What a mess!
What an appalling and horrendous mess!
Following the announcement in July by the Home Secretary Teresa May of an ‘overarching and independent inquiry into child abuse’ there was a sense of momentum, a feeling of optimism, and a sense of trust that finally the horrible truth about child sexual abuse in UK institutions over many decades and allegations of establishment complicity and even involvement would at last be exposed.
That momentum has been lost, that optimism has been worn down, that trust has been squandered.
At the time of writing this, Fiona Woolf is still chair of the Inquiry but I doubt anyone would suggest that she will be for much longer. She will be the second chairperson to forced to resign due to conflicted links to those involved in issues that will almost certainly need to be looked at by the CSA Inquiry.
But the suitability of the chair alone is not the only concern that many have. This supposedly ‘independent’ inquiry appears to have had significant Home Office involvement. From the selection of the panel, providing Home Office staff to serve as the Inquiry’s secretariat, to even revising and redrafting Fiona Woolf’s public letter to the Home Secretary, the Home Office’s fingerprints are all over this. If the CSA Inquiry had made significant progress in the last couple of months then perhaps that wouldn’t have mattered but the entire process is stalled and questions are starting to be asked whether it was the intention of the Home Office all along to ‘sponsor’ a stalled, flawed, and impotent inquiry.
It is now abundantly clear that if this Inquiry is to be salvaged it is going to need decisive, independent and professional leadership and that is why I believe that Jim Gamble, the formerly the chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and more recently, since he resigned in October 2010 after the Home Secretary Theresa May’s money saving decision to merge CEOP with SOCA and other bodies into a new National Crime Agency, he has continued to actively promote child safeguarding.
There are many great potential candidates who might credibly take over the chairmanship of the CSA Inquiry but very few, like Jim Gamble, could walk into a Home Affairs Select Committee meeting tomorrow and demonstrate a broad understanding of the complexity, scope, and sensitivity of the issues involved.
Simon Danzuk MP has suggested that someone from inside the panel should be promoted to chair but I sincerely disagree because the effect of this recent Home Office debacle has been to undermine to a greater or lesser degree all those connected to it. I would not expect to see an entirely new panel but I would hope to see a new uncontaminated chairperson accompanied by a panel that can provide balance and oversight.
Brian Moore would be an excellent addition to the panel.
And to be frank, not accepting bollocks right now, after Home Office civil servants have been tinkering, is an essential qualification.
A well respected professional journalist would also add weight, required skill sets, and balance to the panel.
It is impossible for a chairman and a panel to be selected which will be supported by every survivor. Child sexual abuse is extremely personal and traumatic and the individual survivor is the only person that can express how they feel and that is why survivors will need a voice in this process. Every survivor must be given the opportunity to give testimony to this inquiry. Whether it is in private or in public, written or oral, whether in their own names or anonymously, that should be their choice but everyone should be given the chance if they wish.
I personally believe that Jim Gamble can rescue this travesty of an inquiry and deliver the answers that everyone wants. I believe he will deliver the clear leadership and independence which will give survivors confidence in the CSA Inquiry as a whole.