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Published: 04 March 2015
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas with research assistance from Kate Stowell

UK child abuse inquiry relaunches after false start

A major inquiry into historical child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom will relaunch its website after appointing a new Chair and Panel, in response to heavy criticism from abuse survivors.

In July 2014, the UK government announced the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse would focus on the responses of public bodies to reports of child sexual abuse in England and Wales since 1970.

But the inquiry didn’t progress very far, with the early months plagued by criticism from abuse survivors that  two government-appointed Panel Chairs were to ‘too close’ to British government and establishment figures to lead a truly independent inquiry.

In response to the criticism, a New Zealand judge, Justice Lowell Goddard, has now been appointed to the Chair position.

Justice Goddard has previously led an inquiry into police handling of child abuse cases in New Zealand.

The website for the UK Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse currently states: “The Inquiry is in transition as we prepare for a new Chair and Panel to take up their roles”.

“Changes will be made to this website over the next few weeks”.

“A new website is also being constructed and receiving views from a variety of sources has been very helpful”.

The fresh start has prompted calls for the inquiry to be widened, to include cases of abuse in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

However, broadening the inquiry is not going to be straightforward, given Scotland and Northern Ireland are already in the process of holding their own inquiries.

In Northern Ireland, the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is investigating the abuse of children in residential institutions between 1922 and 1995. In Scotland, a statutory public inquiry into historical child abuse is being set up by the Scottish government.

The heavy criticism of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales stands in stark contrast to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which has to date attracted little criticism. Survivors of abuse have largely reported that the Commissioners with whom they have had private hearings have dealt with their matters sensitively and compassionately.

Anyone seeking information about the UK the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is invited fill in the form on the Inquiry’s website at https://childsexualabuseinquiry.independent.gov.uk/contact/.

Related links

List of current UK child abuse inquiries (BBC News)

Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

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