Amidst wider claims of failings within Westminster and the Criminal Justice system, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, states that the new wider panel inquiry into historic child abuse will examine churches, the BBC and political parties.
The government is now facing increasing pressure about the viability of the inquiry in its current form. There is pressure for the inquiry to be disbanded and replaced with a more powerful body. Inevitably if this occurs there will be further delays and it remains to be seen what format the inquiry will ultimately take. The inquiry has previously faced controversy having already come under pressure and scrutiny with criticisms about potential conflicts of interest and that it is not fit for purpose. Fiona Wolfe, Lord Mayor of London, resigned in October amidst concerns and issues with her past links to Lord Brittan followed by the resignation of Baroness Butler-Sloss in July, owing to her late brother’s role as Attorney General during one of the relevant periods. It is fair to say that whoever is finally appointed as the Chair of the inquiry will have a challenging task ahead.
Despite the current challenges and controversy the Home Secretary appears to remain steadfast in her commitment to the inquiry and has confirmed the government’s willingness to consider, if necessary, an upgrade to a full public inquiry. She has also suggested the possibility of granting the inquiry statutory status at some point in the future. The Home Secretary reiterates that the "confidence of survivors is paramount."
In the wake of the recent widespread, highly publicised and investigated activities of celebrities, MPs and priests it is likely that the government’s inquiry will be both long running and politically sensitive. The government has indicated that is unlikely that the inquiry will be completed before the next general election.
The impact that this will have on institutions and organisations that may become involved will not be limited to increased publicity. The outcome of any findings of neglect and abuse, be that institutional of otherwise, will undoubtedly, have a direct effect upon future potential prosecutions and civil claims.
Insurers will need to be alive to the likely risk of increased activity and a greater level of civil claims. Consideration of policy coverage, for new and previously unaffected entities in this field, will also prove to be fertile areas for consideration.
Ensuring that insureds are supported, participate and cooperate proactively with any investigation and/or inquiry is paramount. Abuse claims continue to be high profile and sensitive. It is paramount therefore to ensure that appropriate case management and defence strategies are adopted from the outset in order to identify any opportunist claims from those genuine claims merit.
Our specialist, multi-disciplinary team have extensive experience in supporting insureds and insurers through the claim and litigation process taking care to balance the sensitive nature of the claims whilst ensuring they are fully investigated and where appropriate robust defence strategies put in place.
It remains to be seen what will result from the government’s inquiry in whatever form it will take going forward. Ongoing public, media and political interest in the issues concerning the inquiry will, inevitably, lead to an increased exposure for those insurers covering employer and public liabilities in this sector.