Sandra Laville and Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian
|Judge Lowell Goddard leads the inquiry|
Judge Lowell Goddard revealed details of the first investigations to be carried out in public into child sexual abuse dating back decades. They cover institutions such as the Church of England, the Roman Catholic church, Westminster, and children’s homes in Nottinghamshire and the London borough of Lambeth, plus child abuse on the internet, and grooming and sexual exploitation in Rochdale, Devon, Cornwall, Oxford and Rotherham.
The scale of the first 12 investigations to be announced – which will be followed by up to 13 more – was ambitious, Goddard admitted. “To run 12 investigations in parallel represents an organisational challenge that is unprecedented in a public inquiry in the United Kingdom,” she said. “We are determined to succeed and expect full co-operation of all institutions and individuals who can assist us in our work.”
While some of the investigations may take 18 months, others could last many years, but Goddard said she hoped to keep to her timetable of the inquiry lasting five years.
Goddard’s £17.9m investigation – the biggest public inquiry into institutional child abuse and accusations of establishment cover-ups ever held in England and Wales – will not be able to convict people or punish them. She has said she will not shrink from naming individuals who have abused children and the institutions that allowed it to happen.
Allegations of abuse by politicians and civil servants at Westminster will be among the first of the inquiries to take place. Goddard said the claims would be examined as part of “an objective fact-finding inquiry”.
She said: “The investigation will focus on high-profile allegations of child sexual abuse involving current or former members of parliament, senior civil servants, government advisers and members of the intelligence and security agencies. It will consider allegations of cover-up and conspiracy and will review the adequacy of law enforcement responses to these allegations.”
Other high-profile scandals to be investigated by the inquiry and heard in public include the abuse carried out by the Liberal Democrat MP Cyril Smith and others at Knowl View school and Cambridge House boys hostel in Rochdale.
There will be a separate investigation into whether establishment figures put pressure on police and prosecutors to cover up the years of sexual abuse by the Church of England’s then bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball.
Ball, who was bishop of Lewes, in the Chichester diocese, before he took up his post in Gloucester, was convicted this year of the sexual abuse of 18 young men between 1977 and 1992. It emerged during his trial that he had escaped justice 22 years ago after what victims say was an establishment cover-up.
Ball is one of a string of Church of England figures who abused children in the Chichester diocese, and their crimes are only now – years later – being brought to criminal courts. Goddard said: “We will consider the experience of the diocese of Chichester, a diocese that has been beset by allegations of sexual abuse and subject to numerous investigations, reviews and inquiries.
“We will also consider the case of former bishop of Lewes, and subsequent bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, and investigate whether there were inappropriate attempts by people of prominence to interfere in criminal justice processes after he was first accused of child sexual offences.”
The 12 investigations will also examine sexual abuse in children’s homes in Lambeth and Nottinghamshire. “The abuse of children in the care of Lambeth council and Nottingham and Nottinghamshire councils demands thorough and searching examinations of what may have taken place,” Goddard said. “The inquiry intends to hear from victims and survivors of sexual abuse that happened whilst they were in the care of these councils, and to assess the extent to which a wide spectrum of public authorities in those areas failed to protect children.”
Among the other investigations outlined was a separate inquiry into Medomsley juvenile detention centre in County Durham, in connection with which Goddard said she had already received “many hundreds” of allegations of abuse.
“The apparent scale of abuse at Medomsley demands a rigorous inquiry into how such allegations, if true, could have gone uninvestigated and the offending undetected for so long. Our inquiry will pose probing questions of the secure estate for children and young people, the police and the criminal justice system.”
Another investigation will examine abuse in the Roman Catholic church, following a series of scandals involving clergy. It will focus in particular on allegations of child abuse by Benedictine monks in public schools such as Ampleforth college, where several monks and three members of the lay teaching staff allegedly abused children in their care, and the Benedictine monastery at Downside Abbey.
The investigation was set up last year following claims of a high-level cover-up of abuse, and it has been beset by delays because of the resignations of two previous chairwomen. It is expected to cost tens of millions of pounds.
The 12 investigations will be followed by more investigations into specific cases, with the inquiry team investigating up to 25 cases in total. Alongside that work, thousands of victims of child abuse are taking part in a “truth project”, in which they will share their experience of abuse in private hearings, all of which will become evidence to be analysed by the inquiry.
The 12 investigations are:
Children in the care of Lambeth council
Children in the care of Nottinghamshire councils
Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale council
Child sexual abuse in the Anglican church
Child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church
The sexual abuse of children in custodial institutions
Child sexual abuse in residential schools
Theinternet and childsexual abuse
Child exploitation by organised networks
The protection of children outside the United Kingdom
Accountability and reparations for victims and survivors
Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster
The Church of England welcomed its inclusion in the inquiry. The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, had publicly called for the church to be among the first institutions to be investigated by the Goddard inquiry.
They might as well. It's not like they were going to be left out.
|Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby|
The Catholic church, which has also seen a string of cases of sexual abuse by clergy dating back decades, also welcomed Goddard’s announcement and said it was establishing a council to ensure full cooperation with the inquiry.
Rowan Miller, director of Somerset & Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support, said: “Any survivor, at any time in their lifetime, who has been failed by an organisation once they have disclosed sexual abuse, or those that have suffered whilst part of or within an institution, will be encouraged to speak out and contribute to the inquiry.
“The need for funding and support for rape and sexual abuse organisations in this country has never been more critical. We know that rape and sexual abuse are the underlying causes for significant numbers of survivors to be struggling with mental health problems, addictions, relationship difficulties among other impacts. That’s why it is important that excellent support is available to survivors.”
Lucy Duckworth, a member of the victims and survivors consultative panel to Goddard’s inquiry, said it was a historic day. “We have been fighting for this for many years, we are absolutely delighted,” she said.
Duckworth, who was abused by Anglican and Catholic priests, said evidence to earlier internal church inquiries had been hidden or withheld. “The [church] culture is to protect themselves, and not put the victims first. Many of the people who come forward have been re-traumatised on top of the original trauma.”
Goddard’s inquiry would be difficult for the churches, she added. “They can’t comprehend what’s coming their way.”
Andi Lavery, of White Flowers Alba – a group of survivors of abuse by Benedictine monks – said of Goddard’s decision: “We welcome her investigation into the English Benedictine congregation, truly hoping it will hold to account those many clergy who criminally harmed children in their charge. We are humbled at the recognition of our distress by her decision to look at both accountability and redress. We will assist Goddard inquiry fully to deliver justice.”
Interesting! The previous story on this blog is about Benedictine monks in the USA. I wonder how proud Benedict is of what his order has become.