current inquiry into a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, subject to consultation with the chairman once appointed; or, thirdly, by setting up a new statutory inquiry under the 2005 Act.

"Having taken in-depth legal advice and discussed the options with survivors, I have concluded that a royal commission would not have the same robustness in law as a statutory inquiry. In particular, it would not have the same clarity over its powers to compel witnesses to give evidence. I have decided not to convert the current inquiry, because doing so would not address the concerns of survivors about the degree of transparency in the original appointments process. I have therefore decided upon the third option of establishing a new statutory inquiry with a panel.

I want to make it clear that that is by no means a criticism of the current panel members, who were selected on the basis of their expertise and commitment to getting to the truth about child abuse in this country. The fact that the panel is being dissolved has nothing to do with their ability or integrity, and I want to place on the record my gratitude to them for the work they have done so far. I have asked the panel to produce a report on their work so far, which I am sure will provide valuable assistance to the incoming chairman.

In order to make sure that the appointment of the new panel is as transparent as possible, I will publish in full the criteria by which each new member will be selected and place a copy in the House Library and on I hope that the original members and the expert adviser to the panel, Professor Alexis Jay, will put themselves forward to be considered against those criteria if they so wish. I can confirm that Ben Emmerson QC will remain as counsel to the inquiry. I will wish to discuss the make-up of the new panel with Justice Goddard, but I am clear that each member must have the right skills and expertise to do the job, satisfy the statutory requirements of impartiality, and command the confidence of survivors.

So the process is being reset, and that means that I will also revisit the terms of reference. In accordance with the Inquiries Act, these will need to be discussed with Justice Goddard, but I want to assure survivors and the House that I have heard the strong call that the inquiry’s remit should go back further than the current time limit of 1970. There are, however, good reasons for confining the inquiry’s scope to England and Wales. The Hart inquiry in Northern Ireland and the Oldham inquiry in Jersey are already under way, while the Scottish Government have announced their own inquiry into child abuse—but I shall discuss this with the new chairman. In the event that the geographical scope remains the same, I propose that a clear protocol is agreed to make sure that no information falls through the cracks and that no people or institutions escape scrutiny, censure or justice."

Mrs May also revealed that that Justice Goddard will attend a hearing before the Home Affairs Committee, on 11th February.

Previous post - 1st September 2014 

See the Parliamentary Pre-appointment hearing

1 comment:

  1. It is to be hoped that the new panel will all be of open and independent mind and not parti pris.