Statement: New Chair For Inquiry
Posted on 4th February 2015
Statement by Ben Emmerson QC, counsel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse:
“The Home Secretary is extremely fortunate to have secured the services of Justice Lowell Goddard, one of the most respected and experienced judges in the Commonwealth, to act as Chair of the new statutory inquiry that was announced in the House of Commons this afternoon. Justice Goddard has all the key qualities necessary to lead the Inquiry’s work – absolute independence from the executive, a proven track record of holding state and non-state institutions to account, and the forensic skills necessary to digest and analyse vast quantities of evidence. She is a judge with a longstanding commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, both in New Zealand and within the United Nations system. She has the courage, independence and vision required to run a major national investigation into the failure to protect vulnerable children against sexual abuse, which has reportedly taken place on an almost industrial scale in institutional settings in the United Kingdom over many years.
I have personally reviewed the selection and due diligence processes used by the Home Office in the appointment of Justice Goddard. These processes were carried out in unprecedented depth and detail, and meet the highest possible standards of pre-appointment scrutiny. As part of the selection process, the Home Secretary has consulted – personally and through her officials – with victims and survivors, and she has listened carefully to their concerns and priorities in framing these new arrangements.
As a result of this review, the original panel appointed last September has been dissolved and a new panel will in due course be selected by the Home Secretary in consultation with Justice Goddard, following an objective appointment process conducted in accordance with transparent criteria. Despite a number of difficulties, the original panel managed to do some important groundwork in the short time that it was in place. This work will help to inform the decisions that Justice Goddard will now have to make in framing the inquiry’s methodology.
But it is important to stress that this is a completely fresh start. The inquiry that the Home Secretary has announced today will be a statutory inquiry established under the 2005 Inquiries Act. Unlike the previous panel inquiry it will have powers to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence by institutions and individuals. Justice Goddard and her legal advisers will be able to review open and classified sources. This new inquiry will therefore have all the powers it needs to penetrate deeply into the institutions that have failed children in the past, and to identify those institutions that are reportedly continuing to fail children today. And it will do so under the leadership of an exceptionally experienced judge.
This new inquiry will begin its work on a fully professional footing from the outset. Every effort will of course be made to keep the public sufficiently informed about the progress of the inquiry, with as much transparency as possible. However, some of the inquiry’s work will necessarily be conducted under conditions of confidentiality which are essential for the effective investigation of such serious and sensitive allegations.
I am pleased to say that the independent Secretariat, which has been working hard to lay the groundwork for this inquiry, will continue to serve as the Secretariat for the new statutory inquiry. The members of this dedicated team have been recruited from across government departments and beyond. They are committed to the success of this new inquiry and will be answerable to Justice Goddard and the new panel, and to no one else. They are, and will remain, fully independent of Government.
I am also pleased to confirm that I have accepted an invitation from the Home Secretary to act as counsel to the Goddard Inquiry. In this capacity I have already had the opportunity to speak to Justice Goddard personally and to begin discussions with her about the challenges ahead. She will be arriving in the United Kingdom next week for a meeting with Home Affairs Select Committee.
I would like to acknowledge the clear commitment that the Home Secretary has shown throughout this process to the success of this new inquiry. In order to ensure that the arrangements she has now put in place are robust and sustainable she has taken a very close personal interest in the process and has met regularly with a range of stakeholders to canvass their views for herself.
All those involved in this process are committed to confronting the scourge of child sexual abuse in this country, shining a light into the murkier corners of some of our most powerful national institutions.”