22 Dec 2014

Theresa May to scrap child abuse inquiry

The home secretary is to disband the panel investigating historical cases of child sex abuse – just six months after she set it up.

The inquiry has been beset by controversy after the two people appointed to chair it were forced to resign.

A letter, signed by more than 60 victims and representatives who wish to remain anonymous, calls for a statutory inquiry to be declared, a public announcement that the existing panel will be scrapped and replaced on a “transparent fit-for-purpose” basis and the appointment of an inquiry chair who has “demonstrable experience and ability in challenging the establishment”.

“It is important that the inquiry is centred on bringing perpetrators before the courts, holding those that have failed in their professional duty or covered up allegations or been obstructive to account and delivering justice for survivors,” the letter reads.

Theresa May‘s first two choices to chair the inquiry have both stood down amid claims they were too closely linked to establishment figures.

Mrs May has written to the panel’s members setting out her plan for the inquiry to be given statutory powers, including the ability to compel witnesses to give evidence. The home secretary told MPs last week that she wanted the inquiry to be given extra powers.

That could mean waiting for a chairman to be appointed for the inquiry panel, who would then request statutory powers, or set up a new inquiry panel under statutory terms.

The third option of a royal commission – which many prefer – would not have the powers of a statutory inquiry under the 2005 Inquiries Act and would be “legally more risky”.


A Home Office spokesman said: “The home secretary is determined that appalling cases of child sexual abuse should be exposed so that perpetrators face justice and the vulnerable are protected.

“She is absolutely committed to ensuring the independent panel inquiry into child sexual abuse has the confidence of survivors.

“The home secretary is also clear that we have to balance the need to make progress with the need to get this right.”

Shadow home office minister Diana Johnson said: “The home secretary should be utterly ashamed of the process she has overseen.

“It is now five months since she first announced she would be setting up a wider child abuse inquiry, following pressure from campaign groups and Labour.

“We are now in a position where there is no chair and no panel, while no work has been done on examining the horrible crimes of the past or into the flaws in the current child protections system.

“Theresa May needs to take responsibility for the utter failure to get this vital work off the ground over such a long period.”