Tuesday, 26 December 2017

IICSA - next round of Benedictine hearings

The purpose of the IICSA is not at all the same as the purpose of a criminal trial, of Soper, Pearce or anyone else. The idea behind the IICSA is to find out in what way institutions failed to protect children, and to make recommendations as to what can be done to prevent such failures in future.

To fail adequately to protect children isn't necessarily to break the law. There's no legal obligation to report any suspicions you might have that a child is being abused. One of the things the IICSA will have to consider is whether that should change, and if so, who should be covered by a legal obligation to report suspicions

In due course, the IICSA will get round to holding hearings about Ealing Abbey in much the same fashion as they have recently done with respect to Downside and Ampleforth.

There will probably be a lot of documents to read through so that we can ensure that the right questions are asked. There have been over 62,000 pages of documents associated with the Downside and Ampleforth hearings, much of it provided very late.

Ealing is provisionally scheduled for February 2019. That's some considerable time away. In some ways that is bad, it would be better to hold hearings soon before we know of any other criminal trials that might get in the way. On the other hand, a long delay will give us more time to go through all the documents in detail to make sure Ealing Abbey is properly held to account.

And it is with that in mind that I would like to put out a call to the complainants in the Soper trial. If you haven't already, please consider getting involved in the IICSA and applying for "core participant" status. This will give you the right to have legal representation at the inquiry, to make written statements and submissions, and possibly to give evidence in person. Giving evidence to the public inquiry will not be nearly as tough as giving evidence in the trial, there is no hostile cross-examination.

By the way, legal representation is most unlikely to cost you anything. Unless you have substantial private resources, legal representation for core participants is paid for by the inquiry itself.

But the main thing is that you will have the right to see the documents IICSA has extracted from Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's School when IICSA gets round to disclosing them to core participants. I'll look at as many documents as I can, and so will the lawyers representing me and various  survivors. But we could do with additional pairs of eyes, particularly from people who have knowledge of the school and who may as a result be able to notice the significance of items which might otherwise be missed.

I know some of the complainants in the Soper trial want to try and put the whole matter behind them and try and get on with their lives. If you feel that way and don't want to get into the inquiry, I totally understand and respect that point of view. If you do nothing else, by complaining and testifying at trial you have done your fair share for child protection.

But if after catching your breath, you feel ready to do more and want to help address how Ealing Abbey enabled abuse to flourish, then please get in touch with me by email. There's a link to my email address on the panel on the right-hand side of this page.

Your anonymity will continue to be protected. All the complainants in the Ampleforth and Downside hearings have been given ciphers, and all mentions of names of complainants in the documents and in the hearings themselves have been replaced with the ciphers.

It is for the chair of the inquiry to decide who is given core participant status. If you are interested, I can help put you in touch with lawyers who will help draft your application.

No comments:

Post a Comment