Scottish Daily Mail

Child abuse inquiry at risk again as lawyer is suspended

- By Jack Doyle and Rebecca Camber

THE inquiry into historic child sexual abuse was dealt another blow last night as its most senior lawyer was suspended.

Reports had suggested Ben Emmerson, QC, was considerin­g quitting over concerns the inquiry had become unmanageab­le.

But last night, the inquiry released a statement flatly denying the claims and revealing he had been suspended over concerns about his leadership. Sources inside the inquiry described the lawyer as ‘hard work’.

A spokesman for the Independen­t Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said: ‘The inquiry has recently become very concerned about aspects of Mr Emmerson’s leadership of the counsel team. He has therefore been suspended from duty so that these can be properly investigat­ed.

‘Suggestion­s in the Press that Mr Emmerson was considerin­g resigning are untrue. They are not a matter on which he has advised the chair or panel.’

The spokesman said no further details about the reason for the decision or its timing would be released.

Mr Emmerson’s suspension plunges the inquiry – which has lost three chairmen in two years – into further chaos and will cause dismay among victims’ groups. It will also spark demands to reconsider the scale of what is likely to be Britain’s most expensive public inquiry, estimated at £100million.

Home Office sources indicated Mr Emmerson – who has been with the inquiry since it began in 2014 – would not return. The source insisted it could continue while finding a new lawyer.

Mr Emmerson earned £408,000 on the inquiry last year, almost double what the chairman – Edinburgh-born social work expert Alexis Jay, a visiting professor at Strathclyd­e University – is paid. He said: ‘I’m not making any comment at this time at all.’

Andi Lavery of Catholic survivor group White Flowers Alba, which represents 70 victims, said: ‘This is a disgrace. This inquiry is rotten to the core. Three chairs have gone, a social worker is in charge of a judicial inquiry and now Ben Emmerson is suspended. He was the only one with experience.

‘He has been the glue holding everything together. He is the only one remaining who has the confidence of the victims… for him to be suspended is grotesque. If he leaves now, the victims’ groups will leave.’

David Enright, a solicitor representi­ng 20 per cent of the core participan­ts, said: ‘This inquiry is like a comedy of errors. He has been suspended for alleged problems in his leadership, but who is leading this thing? … Where is the leadership from [Home Secretary] Amber Rudd?’

Dame Lowell Goddard, who quit as chairman two months ago, said there was an ‘inherent problem in the sheer scale and size’.

Miss Rudd has defended the inquiry’s scale, saying: ‘The terms of reference set up originally were the right ones’.

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