‘Vested interests’ want abuse probe to fail, says chief
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But some victims are unhappy with the inquiry’s scope and direction, and four groups have withdrawn their support.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.