This Thursday sees the formal opening of the independent inquiry into non-recent child sex abuse in England and Wales. The inquiry will be chaired by Justice Lowell Goddard, a serving judge of the High Court of New Zealand who has experience of working with abuse victims.
Justice Goddard is expected to give an opening statement on Thursday indicating how the inquiry will run, how long it is expected to run and how abuse survivors will be able to engage in the process.
Inquiry into Decades of Abuse
The inquiry was announced in 2014 by Home Secretary Theresa May after allegations of child sex abuse spanning several decades emerged – abuse that allegedly involved public figures, including politicians.
Several police investigations are ongoing at the moment into child sex abuse, including Operation Hydrant where 261 “prominent public persons” are being investigated.
Justice Goddard’s inquiry will investigate whether "public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales."
Two failed attempts to launch the inquiry last year prompted fears among alleged victims of abuse that they would never hear the truth come out. The appointment of an independent chair in Justice Goddard gave them new hope – as did the change to an inquiry panel with statutory powers that can compel witnesses to give evidence, force institutions to supply documents and can offer more support to abuse survivors.
Crucially, the new inquiry has the Home Secretary’s insistence that the Official Secrets Act cannot be used to hide the truth coming out.
We hope that the inquiry is a full investigation and enables lessons to be learned to ensure that as much is done as possible to prevent abuse from happening in the future.
At Slater and Gordon, we have the UK’s most experienced team of Child Abuse Lawyers who are currently representing over 800 survivors of child sex abuse.
We are committed to helping the inquiry as much as we can in the interests of the survivors we represent – not only currently but also those we have represented in the past – to ensure that the reality of institutional child abuse that has existed in the past is exposed, that there is proper accountability of previous failings to prosecute and, most importantly, that lessons from the past are learned so that this pervasive evil crime is prevented as much as possible.
Jessica Standley is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK, specialising in child abuse claims.
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