Alexis Jay and the legal assassins

Alexis Jay is the fourth chair of the Independent Inquiry into
Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The three previous chairs were from the
legal profession. The last chair Justice Goddard resigned. Critics have
suggested she lacked the necessary skills to meet the task. In
particular, she was considered to be a poor judge[1],
which raises the question of why she was chosen. Leaving that question
aside, we need to consider the problem of legal assassins.

What is clear is that Justice Goddard was unprepared for the legal
challenges she would face. The same holds for Alexis Jay. Even though
Jay has been on the panel for the past two years and dealt successfully
with the Rotherham case, she has never faced the legal challenges that
await her.

In the Rotherham case, there were no QCs arguing back or contesting
her claims, her investigation, her method, or her motives. To the extent
that Rotherham Council resisted it was more as muted criticism of a
defeated opponent bitter in defeat. She will face institutions and QCs
that are experienced at legal and bureaucratic infighting. She will face
legal assassins. Men and women trained and experience in destroying
victims and defending institutions. The QCs and Barristers she will face
are well versed in these issues since they have been contesting them
for the past 60 years on the side of the very institutions and people
she is trying to hold to account.

Power does not like to be held to account and the laws that QCs wield
so well are structured to sustain the status quo against such claims.
As the Hillsborough survivors and victims’ families found, the legal
system was their greatest barrier for it sustained the Police in their
silence and sadism. The QC could claim they were “only following legal
instruction” yet that raises the question does a QC have a moral duty to
explain that legal instruction will fail?

Jay faces QCs and institutions that have no concerns about following a
morally flawed legal strategy. Their goal is to defend their clients
even at the expense of the inquiry. If the inquiry collapses it will
serve their clients, individual or institutional, for they have no
desire to see their clients be held to account in any way except on
their terms. The difference with a criminal trial where legal combat
between two arguments is judged by cold reason and an inquiry is that
the goal is not guilt or innocence, it is to hold the parties to
account. To hold an institution does not require legal combat. However,
the legal assassins hired for this purpose will ensure that it does
become and remain legal combat so that they can control the field of

Jay has the unenviable task of trying to shift the battleground even
as she tries to manage a complex and complicated Inquiry. I hope she
succeeds; I doubt the forces arrayed against her will let her.

[1] See for example this survey see also

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