The IICSA today held the first event in its research seminar series at the Internal Dispute Resolution Centre, London. The research seminar discussed what can be gleaned from the academic literature as to the efficacy of approaches adopted in other jurisdictions in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, how this can be used to inform best practice in England and Wales and to identify areas for further research.
Following the disclosure by more than 20 football players that they were sexually abused, the FA has announced an internal review. At the same time, Crewe Alexandra has said it will launch an independent review.
Thus far, Leeds United, Stoke, Manchester City, Newcastle and Blackpool are all clubs which have been linked to the disclosure of abuse, in addition to Crewe Alexandra. Multiple police forces are investigating.
Commentators have described these disclosures as the tip of the iceberg and compared them to the disclosures which followed the initial revelations about Jimmy Savile. Calls have been made for a wide-ranging inquiry. Were it not facing challenges of its own then the IICSA would seem the obvious organisation to lead such a wide-ranging inquiry but that is probably unrealistic for it at the current time and importantly it needs not to be rushed in to another investigation without proper remit and focus. However, having multiple reviews, investigations and inquiries is not in anyone’s interest, least of all those abused nor those seeking to learn from what has happened so as to ensure best practice is in place now.
In due course those abused may seek redress. In undertaking reviews, regard should also be had to how and when support and redress, in whatever form appropriate, can be provided without undue complication and delay. Lessons should be learned from the Savile disclosures and the criticism of the IICSA so that football stands as a beacon of good practice which other organisations with less financial acumen can follow and learn from.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner
Once again the IICSA has hit the headlines. That has not been because of the work of the Truth Project which is now operating in London and Wales; the further research being commissioned in connection with child sexual abuse; or preparation for the first seminars at the end of November. They are examples of the Inquiry “getting on with the job” but those stories have been hidden by more controversy and criticism. The Inquiry needs to address the negative publicity otherwise it will lose all trust and face more accusations of cover-up and secrecy, the irony of which will not be lost on those who have suffered abuse.
Further to yesterday’s blog, detailed below is further consideration of the recent work of the Australian Royal Commission but which is of relevance and interest to organisations considering the protection of children now and in the future, as well as in the past, in jurisdictions other than Australia.
In the past few months the IICSA has been in the news because of the focus on its organisation and key personnel, rather that its core work. Prof Jay has announced that she will shortly report on the outcome of her internal review. In the meantime the IICSA is focusing on its relationship with victims and survivors and putting the Truth Project, which has been overlooked by much media comment, back at its core. It has said to victims and survivors: “We need to learn from your experience. You can help us understand how to keep children safe. Your voice is central to our Inquiry and your insights can help guide us forward to finding a better way to protect children. By sharing your experience and your opinions, you can make a difference to the lives of future generations and have a positive impact in changes to child protection policies.”
The Home Affairs Committee met yesterday to discuss the work of the IICSA. IICSA witnesses were: Professor Alexis Jay OBE – Chair, and Panel Members Ivor Frank and Drusilla Sharpling CBE.
The Committee sought to address three key areas:
- What was going on? Focusing on the departure of Dame Lowell Goddard and other key players;
- A synopsis of where the IICSA was now; and
- Where the Inquiry goes from here.
The IICSA witnesses provided a unified front and although at they were times unable to answer questions due to confidentiality/HR issues, or an understandable reluctance to engage in further personal criticism, they were able to explain:
- As Panel members they had had concerns about Goddard’s leadership – they considered she would have preferred to have sat without a Panel. Under her tenure they were kept at a distance from a lot of the Inquiry’s activities. Drusilla Sharpling reported concerns regarding Goddard’s leadership and the IICSA’s progress to the Home Office in April 2016 but made it very clear she gave no permission then for such concerns to be taken further; it was merely a notification of the situation to the Home Office.
- The witnesses refused to be drawn into media speculation, especially that relating to Ben Emmerson QC, but they confirmed Emmerson was retained by the Inquiry following his resignation to undertake a handover, however this period was coming to an end shortly. Professor Jay reiterated a number of times that the Inquiry is bigger than any individual, ego or personality.
- The Inquiry has made progress and there have been collective achievements as a result of the hard work of staff, who would continue to work hard moving forward. Professor Jay made it clear the review she initiated following her appointment was on-going and further details would be provided in due course and although the IICSA’s work was moving forward it would be tackled in a different way. Its scope however would not be reduced. The witnesses explained a plan was in place to progress and report with the intention that significant progress will have been made by 2020; with an interim report to be produced by 2018 and further reports to be provided as progress is made.
- When asked about the perceived lost confidence in the Inquiry, the IICSA witnesses said they felt the Inquiry had the confidence of many, they continued to engage with survivors and would be taking up more invitations to go and talk about the work of the Inquiry.
Ivor Frank and Drusilla Sharpling confirmed they had no issues with Jay’s leadership. Ivor Frank was keen to highlight to the Committee, that whilst he understood their interest and request for further information relating to the number of Home Office employees working for the IICSA, the IICSA guarded its independence. The IICSA witnesses also made it clear they were present as a matter of courtesy not compulsion.
Professor Jay said the Inquiry would welcome a period of time with no distractions and hopefully moving forward this can be achieved.
Mark Sedwill – Permanent Secretary, Home Office, was then interviewed. The questions put to him related to old territory: Goddard’s appointment; the relationship between the IICSA and the Home Office; allegations against Goddard. He was heavily criticised, along with Amber Rudd, in relation to the evidence they previously gave. Sedwell suggested his evidence was based on the line of questioning, previously the focus was on Goddard’s own motives for stepping down. He confirmed the concerns raised by Drusilla Sharpling were an early warning to the Home Office but it was understood the Panel were seeking to deal with concerns internally. If a formal complaint had been made, steps would have been taken. Sedwill also confirmed Goddard made no request to the Home Office to withdraw her resignation as suggested in the press.
The media might have been hoping or expecting more “gossip” to fuel the frenzy that has surrounded the IICSA in the last few months, but the IICSA – presented yesterday by its new Chair and two of its Panel members, refused to engage in such discussions instead seeking to focus public attention on the IICSA’s work – previous, current and on-going, and the purpose for which the IICSA was established.
Miriam Rahamim, Solicitor, BLM
In advance of today’s Home Affairs Committee meeting the IICSA has published a statement.
Four thematic strands are to now be the focus of the Inquiry’s work. They are cultural, structural, financial and professional and political. These are the issues which the IICSA will focus on in all of its investigations so as to ensure that changes will have the most impact on better protection for children.
The statement confirms an intention to work to a final report by the end of 2020. No doubt questions on the detail of this statement will be pursued tomorrow.
Paula Jefferson, Partner