Overarching Inquiry

After a long pause following the false start with Butler-Sloss, The Home Secretary announced on 5th September 2014 that the "independent inquiry panel of experts" would be led by Fiona Woolf, a former Lord Mayor of London and President of the Law Society. She is expert in privatisation of electricity transmission and is a liveryman of the Plumbers', Arbitrators', Marketors' and Tax Advisers' companies.

She is Governor at the Guildhall School of Music where girls were abused, and sits on a committee with Leon Brittan.

The Daily Mail also reports that Woolf:

  1. Sits on the board of a City of London conference with Lord Brittan, who is accused of overseeing an Establishment cover-up when he was Home Secretary
  2. Judges an annual City award scheme alongside Lord Brittan’s wife, Diana
  3. Gave Lord Brittan’s wife a £50 donation and a friendly good-luck message when she took part in a charity fun run last year
  4. Has been a neighbour of Lord and Lady Brittan in the same exclusive London street for the past decade
  5. Is a governor of the elite Guildhall School of Music where pupils are said to have been abused
  6. Sat in same magistrate's court as Brittan's wife.
  7. Was senior figure at a conference where Brittan spoke.

In a bizarre twist, it emerges that as Lord Mayor, she has a butler named Colin Tucker who was involved in the Magic Circle scandal in Scotland.

The campaign is faced with a dilemma: whether to accept Woolf in order to get thing rolling, acknowledging that she is a flawed chair, but that there are some good people on the panel, or whether to insist that a flawed chair could create a Hutton-style inquiry, a waste of money and time?

Many survivors are angry at Woolf's weaknesses. They may end up boycotting the inquiry, which may be the Home Office's objective.

If this is their objective, it will be achieved at the expense of making Theresa May appear deeply incompetent, given that it has taken weeks for her to select a second inadequate chair for her inquiry.

31.10.2014 Fiona Woolf has resigned. The question now is, why, after a long period of investigation of the background of candidates, did Theresa May's Home Office advisers come up with another candidate who was involved with people suspected of being implicated in abuse? Who were these advisors?

The response being put out by the commentator community is that it is "difficult to find someone who is non-Establishment". This misses the point. It is not connection with the Establishment that is the flaw, but connection with people suspected of implication in abuse.

The case now is that the chair of the inquiry should be selected by survivors, not by Home Office insiders.

Update 24.12.14 : 171 days have passed since the PM declared the importance of this inquiry, still no chair. It is turning into a farce.

Panel Members

Dame Moira Gibb is a close personal friend of a man who was Leon Brittan's Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1985, and a Government whip from 1986-1987.
Counsel to the Inquiry is Ben Emmerson QC. He seems a good choice.

Survivors of abuse will be represented by Graham Wilmer MBE, founder of the Lantern Project.

Barbara Hearn OBE, a past deputy CEO of the National Children's Bureau is also chosen.

Alexis Jay, author of the Report into Rotherham is advisor to the panel.

The remit so far is to "consider whether public bodies – and other, non-state, institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse."

It will be tempting for Ms Woolf to hold the swiftest ever inquiry by responding with a one word Report: "No".

However, the remit (and powers) of the inquiry will no doubt be expanded.

It is a pity that the petition to have Michael Mansfield QC chair the inquiry was unsuccessful.

Some campaigners feel that we should work with what we have, and not pre-judge the outcome.

The Woolf Inquiry may end up as a Hutton-style whitewash, another waste of public time and money, requiring further inquiries in future.
We may remember that

  1. the Hillsborough tragedy needed 23 years and three inquiries to get to the truth
  2. the Bloody Sunday massacre took 40 years and two inquiries to get anywhere near the truth.
  3. Daniel Morgan, a private investigator murdered 27 years ago, has had 5 inquiries, and still the truth is not in the open.
  4. Dr David Kelly's death has never been adequately investigated.

Some feel that Woolf is too tainted, and is not suitable to lead the inquiry.
This website is of this view.

However, a boycott of the inquiry may be exactly what the Establishment wants. To a great extent, the final result depends on how we, the public, survivors and activists alike, communicate with the inquiry, and how well Woolf listens. If Woolf does not have the grace and sense to step down, one way forward may be to preface every submission with a paragraph protesting her relationship with Leon Brittan.

The inquiry is not at present a statutory or judicial inquiry. If it is upgraded to that status, with powers to take statements under oath, Woolf will have to resign, because her associations with Brittan break the legal requirements for the chair of a judicial inquiry. This is a further reason for Woolf to step down.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License