The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) last week took its first steps of 2017 appointing Brian Altman QC as lead counsel to the Inquiry.

Myself and my colleagues have previously written about IICSA and the steps taken to date on numerous occasions.

It is important that in the wake of the controversy which beset IICSA towards the end of last year that 2017 sees a new approach to the Inquiry with proceedings being handled confidently and sensitively with survivors of child abuse at their centre. Unfortunately, the succession of resignations in 2016 overshadowed the work done by IICSA and led many (including key participants and survivors groups) to lose confidence in the Inquiry.

Mr Altman brings significant experience to the role having previously served as treasury counsel for 16 years including two and a half years as first senior treasury counsel. As part of his role as treasury counsel Mr Altman has been responsible for prosecuting and advising on some of the most high profile and serious crimes in recent history. This experience should serve Mr Altman well in this latest high profile role however it is of course crucial that no individual is allowed to overshadow the important work which IICSA was set up to complete.

Mr Altman’s comments on being appointed lead counsel to the Inquiry suggest that he understands the importance of his new role and is ready to work to ensure that IICSA makes progress in 2017:

“The Government and the public have set the inquiry a huge challenge to investigate institutional responses to child sexual abuse in the past, and to report and make recommendations in order to prevent such abuse happening in the future. I am delighted to have been appointed to lead a team of lawyers dedicated to completing the task of the inquiry. I will work to ensure that the investigations and the public hearings are kept on track in order to deliver the terms of reference of the inquiry.”

It is now time for Mr Altman and the rest of IICSA to get down to serious work and to prepare for the first of 2017’s preliminary hearings which take place at the end of January. A preliminary hearing will take place on 31 January in relation to IICSA’s investigation into sexual abuse of children overseas. This investigation will examine the extent to which institutions and organisations based in the England and Wales have taken their responsibility to protect children outside of the UK from sexual abuse seriously.

Further updates will follow as further preliminary hearings take place.