A number of councils are amongst a range of organisations to be scrutinised in the first phase of investigations into the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children, the Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has said.
Lowell Goddard, a judge from New Zealand, said the 12 investigations would begin immediately and most, if not all, would culminate in public hearings. She added that they were “by no means the total of the work we intend to conduct; further investigations will be announced as the Inquiry progresses.”
The 12 investigations are:
- Children in the Care of Lambeth Council;
- Children in the Care of Nottinghamshire Councils;
- Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale Council;
- Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church;
- Child Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church;
- The Sexual Abuse of Children in Custodial Institutions;
- Child Sexual Abuse in Residential Schools;
- The Internet and Child Sexual Abuse;
- Child Exploitation by Organised Networks;
- The Protection of Children Outside the United Kingdom;
- Accountability and Reparations for Victims and Survivors;
- Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse Linked to Westminster.
Procedural timetables for each investigation will be published in early 2016.
Judge Goddard (pictured) said: “By adopting both an institution-specific and a thematic approach, we will ensure that the Inquiry reaches its conclusions on as broad an evidence base as possible. We will not be limited to considering the particular institution that is the focus of the investigation, but will address the range of institutional responsibility for child protection.
“There is no doubt that the task we have set ourselves in the first phase is ambitious. To run 12 investigations in parallel represents an organisational challenge that is unprecedented in a public inquiry in the UK. We are determined to succeed and expect full cooperation of all institutions and individuals who can assist us in our work.”
Commenting on the procedure for the investigations, the Inquiry Chair said: “It is impossible to put a timescale on the completion of all of this work, but it is reasonable to assume that while some of the investigations may be completed within 18 months, others may take several years to conclude.
“In some cases, overlapping criminal proceedings may cause substantial delay to the progress of individual investigations. Nonetheless, in my Opening Statement I committed to completing the work of the Inquiry within five years and my current assessment is that that timeframe, whilst ambitious, is achievable.”
The Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel to the Inquiry said: “Too many victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have suffered in silence. These investigations will give public voice to that suffering and bring greater understanding of why so many horrific crimes went unreported and undetected for so long. They will enable the Inquiry to make proposals for reforms that will better protect children in the future and improve the support and reparation available to victims and survivors.”
The Inquiry’s 12 investigations fall into two categories; institution-specific and thematic. Taken together they will cut across the five workstreams of the Inquiry:
- Allegations of abuse by people of prominence in public life - led by the Chair, Judge Goddard;
- Education and religion - led by Panel member, Prof. Malcolm Evans;
- Criminal Justice and law enforcement - led by Panel member, Drusilla Sharpling;
- Local authorities and voluntary organisations - led by Panel member, Prof. Alexis Jay;
- National and private service organisations - led by Panel member, Ivor Frank.
Judge Goddard’s update on the Inquiry can be found here.
Responding to the announcement, Anthony May, Chief Executive at Nottinghamshire County Council and Ian Curryer, Chief Executive at Nottingham City Council, said: “We welcome the independent scrutiny that the Goddard Inquiry (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) will bring to cases of historical sexual abuse and will engage fully with it. We have been jointly investigating allegations of historical abuse, some of which are of a sexual nature, for a number of years now with Nottinghamshire Police.
“From the outset, we have taken these allegations seriously, some of which date back to the 1940s when predecessor organisations were in charge of children’s homes.
“The safety and well-being of children in our care today must be, and is, of the highest priority. The safety and quality of care for such children is nowadays closely regulated and scrutinised by Ofsted and our Children’s Safeguarding Boards.”
Rochdale Council meanwhile said: “We will give our full support to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and make available any resources it requires.”
Peter Steel, partner at law firm Bevan Brittan, said: “The size and scope of this inquiry means that there is likely to be more evidence to consider than the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war – the evidence for which ran into the millions of pages. It is a truly daunting undertaking, which Justice Goddard seems to be under no illusions about.
“The budget of £17.9 million for next year may sound large – but it will be a real challenge to ‘leave no stone unturned’ and keep within those limits.
“For the local authorities and other public bodies facing scrutiny, it will also be a costly and difficult process. The key will be to cooperate fully and openly, and put the unearthing of the historical truth first before everything else.”