Controversy has accompanied Home Secretary Theresa May’s ‘Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’, which was set up in July in the aftermath of the Rotherham child abuse scandal to investigate the failings of institutions and authorities in their duty to protect children.

Head of Abuse Inquiry pressured to resign

While Theresa May has stated her intention that the inquiry will be robust, thorough and challenging to the institutions involved, the independence of the Panel Head that will lead the inquiry has been called into question as both May’s selections so far are said to have had prejudicial links to the ‘establishment’.

Theresa May’s first appointment, Lady Butler-Sloss, resigned following concerns about her late brother, Lord Havers, who was the Attorney General during a period which is likely to be ‘of interest’ to the inquiry. Now the currently appointed Head, Ms Fiona Woolf, currently Lord Mayor of London, has faced intense scrutiny over the details of her ties with Lord Brittan, who was Home Office Minister of State and later Home Secretary during the same contentious period.  Apart from being Lord Brittan’s neighbour, having lived on the same street for almost 10 years, she has admitted to having met with him and his wife, Diana, numerous times in an official and social capacity.

Ms Woolf has been extensively questioned in Parliament regarding her relationship with Lord Brittan. She also faces calls for her resignation from abuse survivors and their families, some of whom have lodged an application for judicial review to challenge her appointment on the basis that she does not meet the proper requirements under the Inquiries Act. Furthermore, an early day parliamentary motion was submitted on Monday by Manchester MP John Leech requesting her replacement. He also asked for the entire scope and terms of the inquiry to be entirely revised. The motion is being supported by MP’s Jim Shannon, Jeremy Corbyn and Mike Hancock.

Parliamentary motion calls for complete revision of the Abuse Inquiry

As it stands, the scope of the inquiry will extend as far back as 1970, with the possibility of an extension depending on the information available. It will only include England and Wales, which has caused disappointment in light of the abuse allegations involving the Kincora Boys Home in East Belfast.

The inquiry is further limited to considering previous reports and reviews, rather than adducing evidence from abuse survivors who were the victims of the institutional failings. The motion calls for the terms of reference of the inquiry to be widened to include the evidence of survivors. It also requests that the inquiry terms stipulate that any individuals whose failings are identified will be held to account by the relevant authorities. To this effect, the motion specifies that a dedicated National Crime Agency team should be allocated to act alongside the inquiry in order to investigate and prosecute those responsible.