‘Vested in­ter­ests’ want abuse probe to fail, says chief

Daily Mail - - News - By Chris Green­wood Chief Crime Correspondent

STRONG ‘ vested in­ter­ests’ want the in­de­pen­dent child sex­ual abuse in­quiry to col­lapse, its chair­man said yes­ter­day.

Pro­fes­sor Alexis Jay sug­gested un­named in­sti­tu­tions wel­comed the in­quiry’s trou­bled start – in­clud­ing the loss of three pre­vi­ous chair­men – be­cause it is a ‘threat’.

She ad­mit­ted the in­quiry was put in se­ri­ous jeop­ardy by claims that its for­mer chief coun­sel Ben Em­mer­son QC sex­u­ally as­saulted a col­league.

But with Mr Em­mer­son cleared and ‘ter­ri­ble’ al­le­ga­tions that she tried to cover up an in­ter­nal scan­dal put to bed, she in­sisted the work must con­tinue.

‘Strong vested in­ter­ests would like to see this in­quiry im­plode,’ the aca­demic and so­cial worker said. ‘There are in­sti­tu­tions which would pre­fer to see us fail be­cause we are such a threat.

‘Turn­ing a blind eye takes many, many forms. There are some pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tions and in­di­vid­u­als that don’t know what we know. They’re go­ing to be called to ac­count.’

Pro­fes­sor Jay, 67, spoke out as hear­ings re­sumed in the in­quiry, which will con­tinue for at least an­other four years and could cost more than £100mil­lion.

The in­quiry was es­tab­lished in 2014 to ex­am­ine whether a wide range of public bod­ies failed to pro­tect chil­dren from sex­ual abuse. The first of a se­ries of ma­jor re­ports into in­sti­tu­tions in­clud­ing the Catholic and Angli­can churches, schools, coun­cils and chil­dren’s homes will be de­liv­ered next year.

But some vic­tims are un­happy with the in­quiry’s scope and di­rec­tion, and four groups have with­drawn their sup­port.

In an in­ter­view with The Mail on Sun­day, Pro­fes­sor Jay said the probe is a ‘once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity to achieve the max­i­mum im­pact’.

She de­scribed hav­ing her rep­u­ta­tion ‘tra­duced’ by claims of a cover-up as ‘dev­as­tat­ing’.

She said: ‘I’ve never cov­ered any­thing up in my life and nor in­deed have my fel­low pan­el­lists. We all felt the strain of that kind of ac­cu­sa­tion. This is not be­cause we want to per­pet­u­ate the in­sti­tu­tion of the in­quiry.

‘It’s be­cause if it went un­der, there would be thou­sands, tens of thou­sands, of vic­tims for whom this is their big chance to be heard, and for some of the in­jus­tices to be ad­dressed.’

Pro­fes­sor Jay said if she had re­signed it would have left the in­quiry to col­lapse af­ter the loss of its pre­vi­ous chair­men Dame El­iz­a­beth But­ler-Sloss, Fiona Woolf and Low­ell God­dard.

Last week a re­port into the han­dling of the al­leged sex scan­dal cleared Pro­fes­sor Jay, and an ear­lier in­quiry con­cluded that Mr Em­mer­son did not com­mit a sex­ual as­sault.

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