As the dust settles after a tumultuous week of resignation and appointment, the IICSA has been at pains in all forms of communication to confirm that, despite the changes at the top, its day-to-day work continues.
The appointment of Prof Alexis Jay means that the new Chair is not coming from outside and needing to learn about how the Inquiry works,so it now looks like (for the public hearings project) things are back where they were a couple of weeks ago. That is, we had had a round of hearings; there were decisions to be made following those hearings; evidence would consider to be disclosed and considered; and plans made for identification of witnesses and timetabling hearings.
One of the decisions left outstanding following the hearings was a number of applications for core participant status. One of those was unusual because it was a request for an organisation to be designated a core participant in all investigations. This was by the Survivors of Organised & Institutional Abuse, whose application was commented upon in a previous blog. The difficulty one organisation, and one relatively recently created, would face, and no doubt a reason for the Inquiry initially refusing the application, is that victims and survivors for very understandable reasons have different hopes and focus on different issues. This can be seen by the response to Prof Jay’s appointment.
Within minutes of it being announced, NAPAC had tweeted that they were delighted that a new Chair had been chosen so quickly so that the work of the Inquiry could continue smoothly. Richard Scorer of Slater & Gordon, who represents a large number of individual core participants, commented that with appropriate legal support he thought she could be successful. However, Imran Khan who represents another group of survivors who have core participant status advised that his clients were angry they had not been consulted and were concerned about whether Prof Jay could investigate the past failures of her own profession i.e. social workers. He told The Times that his clients wanted an urgent meeting with the Home Secretary and that they were seriously considering a judicial review of the appointment.
Whether or not they get such a meeting or launch a judicial review remains to be seen, but this just evidences that it will never be possible to please everyone. So it begs the question whether one survivor group can represent all others? This will be one of the decisions Prof Jay will need to soon make, another is with regard to disclosure and redaction – more to follow.
Paula Jefferson, Partner