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Theresa May delivers statement on the Woolf Inquiry into child sexual abuse

Date:21 OCT 2014
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Senior Editor
Secretary of State for the Home DepartmentTheresa May, has today delivered a written ministerial statement in the House of Commons to announce that she has appointed expert panel members to consider whether public bodies and other institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse. The statement was also delivered in the House of Lords by Lord Bates.

Theresa May stated:

'Further to my statement to the House on 7 July and my written ministerial statements of 9 July and 5 September 2014, I am pleased to announce that I have appointed the panel members to the independent inquiry panel of experts, which will consider whether public bodies – and other, non-state, institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

'Sharon Evans, Ivor Frank, Dame Moira Gibb, Professor Jenny Pearce OBE, Dru Sharpling CBE and Professor Terence Stephenson, will join Graham Wilmer MBE and Barbara Hearn OBE as panel members for the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Ben Emmerson QC is counsel to the inquiry, and Professor Alexis Jay OBE will serve as an expert adviser.

'I am confident that this panel, under the chairmanship of Fiona Woolf CBE, will carry out a robust and thorough inquiry, and will challenge individuals and institutions without fear or favour, in order to consider this important issue, to learn the relevant lessons, and to prevent it happening again. The panel represents a diverse range of experience, which includes social care, academia, law enforcement, health, media, the voluntary sector and those with experience of child sexual abuse.

'The terms of reference have been drafted to ensure that this strong and balanced panel of independent experts can have full access to all the material it seeks, unless there is a statutory impediment to it doing so. The panel will consider matters from 1970 to the present, although this can be extended if evidence is provided that supports this, and will decide how and where to focus its efforts, in order to complete its work and make recommendations within a reasonable timeframe. The terms of reference have been finalised and a copy will be placed in the House Library. The panel will provide an update to Parliament before May next year.

'Each of the panel members has written to me setting out in full any issues which might be seen to cast doubt on their impartiality. Those letters are published in full on the inquiry’s website. I am confident that they will carry out their duties to the highest standards of impartiality and integrity.

'Fiona Woolf has a long and distinguished career throughout which she has demonstrated the highest standards of integrity. I am confident that she will lead the work of the panel with authority, and that under her leadership the panel will get to the truth of these issues. They will do so on behalf of victims past and present to ensure that the sexual abuse of children is never again a hidden crime, and that past failings are acknowledged, and recommendations made for further improvements to current arrangements in the light of the panel’s findings. I wish the panel every success in its important work.'
Fiona Woolf CBE, said:
'I am pleased that all the members of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse have now been appointed.

'They bring a wide range of experience and expertise to the important work that lies ahead of us - to consider the extent to which state and non-state institutions failed to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

'The Panel will consider if and how such failings have been addressed and identify what further action is needed. Its scope will be wide-ranging and will include government departments, Parliament, the police, local authorities, churches and the Armed Forces.

'The Panel’s conclusions and recommendations will be published and the immediate task is to determine the methodology in order to begin the process of gathering and assessing the existing evidence and deciding what further evidence is needed.

'The Panel and will be submitting an interim report to the Home Secretary by the end of March 2015.

'This is an inquiry of enormous public importance and I am honoured to be leading it. In the light of recent media reporting I have written to the Home Secretary, detailing my contacts with Lord and Lady Brittan as well as any other issues that might be relevant. I have published this letter on the Inquiry’s website.

'I have assured the Home Secretary that there is nothing that could affect my ability to deal independently and impartially with the matters the Inquiry Panel will investigate. If I had any doubt about this I would not have accepted this appointment.

'I look forward to beginning this vital work.'
The Woolf Inquiry’s website can be found at http://www.childsexualabuseinquiry.independent.gov.uk.