The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is investigating whether public bodies and other institutions have taken seriously their duty to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales.

Hill Dickinson has been retained by insurers to represent their interests within the Accountability & Reparations investigation within the IICSA. Alastair Gillespie, head of abuse and social care, attended the first Accountability & Reparations Seminar in November 2016 to discuss issues in civil litigation.

Alastair Gillespie and Elizabeth Finnie reflect on the IICSA’s progress and its plans for 2017/18.

The review

At the end of 2016 the IICSA carried out an internal review, and in December 2016 published a report on the findings. The review concluded that valuable work had been done, but progress had been slow. It recognised that the IICSA has two important tasks:

  1. To investigate institutional failures of the past
  2. To make meaningful recommendations to keep children safe in the future

The review established that the IICSA’s work needed rebalancing to ensure that there is sufficient attention given to making recommendations for the future. The report laid out a schedule of work for 2017.

The Research Project

The IICSA reports that in order to make recommendations for change, a comprehensive understanding of today’s challenges is required. To that end, the Research Project is considered essential.

The IICSA has reviewed existing research on child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, custodial institutions, and residential schools. It has also reviewed existing evidence on the impact of sexual abuse on victims.

The Inquiry has announced that throughout 2017/18, it will undertake a programme of new research into child sexual abuse, with the following themes for focus:

  • Victim and survivor voices and experiences
  • Support services and prevention of/response to abuse
  • Previous reports and inquiries

The Public Hearings Project

The Public Hearings Project is intended to examine and expose institutional failures. During 2016 the IICSA held 11 preliminary hearings as part of this project. It requested relevant evidence from hundreds of institutions and has received over 86,000 documents. 205 organisations and individuals have been given ‘core participant’ status.

To support the Research Project, further seminars will be held in 2017/2018 to gather information and views about issues relevant to child sexual abuse. This will inform the Inquiry on areas for further investigation. They will hear from victims, survivors, institutions, practitioners and leading researchers. The IICSA plans to publish preliminary recommendations in 2018.

The IICSA has also announced that it will hold public hearings in three investigations in 2017:

  • Children outside of the UK (as part of the child migration case study)
  • Rochdale Council establishments
  • The Roman Catholic church

A progress report will be published for each investigation. The IICSA has also announced that it will ask the Football Association to provide it with findings of its review into child sexual abuse in football.

The programme of preliminary hearings will continue. These will cover subjects such as the child migration case study, accountability and reparations for victims, and the investigation into responses to allegations of sexual abuse involving Lord Janner of Braunstone QC.

The Truth Project

The Truth Project invites victims of child sexual abuse to share their experiences with the IICSA. In December 2016 the first anonymised summaries of experiences from Truth Project participants were published. Private sessions continue to be held throughout the country. A full report, setting out the Inquiry’s learning from the Truth Project to date, will be published in October 2017.

What next?

The chair’s comments indicate a commitment to effect change before the conclusion of the inquiry. The Inquiry encourages engagement with a seminar on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse scheduled for April 2017, and a seminar on victims’ experiences scheduled for July 2017.