Four months on since the Government opened its Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Hon. Lowell Goddard announced last week that public hearings will not commence until next year. Over the past four months the team working in the background have been busy setting up offices nationwide and setting up a website. Those behind the Inquiry state that it “offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine the extent to which institutions and organisations in England and Wales have taken seriously their responsibility to protect children” – no easy task by any stretch of the imagination.
The Inquiry is incredibly wide ranging and will focus on institutions ranging from the Police, to schools and churches to try and get to the root of the problem.
Justice Lowell Goddard has now announced the first phases of the investigations (the Public Hearings Project) are to begin immediately. Thereafter, a statement will be provided on the work of the Inquiry to date. Twelve investigations are proposed for the first phase with the majority, if not all, culminating in public hearings. Further investigations will be announced as the Inquiry progresses. The approach adopted is said to be thematic and institution specific to ensure that conclusions are reached based on as wide a range of evidence as possible.
The Inquiry will attempt to dig out the truth using three different strategies – research, public hearings and the ‘Truth Project’. The latter will involve victims telling their stories behind closed doors to promote more in depth disclosure from those who have been abused – without doubt, the most valuable of the three strategies. On the back of this, any allegations of criminal offences will be passed to the Police to investigate.
The main aims of the Inquiry are to consider the extent to which state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, to consider the extent to which the failings have been addressed, to identify further action needed to address those failures and consider what measures are needed to protect children in the future.
Whilst the Government estimated that the Inquiry would be completed in five years, critics argue that 10 years is more realistic. Regardless of how many years the Inquiry will take to complete, if it can achieve its aim in the end, surely this has to be worth it for the sake of protecting children of future generations.
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