Child sex abuse inquiry: Theresa May faces make-or-break meeting with victims’ groups

Organisations threaten to withdraw support for beleaguered inquiry after 23 individuals – including people abused in childhood – said Home Office project is ‘not fit for purpose’

A total of 23 individuals, some of whom suffered alleged abuse in childhood, sent Theresa May a letter claiming the inquiry is

A total of 23 individuals, some of whom suffered alleged abuse in childhood, sent Theresa May a letter claiming the inquiry is “not fit for purpose”.  Photo: GEOFF PUGH
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is facing a make-or-break meeting with groups representing victims of child sex abuse who are poised to withdraw co-operation from the beleaguered historic abuse inquiry.
The organisations are set to demand a raft of changes to the terms of the inquiry, which has already seen two chairwomen resign over potential conflicts of interest.
Earlier this week 23 individuals, including victims of alleged historic abuse, told Mrs May they would no longer co-operate with the inquiry, describing it as “not fit for purpose”.
In a letter, the signatories said: “We, alongside many survivors, have made numerous representations to you regarding our view that the Inquiry as it stands is not fit for purpose.
“The Home Office seems to be running the inquiry to meet others’ needs rather than those of survivors and the public.
“We therefore have little option but to end engagement with the Inquiry and call on other survivors, whistleblowers, associated professionals and agencies to follow suit.”
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), said his organisation would withdraw its co-operation if Mrs May does not pledge to give additional powers to the beleaguered inquiry.
“We are the largest survivors’ group and we have some very significant concerns,” Mr Saunders said.
“Mrs May has said she is willing to meet us about our requests but if she says no we will probably walk away.
“I am not hopeful that we will get what we want.
“The Home Secretary has said she is willing to consider granting the inquiry statutory status at some point in the future but that she will not do so at this stage.
“We think this is wrong – it’s a deal-breaker.”
The meeting is due to take place at the Home Office, in Westminster, later.
The letter from the 23 individuals said the period to be examined by the inquiry should be extended from 1970 to 1945.
It also suggested the signatories would resume co-operation if the current panel was scrapped and replaced “on a transparent basis”.
Mrs May must grant it statutory powers, which would allow officials to seize more evidence and demand the attendance of witnesses, the letter added.
Fiona Woolf, the head of the child sex abuse inquiry, resigned in October after questions were raised about her links with Lord (Leon) Brittan, whose role as home secretary in the Eighties is expected to come under scrutiny.
The City lawyer, who is also Lord Mayor of London, was the second chairman to have to step down after the Home Office failed in both cases to properly investigate potential conflict of interest in their background.
Baroness Butler-Sloss, a retired judge, resigned in July after it emerged her late brother had been attorney general during part of the period under examination and may have been involved in taking legal decisions connected with sex abuse allegations.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Home Secretary is absolutely committed to ensuring the inquiry has the confidence of survivors and that is why she is meeting them and their representatives to hear their views and to ensure the right person is appointed to lead the inquiry panel in its vital work.
“As the Home Secretary has said, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to the truth.”

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