Ben Emmerson QC, legal advisor to the independent national inquiry into historical child sexual abuse, has come under criticism today from one of the inquiry’s panel members Sharon Evans at the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) hearing today.
I think it is only right and fair to note that the other, slightly more politically astute, panel members who attended the hearing did not make similar criticisms and that Mr Emmerson has not had a chance to respond but the criticisms need to be noted also.
Sharon Evans suggested that a briefing before the HASC hearing was construed by her as being restrictive and as a consequence committee chairman Keith Vaz MP made clear at the outset of the hearing that the proceedings were covered by parliamentary privilege and that every witness before it should not feel restricted in what they had to say.
Sharon Evans asserted that a letter from panel members to the Home Secretary was redrafted before being passed to the Home Secretary. This recalls the fiasco of the 7 drafts and redrafts of former panel chairman Fiona Woolf’s letter to the Home Secretary which precipitated her resignation from that post.
Sharon Evans also suggested that she and other panel members were ‘advised’ by Mr Emmerson not to speak to the media and that the lack of apparent transparency and inability to rebut allegations of a personal nature had had a detrimental effect on Survivor and Public confidence in the panel and the process itself.
Overall, Sharon Evans gave the impression that in the absence of an appointed chairperson, Mr Emmerson as legal advisor to the panel was seeking to control the panel and its proceedings.
I, like everyone else, await Mr Emmerson’s response.