This note provides a brief overview of recent developments in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), since our last blog entry on 12th August 2016, which followed our detailed notes of 17th December 2015 and 10th July 2015.
Recent IICSA Communications
On 17th October 2016, Professor Jay (the fourth Chair of IICSA) published a statement, following numerous comments and concerns raised over the Inquiry and articles in the press, with the opening words "I want to reassure everyone that this Inquiry is open for business," and setting out her strategy to ensure that the Inquiry meets its remit. Professor Jay is clear that the Inquiry will hold true to its commitment to look at past and present failings by institutions in England and Wales. She has also set out the four thematic strands that will form the focus of the Inquiry's work and recommendations across the institutions that the Inquiry is examining:
- Cultural: examining the attitudes, behaviours and values within institutions that prevent us from stopping child sexual abuse;
- Structural: looking at the legislative, governance and organisational frameworks within and between institutions;
- Financial: considering the financial, funding and resource arrangements for relevant institutions and services;
- Professional and political: focusing on the leadership, professional and practice issues for those working or volunteering in relevant institutions.
Professor Jay has emphasised that the focus is on 'prevention without neglecting the past'. Professor Jay has also said that said that their "approach is intended to fulfill the commitment I made on my appointment - to ensure that the Inquiry is driven forward with pace, confidence and clarity. By doing so, the panel and I believe that we can make substantial progress towards completing the Inquiry by the end of 2020."
On 31st October, IICSA published its first written update under Professor Jay's Chairmanship.This largely re-states the purpose and framework of the Inquiry, and provides an update on progress on some of IICSA's key achievements to date, as well as its priorities and commitments for the next period, including on the Inquiry's following projects:
The Truth Project
- In a nutshell: Victims and survivors are given the opportunity to share their experiences with a member of the Inquiry, either in writing or in a private session;
- Progress to date: 400 people who wish to share their experiences with the Inquiry have been invited to a private session, which are being held in a number of locations. The experiences which are shared will play an important part in shaping the Inquiry's conclusions and recommendations for the future. Support and counselling is being provided for all victims and survivors when they share their experience;
- Commitments: The Inquiry will shortly publish a report on sessions held so far, and will complete the roll-out of private sessions by March 2017.
The Research Project
- In a nutshell: The Inquiry has a programme of research and analysis which advances its understanding of institutional failures in child protection, and the prevention of child sexual abuse. This contributes to the development of a robust evidence base for the Inquiry's work, with a strong focus on informing compelling and effective recommendations across its four key themes for change. Where the Inquiry identifies gaps in the evidence base that can be met within the terms and resources of the Inquiry, it will conduct new research to fill those gaps, working with external organisations where necessary;
- Progress to date: A number of specific research projects are underway, on the Anglican and Catholic Churches, an assessment of the published research about the role of institutions located in other jurisdictions in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, and an assessment of published evidence about child sexual abuse in custodial institutions. An Academic Advisory Board has been established, composed of experts in the field of child protection, so that the Inquiry can be assured of the rigour and ethical integrity of the Inquiry's research and analysis;
- Commitments: The Inquiry will develop proposals for primary research that will further support the making of recommendations across its four key themes for change; it will assess the published research information using the Rapid Evidence Assessment approach in a number of specified areas; and will develop a series of research briefing notes on a number of topics, including child sexual abuse in residential schools. The Inquiry will also externally commission a review of the published evidence on specified areas of online-facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as social and political discourses about child sexual abuse.
The Public Hearings Projects
- In a nutshell: A conventional public inquiry on institutional failings, where witnesses give evidence under oath and are subject to cross examination;
- Progress to date: Investigations have been launched into a range of institutions and themes, and 11 preliminary hearings were held in March and July 2016; 250 formal requests for evidence have been made from over 120 different institutions; an evidence management system has been procured to support the Inquiry's assessment of approximately 75,000 documents received to date; and two issue papers have been published by the Accountability and Reparations Investigation, seeking views on the civil justice system and criminal compensation schemes;
- Commitments: The first Inquiry Seminar will be held on 29-30 November 2016 on the civil justice system and criminal compensation schemes. The first public hearing will commence in February 2017.
In the meantime, Professor Jay has also commissioned an internal review of the Inquiry, the outcome of which it is understood should be published before Christmas. If, during the course of its review, IICSA considers that changes to its existing investigations (i.e. including that into residential schools) might be necessary, it will ask the relevant Core Participants for their views before any decisions are taken, and if there are other substantive changes to the Inquiry's work which IICSA thinks will directly affect others then it will seek their views.
The residential schools investigation has been underway for several months now, and a number of boarding schools (both state and independent) have been asked for information. In our experience, the requests for relevant material have been wide and date back many years. In some cases we have worked with the Inquiry team to scale down the requests, and have carefully considered the position with respect to material that is covered by legal professional privilege, and material which relates to live police investigations and current criminal prosecution – or the possibility of such in the future, and civil claims.
The Future of the Inquiry
- As confirmed in IICSA's update of 31st October 2016, the Inquiry will develop a series of briefing notes one of which will focus on child sexual abuse in residential schools. We understand that the Inquiry research team has so far found limited published evidence on the prevalence and nature of child sexual abuse in residential schools, in particular a lack of research on the following areas:
- The prevalence and nature of child sexual abuse both perpetrated by adults and other children in boarding schools, including religiously affiliated schools;
- The nature and efficiency of safeguarding procedures in boarding schools, specifically, procedures relating to the prevention of and response to child sexual abuse and peer sexual abuse.
- Bodies such as ISI and the Charity Commission are set to feature in at least one investigation to examine their role in scrutinising safeguarding arrangements in schools and charities.
- Insurance companies are also under the Inquiry's spotlight and this is likely to continue as more unfolds about claims and compensation in abuse cases.
If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing, please contact Adele Eastman (firstname.lastname@example.org; 020 3375 7581), Maria Strauss (email@example.com; 020 3375 7259) or your usual contact at the firm on 020 3375 7000. Further information can be found on the Child Protection page on our website.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
© Farrer & Co LLP, November 2016