Since Butler-Sloss stepped down, all has gone rather quiet and the media has moved on to other stories. This can only be a temporarily lull and we can rely on the fact that there will be activity behind the scenes in the search for a replacement chair. It is a positive sign that we have learnt, for instance, that no chair will be appointed without consultation with the 7 MP’s who put the case to Theresa May for an Inquiry into Organised Child Abuse. Both the person of the chair and the remit of the inquiry are crucial to establishing the truth. Too many Inquiries have focussed on the performance of professionals and child protection arrangements and have avoided questions about whether or not children and adults were abused and whether or not the perpetrators had been brought to justice. It is also essential to include scrutiny of the role of the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts as final arbiters of decision-making. Already, we have learnt that it is not the intention of this Inquiry to consider individual cases. This is a seriously negative message to give to victims who were about to come forward with their specific accounts and this decision must be challenged. It is vastly different from the suggestion by the 7 MPs about what the Inquiry needed to address.
Experience of the inquiry process itself tells us that it rarely achieves justice for victims. It is a tried & tested instrument to allay public disquiet and has been likened to trying to learn about health via a visit to the mortuary. Some people do benefit – mainly those who service the process and help to maintain the status quo. For example, several of the barristers in the Cleveland inquiry such as the counsel to the Inquiry, Matthew Thorpe and Sally Cahill who represented Cleveland police, have gone on to become high court judges.
We do support the need for an Inquiry to investigate the many cover-ups at all levels and to examine and expose the way in which child sexual abuse became embedded within political systems. However, we also know that it is essential to establish a multi- agency investigation team to ensure that evidence which suggests that current children are at risk leads to action to protect those children and to prosecute and convict the perpetrators. This team must be established in parallel to the Inquiry and be kept fully informed at every step of the process.
Heather Bacon (Former Consultant Psychologist, North Tees Health Authority. Witness to the Cleveland Inquiry)
Sue Richardson (Former Child Abuse Consultant, Cleveland Social Services Department. Witness to the Cleveland Inquiry)
Marjorie Orr (Accuracy About Abuse)