Following the shock resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard from her position as Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), Professor Alexis Jay has been appointed as the fourth Chairwoman of the abuse inquiry.
Responding to the appointment, and explaining how survivors of abuse may respond to the announcement of the new Chair, is Peter Garsden – Head of Abuse Claims.
Marred By Resignation
Announced in 2014, the IICSA is now on its fourth Chair, as the first 2 candidates resigned over questions of their links to the very institutions they were supposed to be investigating and Dame Lowell Goddard – the longest serving Chair at 15 months – recently resigned without giving definitive reasons.
With the inquiry still to hear any evidence from survivors of alleged abuse, the resignation of 3 successive Chairs has led some to be concerned over the effectiveness of the inquiry.
The fast appointment of Prof. Alexis Jay may be a step in the right direction, however, as the weeklong gap between resignation and appointment will allow the new Chair to continue the momentum started by her predecessor.
Previous Success In Abuse Case
Professor Jay has a track record in uncovering historic sexual abuse at an institutional level, as she led the Rotheram abuse inquiry. This resulted in a scathing report on the failings of the local council and revealed that at least 1,400 children had been sexually exploited as a result of an inherent failure in a duty of care.
Due to her past successes and her experience in protecting children, having been a Social Worker before becoming an academic and taking on the role of Chief Social Work Inspector to the Scottish Government, the Professor was already sitting on the Panel of the IICSA.
While she is the first Chair without a legal background, which has caused some in the media to belittle the appointment already, Professor Jay seems keen to jump into the role, as she said in a statement:
“Be in no doubt – the Inquiry is open for business and people are busier than ever working hard to increase momentum. The Panel and I are determined to make progress on all parts of the Inquiry’s work, including speaking to victims and survivors.”
“I am determined to overcome the challenges along the way. I will lead the largest public inquiry of its kind and together with my fellow Panel members we will fearlessly examine institutional failures, past and present, and make recommendations so that the children of England and Wales are better protected now and in the future.”
Thinking Of The Victims
With the widespread media coverage of the work of the IICSA, the inquiry – much like many before it – has become deeply politicised.
As the inquiry is specifically investigating failures by institutions and is designed to look into allegations of abuse by establishment figures, every move made by the IICSA is heavily scrutinised by the media.
Within the ensuing media circus it seems as though the very victims that are supposed to be given a voice by the IICSA are being ignored and forgotten, as Peter explains:
“The IICSA receives a lot of media attention, which can act as a safeguard to the inquiries practices; however, in many cases this results in a trial by media and in much of the coverage the alleged victims – who have been continually let down by the institutions that were designed to protect them – are forgotten.”
“The resignation of Dame Goddard was yet another setback to the survivors of alleged abuse and once again developed a feeling of mistrust amongst victims.”
“These are people who allege that they were taken advantage of and abused by someone in a position of authority, and it still seems as though their long fight for justice is many years from its end.”
“Amongst the victims of alleged abuse by Lord Janner – for whom I’m leading a group action – there seems to be mixed feelings, as a fast appointment is appreciated but the lack of democratic process or consultation on the appointment causes concern.”
“As the appointment rests solely on the decision of the Home Secretary, there’s once again a feeling of ‘them against us’ amongst victims, when in reality we should all be working together to gain justice for the survivors of historic sex abuse.”
“In the furore over the appointment, and indeed the experience and eligibility, of the new Chair it is important that survivors are supported, as the inquiry was set up so their voices can be heard.”