While current and past child abuse inquiries around the world seem to take the challenges of such large investigations in their stride, the UK's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse ('the Inquiry') continues to stumble on the starting block. The reasons for this have been in plain sight for some time - but will the Inquiry listen to reason before it's too late?
Having appointed its fourth Chair (former panel member Professor Alexis Jay), the Inquiry has taken on a very different hue. Professor Jay is the first Chair not to have had any legal or judicial background, but will be nestled in among a lawyer-heavy team who have shaped the Inquiry to look and feel like a court of law. This could pose some challenges, as Professor Jay may have a view to reshape the Inquiry in the coming weeks - and so she should.
There is no question that the Inquiry should either start afresh or shut down completely, as sources quoted by the media have suggested. A UK Inquiry into non-recent child sexual abuse was always going to be a considerable undertaking: after decades of ignoring one of the most ingrained and on-going abuses of human rights in the UK, how could it be anything but extensive?
The good news is that the Inquiry doesn't need to go back to the beginning to get back on track, but it does need to become much more familiar with the mindset of survivors.
The Inquiry has taken much of its inspiration from high-profile child abuse investigations occurring around the world, most obviously Australia's own Royal Commission looking into institutional abuse. However, in order to be truly ground-breaking, it needs to refocus and frame the Inquiry in a way which brings out the best in survivors and key stakeholders who have the ability to unearth vital pieces of evidence. Dr Liz Davies offers
some of the best recommendations to date on how to do this.
Another hugely important aspect the Inquiry needs to fully take on board is the campaigning history which belongs to survivors: a narrative which is significant because so many victims come to the table with an already extensive knowledge not just of the scale of abuse in the UK, but also how the government has typically dealt with such abuse.