Child Abuse Inquiry
Child Abuse Inquiry – two of the top lawyers working for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) have resigned in quick succession.
Lead Counsel Ben Emmerson QC and his deputy Elizabeth Prochaska both announced their resignation in a night that rocked the inquiry and raised questions about how the investigation will move forward.
The news of the resignations came shortly after the inquiry’s top lawyer, Ben Emmerson QC, was suspended pending an investigation into complaints about his management techniques.
Less than 24 hours after learning of his suspension, Emmerson resigned from the Child Abuse inquiry; news of Elizabeth Prochaska’s resignation came soon after, however it is claimed that the two incidents are not related, as the latter’s decision to quit was made up to two weeks prior to Emmerson’s.
Acting as the child abuse inquiry’s leading lawyers, Emmerson and First Junior Counsel Prochaska met with survivors on a regular basis.
Both Emmerson himself and the IICSA have denied that the Counsel’s resignation was due to a difference of opinion with Chairwoman Alexis Jay regarding the scope of the inquiry.
In his resignation letter, Emmerson claimed that he had made his decision as he no longer felt that he was the right person to lead on the inquiry’s investigations.
Questions Over Inquiry’s Scope
These recent setbacks, which come just over a month after the child abuse inquiry’s third Chair resigned, have raised further questions about the IICSA’s scope.
When she resigned from her post Dame Lowell Goddard, the IICSA’s third Chairwoman, claimed that the inquiry’s scope was too large and should be scaled back.
Shortly after her appointment, current Chair Professor Alexis Jay – a former social worker who uncovered the sexual abuse scale in Rotherham – announced a review of the child abuse inquiry’s way of working, despite stating that the inquiry’s scope would not be changed.
Emmerson was tasked with heading up the review; however with his resignation he has claimed that he does not feel that he is the best suited for the task.
Damaging Staffing Development
The resignation of the child abuse inquiry’s two top lawyers comes after turmoil at the top of the investigation, as Dame Goddard became the third Chair to resign since the inquiry was established by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014.
The child abuse inquiry’s first two Chairs, Baroness Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf, stepped down in quick succession after their links to supposed establishment figures.
Professor Alexis Jay was appointed as Chair following Dame Goddard’s resignation and has doubled down on the inquiry’s efforts to uncover historical sexual abuse, as she assured victims that there will be no alteration in the investigation’s scope, a sentiment shared by Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
Discussing the recent developments and how they could affect the child abuse inquiry, Peter Garsden – who is representing a group action against the late Lord Janner, whose case is due to be heard by the IICSA – said:
“Ben Emmerson, I know, had the respect and trust of the survivors. They saw him as a forceful, capable, well-organised, and knowledgeable lawyer who has their interests at heart.”
“His decision to resign, as well as the same decision being taken by the First Junior Counsel, is yet another damaging development in the staffing of the inquiry after the continued resignation of Chairpersons.”
“The conflicting information that’s coming after these resignation leads one to speculate on whether there is a conflict between the stated political objectives of continuing with the inquiry as it is, and the practicalities of the amount of work that is required.”
“The inevitable consequence from a survivor’s perspective is that they will think that this is yet another attempt by those in positions of authority to undermine the inquiry.”
“During the problems over the appointment of Chairpersons at the very beginning of the inquiry, the survivors were of the view that the inquiry was set up to fail, so as to avoid the close scrutiny of the activities of government and its connections with abuse.”
“This latest development will do nothing to imbue trust in the organisation, in which the survivors have invested a lot of faith. Lack of trust in authority is something endemic in the psychic makeup of the survivor; as such the suspicious circumstances surrounding Ben Emmerson, in whom they have invested faith, is likely to affect their mood attitude towards the inquiry.”