The Times, 28th July 2014
by Sean O’Neill
Theresa May faced calls last night to appoint a self-described “radical lawyer” as chairman of the public inquiry into high-profile child abuse cases.
A group of abuse survivors, lawyers and care professionals wrote an open letter to the Home Secretary calling for Michael Mansfield QC to be selected to lead the inquiry.
Mr Mansfield, who is retired from the Bar, is renowned for his work on cases from the Birmingham Six appeals to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. He also represented Mohammed al Fayed at the inquest into the death of his son and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The letter states: “The chair of this inquiry will need fearlessness, to be prepared to challenge the authorities and to ask and get answers to very difficult questions. This is a role that can only be undertaken by someone clearly seen as outside the establishment.”
The authors include John Hemming MP, Peter Saunders, the head of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, former athlete and abuse victim Kris Akabusi and Mark Williams Thomas, the journalist who uncovered the Jimmy Savile scandal.
In the letter, they also called for the scope of the inquiry to be widened and said the current proposal would merely be a review which would not take evidence from victims of abuse. There is, however, concern that a broader public inquiry could jeopardise ongoing criminal investigations.
Police forces are currently engaged in 21 investigations into historic abuse allegations featuring prominent individuals or institutions.
Mrs May had originally appointed the retired judge Baroness Butler Sloss to lead the inquiry but her credibility was called into question because of her establishment links and after The Times revealed allegations that she had withheld the name of a Church of England bishop from a previous report because she “cared for the Church”.
The children’s charity Barnardo’s has also urged the Home Secretary to appoint a chairman for the inquiry as a matter of urgency.