|Child sex abuse victims say Keith Vaz’s decision to publish the emails |
led to them receiving death threats
In a letter to the home secretary, the victims, who have been campaigning for changes to the independent child abuse inquiry, condemned the decision by Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs select committee, to place the emails which contain the victims’ names and disparaging comments about them, on the committee website.
The row is the latest controversy to engulf the independent inquiry, which has had to halt its work over complaints about its structure, lack of transparency and the actions and comments of some inquiry panel members.
Lucy Duckworth, of the Survivors Alliance, which represents several victims’ organisations, said: “Since this information was published the individuals have received death threats. In one of the emails a panel member says the panel should ignore the four survivors, calling them ‘these people.’”
In the letter from the survivors to Theresa May, they accuse Vaz and the panel members of a breach of trust, and say the comments about survivors in the published documents display “a lack of knowledge of survivor groups and a deep arrogance”.
“As individuals who are also survivors to experience this without the offer of support or apology from HASC, the secretariat or the Home Office, is a shameful reflection of process,” they wrote.
“The disclosure of confidential email discussion between panel members … including disclosure of personal contact details, reveals an appalling lack of respect by certain panel members for survivors, survivor groups and for fellow panel members … named individuals/survivors have been subjected to social media hate campaigns as a result of the disclosures and negative attitudes expressed by some panel members. This follows a catalogue of failures … in establishing the inquiry.”
After complaints from the victims, the select committee began to redact the names of individual survivors from the correspondence on its website. By Thursday 18 out of 96 pages contained redactions.
In a statement the committee said: “Last week, some material from the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse came into the Committee’s possession in the course of our inquiry. The material included directions to Panel members about how they should answer questions from the Committee, as well as e-mail exchanges between Panel members about the Panel’s external communications strategy. These e-mails included the names of third parties. At the request of the individuals concerned the material has been redacted to remove references to these individuals. The names of all these individuals were already in the public domain.”
A committee source robustly defended the decision to publish the documents, saying the survivors involved had already publicly declared themselves quite clearly in one way or another.
|Home Secretary Elizabeth May|
I sincerely hope that Secretary May can get this inquiry on track next week. Her track record, however, is not exactly confidence-building.
Two chairs previously selected, Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss, and Fiona Woolf, were forced to resign over their connections to the establishment, and there has been criticism of some panel members and complaints that the way panel members were selected lacked transparency.
The release of the documents came as Ben Emmerson, QC, counsel to the inquiry was called to the committee on Monday by Vaz to defend himself against allegations of bullying by a member of the indepenpent inquiry panel, Sharon Evans. It is not known who leaked the documents to the HASC committee.
Emmerson in his evidence robustly defended his actions. He said that Evans, a panel member who has given media interviews, had caused “a great deal of damage” to the inquiry by leaking information and by speaking to the media without approval. She was in breach of her duty of confidentiality, he said, and had made misleading statements that had an impact on the work of the inquiry.
Duckworth, who represents the Survivors Alliance said the four survivors named in the documentation felt “exposed and vulnerable” and the publication was “having a huge impact on our work and organisations.”
In their letter to the Home Secretary the survivors said: “The release of emails and correspondence constitute a breach of data protection and also a breach of trust. With disregard to who or how the information was leaked, the comments made by (Barbara) Hearn (a panel member) and Evans about us and our agencies demonstrate a lack of knowledge of survivor groups and a degree of arrogance in that..we would not understand the nuances of ‘evidence’.
“Additionally they demonstrate a view point that challenging views ‘should be directly corrected or ignored.’”
Could these problems be a symptom of disdain in class differences? The highly educated looking down on the less educated?