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Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - Latest News: Counsel Suspended & Redaction Protocol Updated

on Thursday, 29 September 2016.

On 28 September 2016 it was reported that Ben Emmerson QC, Counsel to the Inquiry, had been suspended following concerns about aspects of his leadership, albeit he has

The latest news include the suspension of counsel Ben Emmerson QC as well as some clarification from the Inquiry about its Protocol on the Redaction of Documents.

Counsel to the Inquiry Suspended

On 28 September 2016, it was reported that Ben Emmerson QC, Counsel to the Inquiry, had been suspended following concerns about aspects of his leadership, albeit he has suggested that he has not been informed of the nature of these.

His suspension follows reports earlier in the week that Mr Emmerson was close to resigning from the Inquiry over concerns about its structure and workload, something that the Inquiry has denied.

Mr Emmerson has been key in advising the Inquiry and in testing submissions made in public hearings. The proposals for his investigation have not been made public and it remains to be seen whether he will return. His absence is likely to delay the Inquiry's progress further and may lead to fresh calls to revise its terms.

Redaction Protocol Updated

Since the Inquiry published its Protocol on the Redaction of Documents, organisations and their advisors have had questions about how this should be applied, and about its interaction with their data protection and confidentiality obligations.

Without announcement, on 21 September 2016, the Inquiry updated the Protocol to clarify a number of these issues.

There are two key changes:

Redaction Requests

The Inquiry has changed its approach to requests for redactions. The Inquiry will now specify one of two methods of redaction when it requests information.

The methods are broadly similar: both invite an organisation to provide a clean copy of the document to the Inquiry, and to identify separately which redactions are sought prior to disclosure of the material to others and the reasons for them.

However, in the event that an organisation proposes to request the redaction of documents on the grounds that it:

  • is sensitive and irrelevant
  • would damage the public interest
  • may prejudice an ongoing criminal prosecution

this should be identified and the Inquiry will decide for itself to what extent the document should be redacted.

Redaction of the Identity of Individuals

The Inquiry has confirmed that documents should be redacted where their publication could reveal the identities of victims and complainants of most sexual offences, or the identities of other people which the Inquiry considers should remain anonymous.

Annex A of the Protocol gives definitive guidance on the redaction of individuals' identities, and largely replicates draft guidance circulated by the Inquiry to Core Participants of the Roman Catholic Church investigation previously. It provides:

The following identities should generally not be redacted:

  • any person convicted of child sexual abuse
  • employees, board members and committee members of the organisation

The following identities should generally be redacted:

  • any children, and their family members
  • complainants, victims, and survivors of child sexual abuse, and their family members
  • any person accused but not convicted of child sexual abuse, and their family members
  • any person against whom a finding of child sexual abuse has been made in civil proceedings, and their family members
  • any information which would identify a person as having been convicted of an offence other than child sexual abuse.

These guidelines refer to all persons, whether alive or dead.

It is important to note that these are only guidelines.

First, organisations should not assume that this guidance will override their other legal obligations and if in any doubt about this, they are advised to seek advice.

Secondly, there may be times when a person's identity is already so widely known that redaction would serve no useful purpose such that it is not necessary, or where revealing an identity would identify another person and should be withheld.

For more information, please contact Tabitha Cave in our Independent Schools team on 0117 314 5381.

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