Peter Skelton QC, lead counsel for the Accountability and Reparations Investigation section of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has provided further guidance on the scope of the investigations and what they hope to achieve.
The Accountability and Reparations Investigation will consider the extent to which current legal frameworks and remedies open to victims of abuse effectively provides reparation for the harm suffered.
This area is unique as it is looking at the aftermath of abuse rather than prevention. This strand of the Inquiry is in response to reports by victims / survivors of inadequate support, obstructive insurance companies and a civil justice system that fails to deliver adequate reparation.
Listening to victims
The investigation believes it is important to understand what victims and survivors consider constitutes adequate reparation and how they think it can be achieved. However, in the context of civil litigation, this will mean more than listening to the alleged victims and survivors. It will include scrutinising the role of insurance companies and investigating how they conduct themselves in the claims process.
Conflicting interests between Insurers and Insureds
It is noted that insurers and insureds may have conflicting duties and are likely to have a different approach to allegations of child sexual abuse. Insureds (more specifically local authorities) have a duty to protect and promote the welfare of children, whereas insurers have a duty to scrutinise legal claims thoroughly.
Civil Justice Reform and Redress Schemes
The investigation is seeking to introduce reforms which would make civil litigation less adversarial. Suggestions have included using jointly instructed medical experts, greater emphasis on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and a meaningful apology which does not impact upon issues of liability.
Furthermore, the possibility of implementing more substantial legal and procedural reforms is to be explored, which may include changing the law on limitation and consent and more radical solutions, such as the creation of redress schemes similar to those in other jurisdictions.
Skelton and his team hope that the Inquiry will "be able to make workable and effective recommendations for the future".
It is important for insurers to consider what role they wish to play in this investigation to mould the future of the civil justice system, be that as a core participant, witness or observer.