The grounds were drafted at a time when the Home Office solicitor had not replied to the judicial review pre-action protocol letter; so that eg at that point on three panel members had been appointed.
The main bases of the application can be summarised as follows:
- That survivors of child sexual abuse and their representative bodies were not consulted about the terms of reference of the inquiry, though the Government promised this in the House of Commons in early September 2014;
- That the panel members (especially Mrs Fiona Woolf) have not fully declared their partiality (‘bias’ in the legal sense) in dealing with the inquiry (or if they have it was after their appointment which is not what the law requires);
- That Mrs Woolf especially does not have the expertise to chair a panel of this sort; and perhaps not the time to devote to a heavy-weight inquisitorial task such as the inquiry represents; and
- That the inquiry should be statutory (ie under Inquiries Act 2005) and chaired by a judge of at least High Court level.
The only means of challenging these concerns is by judicial review. Survivors should be consulted about the terms of reference, which should be much wider than now.
In a recent Court of Appeal case (14 October 2014) Otkritie International Investment Management & Ors v Urumov  EWCA as follows:
 It is a basic principle of English law that a judge should not sit to hear a case in which “the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that [he] was biased”, see Porter v Magill…. The concept of bias includes any personal interest in the case or friendship with the participants, but extends further to any real possibility that a judge would approach a case with a closed mind or, indeed, with anything other than an objective view;…(italics added).
Grounds for judicial review
REGINA (on the application of JOANNE MICHELLE HEATH) v SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HOME OFFICE
GROUNDS AND REASONS
- This application relates to a decision of the Secretary of State for the Home Office (the ‘Home Secretary’) to set up a non-statutory inquiry (the ‘inquiry’) into historic instances of child sexual abuse; and to appoint to its panel three members, including Mrs Fiona Woolf.
- The applicant is one of a number of people who were sexually abused as children and who considers that Mrs Woolf may not be impartial in the discharge of her role. She appears to have personal relations with politicians whose actions are implicated in the inquiry; she does not have the obvious expertise in the fields of inquiry concerned; and she may not have time to discharge her duties as chair of the inquiry.
- Information on these points has been requested of the Home Office since 12 September 2014 (date of pre-action protocol letter). Information and documents and any other disclosure by the Home Secretary are yet to be provided.
- Terms of reference of the inquiry have not been drawn up, so far as the applicant is aware and at the time of preparation of this document.
- No consultation as to those terms of reference has taken place with the applicant, nor with any other of the survivors with whom she is in contact. Their evidence, it is submitted, will be crucial to the inquiry and assistance from them as to its terms of reference are essential.
Disclosure of information from Mrs Woolf and other panel members
- The applicant will seek as part of this application full disclosure of information (as summarised in the judicial review pre-action protocol letter (at Appendix 2) now adopted by the applicant).
- Subject to disclosure by the Home Office, the applicant seeks a declaration that due to her inexperience, the time available to her and her perceived lack of impartiality, Mrs Fiona Woolf is not a person who is appropriate to chair or otherwise to be involved with this inquiry. She therefore seeks a mandatory order that her appointment be revoked.
- Regardless of disclosure, the applicant seeks orders that
- That representatives of survivors and survivors themselves should be consulted as to the terms of reference of the inquiry.
- That the Home Secretary review her decision to make this a non-statutory inquiry and that she set it up as a statutory inquiry chaired by a judge of High Court or higher seniority.
The applicant: ‘sufficient interest’
- JH is a survivor (otherwise ‘victim’) of sexual abuse as a child. Her abuser was committed to prison on at least five life sentences for rape, including rapes on her.
- There are a number of survivors like her; and a number of groups of formerly abused individuals from a variety of backgrounds, different situations and different forms of abuse. What each have in common is that they were abused as children.
- As a survivor JH is a person with sufficient interest in the outcome of this application to justify her making this application (Senior Courts Act 1981 s 31(3)). (For further detail JH’s statement explaining the background to her own case is herewith.)
- It is possible that JH may be treated as a core participant in connection with the inquiry, whether under Inquiry Rules 2006 r 5(2) or otherwise if the inquiry remains non-statutory.
- On 7 July 2014 the Home Secretary set up an inquiry into child sex abuse (see Appendix 1). When it was set up the inquiry was discretionary (ie not appointed under Inquiries Act 2005); and that remains the position at the time of preparation of this pleading. As mentioned terms of reference for the inquiry remain to be fixed.
- Initially its chair was to be Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, with two other panel members. It later became necessary for Dame Elizabeth to resign.
- On 5 September 2014 the Home Secretary announced Fiona Woolf as a replacement for Dame Elizabeth in the following terms:
Further to my statement to the House on 7 July and my WMS of 9 July, I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Fiona Woolf CBE, JP to be the chairman of the independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection, to consider whether public bodies – and other, non-state, institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.
Fiona Woolf has had a long and distinguished career holding high-profile and challenging positions, including President of the Law Society and Chairman of the Association of Women Solicitors (AWS), and is only the second woman since 1189 to hold the position of Lord Mayor of London. As a lawyer, and latterly partner, at CMS Cameron McKenna for over 20 years, Fiona Woolf has worked in over 40 jurisdictions. She has advised over 25 governments and multi-lateral agencies such as the World Bank. She has also served as a member of the Competition Commission for 8 years. I am confident that Fiona Woolf has the skills and experience needed to set the strategic direction of the Inquiry, to lead the work of the Panel, and to challenge individuals and institutions without fear or favour to get to the bottom of this issue, and stop it happening again.
- Suggestions have been made by the applicant and other survivors that Mrs Woolf is not unbiased; that she may not have the necessary, relevant experience for the job of this type of inquiry; and that she may not have the time necessary to devote to it. Fears on this account have been raised with the Home Office (see pre-action protocol letter (‘PAP letter’): Appendix 2). The original PAP letter was addressed to the Treasury Solicitor (for the Home Office) by a survivor to maintain momentum in the process. The change to Joanne Heath as applicant has been indicated to the respondent through her solicitor without any apparent objection being taken.
- To date there has not been any response or explanation; nor any disclosure by the Home Office as to what information they have on these questions from any panel member and, in particular, from Mrs Woolf (and see references to Inquiries Act 2005 ss 8 and 9 below).
- The PAP letter has been acknowledged on behalf of the respondent (Appendix 3); but even their extended dead-line (by comparison with the normal protocol time-limits) of 17 October 2014 has passed. At the time of preparation of this document no response has been received.
- The only way in which a survivor can challenge the impartiality and other attributes of a chair to conduct an inquiry such as this is by judicial review (as distinct from the right of a litigant in court proceedings to apply direct to a judge to seek his/her recusal from a case).
- Although the inquiry was announced on 7 July 2014 it is understood that the panel has only met once and that in the absence of Mrs Woolf.
- There has been no consultation as to the terms of reference with survivors; or with groups of survivors or their representatives, so far as is known by JH. They are the individuals who may be directly affected by important aspects of the inquiry and their experiences could help to inform the work of those entrusted with the drafting of the terms of reference.
- It is known by the respondent that survivors are preparing draft terms of reference. The current draft is at Appendix 4, and has been received by the respondent through her solicitors.
(1) INQUIRY PANEL
Statutory provision and common law
- Inquiries Act 2005 (‘IA 2005’) was passed to clarify the law on the appointment of inquiries; though it did not make it obligatory for a minister so to do. Where an inquiry is set up under the 2005 Act it is governed by Inquiry Rules 2006 (‘IR 2006’). So far as it is necessary so to infer, it will be said that the Act and the 2006 Rules codify many common law principles applicable to this application.
- For the present these grounds and reasons will proceed as if IA 2005 and IR 2006 represent the common law (and thus non statutory inquiries), save where it is obvious that the common law and statute are inconsistent.
- Administrative Law (2009) Wade & Forsyth (10th Ed) at page 828 comments that though IA 2005 does not expressly prevent ministers from setting up ‘ad hoc non statutory inquiries… the 2005 Act procedure will doubtless emerge as the standard with its tight control over the direction and costs of the discretionary inquiry.’
- IA 2005 s 4 deals with the setting up of a statutory inquiry panel in the following way:
4 Appointment of inquiry panel
(1) Each member of an inquiry panel is to be appointed by the Minister by an instrument in writing.
(2) The instrument appointing the chairman must state that the inquiry is to be held under this Act.
(3) Before appointing a member to the inquiry panel (otherwise than as chairman) the Minister must consult the person he has appointed, or proposes to appoint, as chairman.
- What follows is subject to any appropriate and full disclosure being provided as to the matters below by the Home Secretary.
Impartiality and ‘bias’
- It is a principle of English administrative law that any decision-maker must be free from bias; and principles akin to the bias test in judicial standing and recusal are imported accordingly (de Smith’s Judicial Review (2013) ed Woolfe et al at ; Administrative Law (2009) Wade & Forsyth (10th Ed) at ).
- Inquiries Act 2005 s 9 provides as follows:
- Requirement of impartiality
(1) The Minister must not appoint a person as a member of the inquiry panel if it appears to the Minister that the person has—
(a) a direct interest in the matters to which the inquiry relates, or
(b) a close association with an interested party,
unless, despite the person’s interest or association, his appointment could not reasonably be regarded as affecting the impartiality of the inquiry panel.
(2) Before a person is appointed as a member of an inquiry panel he must notify the Minister of any matters that, having regard to subsection (1), could affect his eligibility for appointment.
(3) If at any time (whether before the setting-up date or during the course of the inquiry) a member of the inquiry panel becomes aware that he has an interest or association falling within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1), he must notify the Minister.
(4) A member of the inquiry panel must not, during the course of the inquiry, undertake any activity that could reasonably be regarded as affecting his suitability to serve as such.
- The applicant does not know what disclosure has been made by any inquiry member as to any association which he or she may have which comes within the compass of
- Whereas a party to court proceedings knows that s/he can apply to a judge to recuse him/herself, there is no obvious procedure provided for in IR 2006 or otherwise as to how a person interested in the outcome of an inquiry, can validly object to a panel appointment save by judicial review. This application is pursued in this way accordingly.
- IA 2005 s 8(1) provides as follows:
- Suitability of inquiry panel
(1) In appointing a member of the inquiry panel, the Minister must have regard—
(a) to the need to ensure that the inquiry panel (considered as a whole) has the necessary expertise to undertake the inquiry;…
- The office website of C/M/S, Law Tax, solicitors describes Mrs Woolfe thus:
Fiona Woolf has been at the cutting edge of all the major reforms in the electricity sector for over 20 years. She has worked on over 40 jurisdictions on electricity market implementation, regulation and power and transmission projects. She is now focusing on large regional infrastructure projects and trading arrangements and regulatory regimes to attract investment. Fiona is a non-executive director of a water company and was a former member of the Competition Commission. Fiona is currently serving as the Lord Mayor of the City of London for 2013/14.
- Taken ‘as a whole’ the panel has no judicial member (as was Lady Butler Sloss); though Mrs Woolfe is a solicitor and she is understood have sat as a magistrate (with a legal adviser) she has no experience of criminal or family law; nor of cross-examination of witnesses or of detailed inquiry. She has no experience to draw upon if (as it must be) part of the inquiry’s terms of reference (when finally settled) is to make recommendations.
- There are a variety of other parallel and similar enquiries (Jersey; reconsidering Waterhouse: Macur LJ; Rotherham; etc …). It is not obvious that Mrs Woolfe would have the experience (by comparison with (say) Macur LJ to co-ordinate and draw together all the recommendations of these various inquiries.
Time available for the job
- Though she was appointed at the beginning of September there is no evidence that Mrs Woolfe has yet started work on the inquiry remit. Lord Leveson sat more or less continuously for a year. Can Mrs Woolfe assure the home Secretary of the same time commitment?
Terms of reference
- IA 2005 s 5 provides as follows:
- Setting-up date and terms of reference
(1) In the instrument under section 4 [set out in full above] appointing the chairman, or by a notice given to him within a reasonable time afterwards, the Minister must—
(a) specify the date that is to be the setting-up date for the purposes of this Act; and
(b) before that date—
(i) set out the terms of reference of the inquiry;
(ii) state whether or not the Minister proposes to appoint other members to the inquiry panel, and if so how many.
(2) An inquiry must not begin considering evidence before the setting-up date.
(3) The Minister may at any time after setting out the terms of reference under this section amend them if he considers that the public interest so requires.
(4) Before setting out or amending the terms of reference the Minister must consult the person he proposes to appoint, or has appointed, as chairman.
(5) Functions conferred by this Act on an inquiry panel, or a member of an inquiry panel, are exercisable only within the inquiry’s terms of reference.
(6) In this Act “terms of reference”, in relation to an inquiry under this Act, means—
(a) the matters to which the inquiry relates;
(b) any particular matters as to which the inquiry panel is to determine the facts;
(c) whether the inquiry panel is to make recommendations;
(d) any other matters relating to the scope of the inquiry that the Minister may specify.
- There is no statutory duty upon the Home Secretary to consult on the subject of the inquiry’s terms of reference. It might be thought that the survivors’ experiences would inform the drafting of terms of reference. Their involvement in drafting might also assist in securing as much public support as possible for the work of the inquiry.
- Consultation could take place with some of the leading spokespeople for the survivors and others who represent the survivors. Ultimate responsibility for the terms of reference, it is accepted, rests with the Home Secretary and chair of the inquiry.
- It will be noted that s 5(3) speaks of ‘public interest’ which implies some dialogue with a ‘public’; and in the light of the direction in which administrative law is going (see eg R v North & East Devon HA exp Coughlan  EWCA 1871,  QB 619) it might be thought that some public consultation is legitimately to be expected by those directly concerned as subjects of the inquiry.
RIGHTS OF THE APPLICANT ENGAGED BY THIS APPLICATION
Common law and European Convention 1950 rights
- The applicant challenges the decision of the Secretary of State to appoint the panel, and on the basis of her present knowledge she does so by asserting that it engages her civil right to a fair trial of the issues into which the tribunal must inquire. A judge must be entirely free from bias; and this can only be challenged within the course of separate judicial review or other court proceedings.
- There is no clear basis under present inquiry procedures on which an interested party in respect of an inquiry can challenge a panel members’ bias or other perceived shortcomings in the make-up or terms of reference of the inquiry.
- It will be submitted that the applicant has a ‘civil right’ within the terms of Art 6(1); and that this is engaged by the right of a person with a sufficient interest in the outcome of the inquiry to challenge its format and, in particular, the appropriateness and partiality of any of its members.
- Provided that that person (A) can show ‘sufficient interest’ (Senior Courts Act 1981 s 31(3); or that she is a ‘victim of an unlawful act’: Human Rights Act 1998 s 7(1)) in its proceedings and if a right is in issue, it is submitted that A can apply for judicial review of decisions in relation to the setting up of the inquiry.
- De Smith’s Judicial Review ed Woolf et al, 7th Edition (2013) deals with the question of judicial review and inquiries at paras 1-102 to 1-106.
- In R (ota Howard and anor) v Secretary of State for Health  EWHC 396 (Admin), Scott Baker J and R (ota Persey and ors) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs  EWHC 371 (Admin), Divisional Court (Simon Brown LJ and Scott Baker J) (judgment was given on the same day, 15 February 2002), applicant sought review of decisions to hold a private, not public, inquiry in each case (Howard: widespread abuse of patients by two doctors; Persey: inquiry following the foot and mouth epidemic). The challenge was based on the rights to freedom of expression under Art 10 (not as here under Art 6(1)). Both applications were refused.
- In neither case was there any suggestion that the challenge to the setting up of the inquiry was impermissible.
- If there is an assertion that the decision-making qualities of the inquiry chairman may be unlawful because (say) of a perceived bias, that should – in logic – be capable of challenge. In the analogous case of a judge in court proceedings, the party who wishes to assert the judge’s bias can apply in the existing court proceedings to the judge, and ask him/her to recuse him/herself (come off the case).
- IR 2005 provides no mechanism for any challenge, akin to (say) an application to a judge to recuse in ordinary civil proceedings.
- If bias can be challenged in a judge as a matter of guarantee to a fair trial and as a matter of case management or other court direction, it is submitted that it must be that a panel member’s bias can be challenged by judicial review.
- The court will be asked in judicial review to consider whether – in terms of bias, or lack of impartiality or any other impediment – the decision of the Secretary of State to appoint was lawful. Thus, for example, in the two cases cited above the court had sympathy with the applicants who wished to have the enquiry made open to the public; but there was no basis on which they could fault the legitimate exercise of the discretion of the Secretary of State in each case.
- ‘Bias’ goes to the root of a fair trial; and to the root of a fair disposal of an inquiry’s work (and see Inquiries Act 2005 s 9 above). If as a matter of law, bias is found to exist (actual or perceived), it is submitted that the only basis on which the applicant can challenge the panel appointment is by judicial review.
PROTECTIVE COSTS ORDER
- The applicant applies in her own right; but also as a representative of a number of individual survivors and with the support of a representative body, MAMAA UK. She seeks costs protection. She plans to apply for legal aid. She is advised that financially she is eligible for legal aid.
- In R (Corner House Research) v Secretary of State for Trade & Industry  EWCA Civ 192 the Court of Appeal considered the making of protective costs orders and approved such orders in the following terms:
 We would therefore restate the governing principles in these terms:
(1) A protective costs order may be made at any stage of the proceedings, on such conditions as the court thinks fit, provided that the court is satisfied that:
(i) the issues raised are of general public importance;
(ii) the public interest requires that those issues should be resolved;
(iii) the applicant has no private interest in the outcome of the case;
(iv) having regard to the financial resources of the applicant and the respondent(s) and to the amount of costs that are likely to be involved it is fair and just to make the order; and
(v) if the order is not made the applicant will probably discontinue the proceedings and will be acting reasonably in so doing.
(2) If those acting for the applicant are doing so pro bono this will be likely to enhance the merits of the application for a PCO.
(3) It is for the court, in its discretion, to decide whether it is fair and just to make the order in the light of the considerations set out above.
- This approach was approved by the Court of Appeal in R (ota Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust) v Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corp  EWCA Civ 1209; and reviewed recently in eg R (The Plantagenet Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Justice  EWHC 3164 (Admin), Haddon-Cave J.
- It is hoped that these grounds and reasons explain the public interest in this case (especially where it is argued that a prominent tribunal member may not be free from bias); and that that public interest demand that the issue be resolved by this court. The applicant’s private interest in the matter is limited to the fact that she is one of many who are closely concerned at the outcome of this inquiry. Her financial resources would prevent her entirely from bringing this claim, whilst those of the respondent are substantial. If an order is not made it would be impossible for the applicant to pursue her applicant (especially without alternative – ie legal aid – government funding).
- The applicant cannot afford to pay lawyers to assist with this claim. They have acted pro bono to date; though they cannot guarantee to continue to pursue it for no fee beyond a limited stage.
- The applicant seeks a protective costs order accordingly; and will inform the court and the respondent immediately when the outcome of her application for legal aid is known.
AND THE APPLICANT CLAIMS:
- Disclosure of all information which the Home Secretary has concerning all panel members:
- as to the impartiality and possible bias of all members (in particular of Mrs Fiona Woolfe
- as to the relevant experience to chair the inquiry of Mrs Woolfe
- as to the extent of time which Mrs Woolfe can devote to the job
- Permission to proceed with an application for judicial review and order thereupon as follows.
- A declaration that due to her inexperience, the time available to her and her perceived lack of impartiality, Mrs Fiona Woolf is not a person who is appropriate to chair or otherwise to be involved with this inquiry.
- A consequent quashing order as to the appointment of Mrs Woolfe to the inquiry panel.
- A mandatory order that the Home Secretary should consult with representative bodies for the survivors and with survivors themselves as to the terms of reference of the inquiry.
- A protected costs order (as applicable and dependant on the outcome of the applicant’s application for legal aid).
The applicant presumes that the respondent will be entirely frank in reply to this application and will give full disclosure in the usual way.
In particular the applicant seeks, as the Home Office knows, full information and appropriate disclosure as to what the Home Secretary knows as to the bias, expertise and time commitment of the panel members, especially of the proposed chairman.
Further the applicant seeks all information and documentation as to the steps taken by the Home Secretary to consult over the terms of reference of the inquiry.
(2) Applicant’s address
The applicant’s assailant has recently been released on parole, and she fears that if her address is made public in any way he may attempt to contact her.
(3) Protective costs order
Please see the section of the grounds above which deals with a protective costs order.
HOME SECRETARY’S STATEMENT SETTING UP A CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE INQUIRY
Home Secretary’s statement of 7 July 2014 setting up a child sex abuse inquiry
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the sexual abuse of children, allegations that evidence of the sexual abuse of children was suppressed by people in positions of power, and the government’s intended response.
Mr Speaker, in my statement today I want to address two important public concerns. First, that in the 1980s the Home Office failed to act on allegations of child sex abuse. And second, that public bodies and other important institutions have failed to take seriously their duty of care towards children.
As I do so, I want to set three important principles. First, we will do everything we can to allow the full investigation of child abuse and the prosecution of its perpetrators, and we will do nothing to jeopardise those aims. Second, where possible the government will adopt a presumption of maximum transparency. And third, we will make sure that wherever individuals and institutions have failed to protect children from harm, we will expose these failures and learn the lessons.
Concern that the Home Office failed to act on allegations of child abuse in the 1980s relates mainly to information provided to the department by the late Geoffrey Dickens, a member of this House between 1979 and 1995.
As the House will be aware, in February 2013, in response to a Parliamentary question from the Hon Member for West Bromwich East, the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office, Mark Sedwill, commissioned an investigation by an independent expert into information the Home Office received in relation to child abuse allegations, including information provided by Mr Dickens. In order to be confident that the investigation would review all relevant information, the investigation reviewed all relevant papers available relating to child abuse between 1979 and 1999.
The investigation reported last year and its executive summary was published on 1 August 2013. It concluded there was no single “Dickens Dossier”, but there had been letters from Mr Dickens to several home secretaries over several years that contained allegations of sexual offences against children. Copies of the letters had not been kept, but the investigator found evidence that the information Mr Dickens had provided had been considered and matters requiring investigation had been referred to the police.
In total, the investigator found thirteen items of information about alleged child abuse. The police already knew about nine of those items, and the remaining four were passed by the Home Office to the police immediately.
The investigation found that 114 potentially relevant files were not available. These are presumed – by the Home Office and the investigator – destroyed, missing or not found, although the investigator made clear that he found no evidence to suggest that the files had been removed or destroyed inappropriately.
The investigation found no record of specific allegations by Mr Dickens of child sex abuse by prominent public figures.
Upon completion of the investigation, the Home Office passed the full text of its interim report and final report, along with accompanying information and material, to the police for them to consider as part of their ongoing criminal investigations.
As Mark Sedwill has said, the investigator recorded that he had unrestricted access to Home Office records and he received full cooperation from Home Office officials. The investigator was satisfied that the Home Office passed all credible information about child abuse in the time period – from Mr Dickens and elsewhere – to the police so they could be investigated properly.
Mr Speaker, I believe that the Permanent Secretary did all the right things in listening to the allegations made by the Hon Member for West Bromwich East and ordering an independent investigation. I am confident that the work he commissioned was carried out in good faith. But I know that with allegations as serious as these, the public needs to have complete confidence in the integrity of the investigation’s findings.
So I can tell the House that I have today appointed Peter Wanless – the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – to lead a review not just of the investigation commissioned by Mark Sedwill but also how the police and prosecutors handled any related information that was handed to them. Peter Wanless will be supported in his work by an appropriate senior legal figure, who will be appointed by the Permanent Secretary. Where the findings of the review relate to the Director of Public Prosecutions, it will report to the Attorney General as well as to me.
I will ask the review team to advise my officials on what redactions to the full investigation report might be needed in order that, in the interests of transparency, it can be published without jeopardising any future criminal investigations or trials. I expect the review to conclude within eight to ten weeks, and I will place a copy of its terms of reference in the House Library today.
In addition to the allegations made by Geoffrey Dickens, there have also been allegations relating to an organisation called the Paedophile Information Exchange, a paedophile campaign group that was disbanded in 1984. In response to another query from the Hon Member for West Bromwich East, the Permanent Secretary commissioned another independent investigation in January this year into whether the Home Office had ever directly or indirectly funded PIE. That investigation concluded that the Home Office had not done so, and I will place a copy of the investigation’s findings in the House Library today. But, again, in order to ensure complete public confidence in this work, I have also asked Peter Wanless to look at this investigation as part of his review.
Mr Speaker, I now want to turn to public concern that a variety of public bodies and other important institutions have failed to take seriously their duty of care towards children. In recent years, we have seen appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse. This includes abuse by celebrities like Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, as well as the systematic abuse of vulnerable girls in Derby, Rochdale, Oxford and other towns and cities. Some of these cases have exposed a failure by public bodies to take their duty of care seriously and some have shown that the organisations responsible for protecting children from abuse – including the police, social services and schools – have failed to work together properly.
That is why, in April 2013, the government established the National Group to tackle Sexual Violence Against Children and Vulnerable People, which is led by my Hon Friend the Minister for Crime Prevention. This cross-government group was established to learn the lessons from some of the cases I have mentioned and the resulting reviews and inquiries. As a result of its work, we now have better guidance for the police and prosecutors, new powers for the police to get information from hotels that are used for child sexual exploitation, and better identification of children at risk of exploitation through the use of local multi-agency safeguarding hubs. In the normal course of its work the Group will publish further proposals to protect children from abuse.
I know that in recent months many Members of the House, from all parties, have campaigned for an independent, overarching inquiry into historical allegations of child abuse. In my correspondence with the seven Members of Parliament who wrote to me about the campaign – the Hon Members for Birmingham Yardley, Brighton Pavilion, East Worthing and Shoreham, Richmond Park, Rochdale, Wells, and West Bromwich East – I made clear that the government did not rule out such an inquiry.
I can now tell the House that the government will establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. The inquiry panel will be chaired by an appropriately senior and experienced figure. It will begin its work as soon as possible after the appointment of the chairman and other members of the panel. Given the scope of its work, it is not likely to report before the general election – but I will make sure that it provides an update on its progress to Parliament before May next year. I will report back to the House when the inquiry panel chairman has been appointed and the full terms of reference have been agreed.
It will, like the inquiries into Hillsborough and the murder of Daniel Morgan, be a non-statutory panel inquiry. This means that it can begin its work sooner, and because the basis of its early work will be a review of documentary evidence rather than interviews with witnesses who might themselves still be subject to criminal investigations, it will be less likely to prejudice those investigations. But I want to be clear that the inquiry panel will have access to all the government papers, reviews and reports it needs. Subject to the constraints imposed by any criminal investigations, it will be free to call witnesses from organisations in the public sector, private sector and wider civil society. And I want to make clear that – if the inquiry panel chairman deems it necessary – the government is prepared to convert it into a full public inquiry in line with the Inquiries Act.
Mr Speaker, I began my statement by saying that I wanted to address the dual concern that in the past the Home Office failed to act on information it received, and, more broadly, that public bodies and other institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse. I believe that the measures I have announced today do address those concerns.
I also said I wanted the work we are doing to reflect three principles. That our priority must be the prosecution of the people behind these disgusting crimes. That wherever possible – and consistent with the need to prosecute – we will adopt a presumption of maximum transparency. And that where there has been a failure to protect children from abuse, we will expose it and we will learn from it. I believe that the measures announced today do reflect those important principles. And so I commend this statement to the House.
12 September 2014
One Kemble Street
Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: appointment of chair to the inquiry panel
Proposed claim for judicial review
This letter is written in the terms of the judicial review pre-action protocol. It concerns the Home Secretary’s appointment of Fiona Woolf to an inquiry (with terms of reference as yet undisclosed). I believe the Home Secretary has used discretionary powers (ie the inquiry is not set up under Inquiries Act 2005 s 5). She is the proposed defendant.
I am Ian McFadyen, and my interest in the subject matter of this letter and any subsequent application for judicial review is as a survivor of child abuse when I was at school between ## and ##.
As I say, I am assuming the inquiry is set up under your discretionary powers (not under Inquiries Act 2005). I shall assume, however, that in many respects the 2005 Act merely codifies the common law. It is your powers at common law, for the present with which we are concerned.
In particular, at common law, you have a duty to act fairly; and you and any member of the panel must be – and be seen to be – impartial: that is free from any possible or perceived bias.
Details of the matter being challenged
It is not clear to me that the qualifications of Lady Woolf bring her within the terms of suitability, certainly as would be the position under Inquiries Act 2005 s 8(1)(a).
Of more concern to me is whether you have considered her impartiality (at common law and in terms of Inquiries Act 2005 s 9); and whether you have received from her full information as to her acquaintance with individuals whom she may have to cause to be interviewed by the panel, and on whom she may have to prepare a damaging report. Her role will be that of an inquisitor, not unlike the police perhaps: can she perform in this way if her neighbour, for example, is someone whose role she has to investigate in her inquiry?
I have been told you said in the latter part of July that you would ‘consult’ concerning the setting up of the inquiry. I am not clear what you meant by this, and with whom you intend to consult. If it was only with the seven MPs who were concerned over all this, even they were not consulted.
Certainly survivors such as myself were not approached for any thoughts we might have.
The issue – bias: impartiality
The main issue and basis for any possible challenge to your setting up of the inquiry is the importance of openness in relation to personal, business or other relations of panel members with those who may be – or should be – criticised by the inquiry. This applies to all to members, and especially perhaps the chair of the inquiry.
Have all members been fully frank with you as to their impartiality? If so, please would you publish what has been said? (This could perhaps be dealt with on a freedom of information basis?)
The details of the action that the defendant is expected to take
The actions I ask you to take are to forward to me:
- Immediate publication of what you have been told by Lady Woolf and other panel members as to any matters which might go to their partiality in this inquiry
- A statement of your reasons for appointing Lady Woolf instead of, for example, a Court of Appeal or Supreme Court judge (whether practising or recently retired)
- Information as to what you may have intended by ‘consultation’ when you set up the inquiry; and of what consultation you actually carried out
The details of any information sought
Proposed reply date
The setting up of this inquiry has already been long delayed. I would not want appointment of any panel member to delay it still further. If I am judicially to review your decision time limits in this area are very short (see eg Inquiries Act 2005 s ).
I hope, therefore, you can reply to this letter (since all information should already be available to you) by or before 4 pm on 15 September 2014.
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8 October 2014
Dear Mr Burrows
Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: appointment of the inquiry panel and Mrs Woolf: Proposed claim for Judicial Review
We write further to our letter dated 30 September 2014 and our telephone conversation with you on 6th October 2014.
We understand that you act for Mr MacFayden in this matter.
As discussed, we would be grateful if you could provide clarification in respect of certain matters referred to in your client’s pre action letter dated 12th September 2014.
Firstly, in the second part of the paragraph entitled: The Issue – Bias: Impartiality; your client asks whether all members of the panel have been fully frank as regards their impartiality and if so whether the Home Secretary will publish what has been said. Your client’s letter states in brackets that this could perhaps be dealt with on a freedom of information basis.