We have had the first of the preliminary hearings of the investigations involving Lord Janner, the Anglican Church, and the Rochdale and Lambeth Council investigations. These resulted in the identification of core participants for these investigations (see below).
Throughout March 2016, the inquiry held a number of preliminary hearings within the Public Hearings Project, in particular in relation to the investigations involving Lord Janner, the Anglican Church, and the Rochdale and Lambeth Council investigation. Transcripts of these hearings are available on the Inquiry's website. The hearings provide an insight for those involved into the scope of investigations carried out and the approach taken by the panel. Further preliminary hearings have been listed for these investigations in July. They will discuss the progress of the investigations and give directions. Preliminary hearings are not broadcast, but they are open to the press and public and live tweeting is allowed. A transcript of the hearings will be available on the IICSA website.
The key points to extract from the March hearings are:
Counsel to the Inquiry, Ben Emmerson QC, clarified during the preliminary hearing on the investigation into the Anglican Church that 'awareness', in the context of the inquiry, encompasses both actual and constructive knowledge.
This will therefore include what the particular institution knew, and ought reasonably to have known. Mr Emmerson went on to state that 'if the diocese, for example were to provide evidence that it was not in fact aware of any allegations of abuse in respect of a particular alleged abuser, you [the Chair] and the Panel would be justified in asking why?'. This indicates the extent to which the panel may probe in the investigation of alleged institutional failings.
Core participants (CP) are a defined term. Such status allows a person or organisation special rights in the inquiry.
The Chair alone decides who should be designated a CP in each investigation. In considering whether to designate CP status, the Chair must consider the criteria set out in rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006, namely, whether:
The preliminary hearings provide us with a helpful insight into to the panel's application of the above criteria to applications for CP status and its views on the effect of such status. Those granted CP status in the Lord Janner, Anglican Church, Rochdale and Lambeth Council investigations were announced on 22 April 2016.
The majority of CPs in each case are individual complainants, victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. However, CP status has also been granted to government departments (such as the Home office and Secretary of State for Education), the Chief Constable of the local area to which the particular investigation relates; local authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service, in the case of the Anglican church investigation, the insurance company for the majority of Anglican churches in England, and in the case of Lord Janner, the Labour Party. Known perpetrators are not excluded from applying for CP status and Bishop Peter Ball is the first named perpetrator to be awarded CP status (in the Anglican church investigation).
Whilst CP status does not afford a statutory right to disclosure, Mr Emmerson has stated in each of the preliminary hearings which have taken place so far, that 'fairness is likely to lead to a core participant being granted disclosure of relevant documentation in relation to those parts of an inquiry in which they have a clear interest'. CPs will also be entitled to seek leave to ask questions of a particular witness if legally represented.
The inquiry has heard submissions from persons at each of the preliminary hearings in relation to issues of anonymity and the need to balance the protection of witnesses against the public interest in publicising the inquiry as far as possible. Full consideration of these matters has been adjourned until the second preliminary hearings in each of the initial investigations, which will take place at the end of July.
Hon Dame Lowell Goddard issued a statement in response to criticism that the inquiry was focussing too heavily on victims and survivors and not enough on those accused on 3 May 2016.
She made it clear that the inquiry wishes to hear all relevant testimony. She referred to Ben Emmerson QC's comments that the inquiry will need to remain sensitive to the particular needs of vulnerable complainants without unduly privileging their testimony. She also endorsed his view that the inquiry will need to recognise the damage that can be caused by false accusations of sexual abuse, without hesitating to make findings against individuals and institutions if justified by the evidence.
Hon Dame Lowell Goddard announced the start of the inquiry’s Truth Project in the North West of England. The Truth Project gives the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse that occurred in an institution, or where there was an institutional failure to protect a child, an opportunity to share their experience during an informal discussion, called a private session.
The information shared will help to provide a better understanding of the scale of child sexual abuse and will assist in identifying patterns and themes about its nature and impact. In due course, the inquiry may publish anonymised accounts of the experiences shared, to provide a better understanding of the consequences of child sexual abuse on the lives of victims and survivors and their families.
The Chair said:
“The Truth Project is as important to the Inquiry as the investigations, the Public Hearings, and the work of our research team. Together, the information gathered will help to inform the overall conclusions, findings and recommendations the Panel and I will make during this Inquiry.
The Truth Project gives a voice to victims and survivors and in doing so will assist us in making recommendations to protect children, to improve laws, policies and practices, and prevent and respond to institutional failures. We have an unprecedented opportunity to examine the extent to which institutions and organisations in England and Wales have taken seriously their responsibility to protect children. We are committed to ensuring that despite the enormity of our task we remain undaunted by the challenge ahead of us.”