Below is the Home Office’s response to the open letter to Theresa May which called for for Michael Mansfield QC to chair the child abuse inquiry and for the Terms of Reference to be revised. Read full letter here
Please note that no contact name was given, which is a slight change from the previous policy of using fictitious names such as ‘L.Smart’ (see A Visit to the Home Office).
Thank you for your letter of _ July to the Home Secretary regarding an overarching inquiry into child sexual abuse. Your email has been forwarded to the Safeguarding and Vulnerable People Unit for a response.
Work continues to identify and appoint a suitable chairman and we will announce this as soon as possible so this important work can move forward. The membership of the panel will be a matter for the independent chairman who will be appointed shortly.
The Government is committed to tackling child sexual abuse and is very aware of the serious and often long-lasting effects of these terrible crimes on victims. The Government is clear that if a person has suffered sexual abuse, however long ago, and they go to the police about what they have been through, then we expect the police to do everything in their power to help those victims, and everything possible to investigate the complaint.
On 7 July the Home Secretary announced an inquiry panel into child sexual abuse. This inquiry will consist of a panel of experts and will consider whether public bodies, and other, non-state, institutions, have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. The inquiry will consider all the information from the various published reviews and identify any issues or allegations requiring new or further investigation. It will advise on any further action needed to address any gaps or failings within our current child protection systems on the basis of the findings and learning from these reviews.
It will be a wide inquiry and will look not just at state institutions but at other bodies to see whether they have been protecting children appropriately. The inquiry panel will have access to all the Government papers, reviews and reports that it needs and will be free to call witnesses from organisations in the public and private sectors, and in wider civil society. The terms of reference will be published when they are agreed, and further information will be made available on how the panel will gather evidence in due course.
A progress report will be made to Parliament before the General Election. The Home Secretary has been clear that, if the Chairman concludes that formal inquiry powers are required, we will ensure the inquiry is converted to formal inquiry status.
In terms of lessons learnt, and as the Home Secretary stated in the House of Commons, the National Group that Norman Baker, the Minister of State for Crime Prevention, is leading has already brought forward proposals on how the police and prosecutors could better handle these matters and it will continue with its work. That will feed into the work of the wider inquiry panel. As you will appreciate from the Home Secretary’s statement, the Government feels it is right to set this review up as an inquiry panel so that it can begin its work without jeopardising the criminal investigations taking place. It will look at what, if any, gaps there might be in our current work that mean we are not properly protecting children and, if there are any, what appropriate mechanisms could be put in place to ensure that those gaps are filled.
Thank you for writing about this very important issue.
Safeguarding and Vulnerable People Unit