Inquiry into child sex abuse to hire 21 barristers in ‘lawyer-fest’

Ben Emmerson’s huge legal team will outstrip Leveson and Saville inquiries – with 11 QCs

By David HenckeTim Wood and Mark Watts | 13 June 2015

Inquiry into child sex abuse to hire 21 barristers in ‘lawyer-fest’Justice Lowell Goddard is looking to hire 20 more barristers to help her run the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse.

The move has caused anger among abuse survivors and their representatives, with one warning that it would deter nervous witnesses from coming forward.

Goddard has given the role of finding 10 QCs and an additional 10 barristers to Ben Emmerson, counsel to the inquiry. He is also a QC, bringing the total size of the legal team to 21.

Theresa May, home secretary, was warned that it would become a “lawyer-fest” if she agreed to demands from some in the legal community to turn it into a statutory inquiry from the outset.

Lord Justice Leveson’s 16-month inquiry into newspaper practices had just eight barristers – including only one QC. They cost £1.76 million in total, so the legal team for the inquiry into child sex abuse (CSA) – which will last far longer – will be much higher.

Even the inquiry led by Lord Saville into ‘Bloody Sunday’, when British soldiers opened fire on a crowd and killed 14 people in Londonderry in Northern Ireland, had just five barristers – including one QC. In total, they cost £13.5 million for a 12-year inquiry.

A well-informed source at the CSA inquiry said that the 20 barristers will report to Emmerson, and are expected to be specialists in child care, local authorities, public law and criminal law. As with other inquiries, most of the positions are not full-time. But there will be yet more barristers to represent the large number of interested parties.

Emmerson hopes that some of the new team will start work this month and will expand to 20 lawyers by the end of the year. He asked for applications to the positions by Friday.

Emmerson survived as counsel to the inquiry when May dissolved the entire panel in February.

The home secretary replaced it with a statutory inquiry, with a new panel chaired by Goddard, a New Zealand judge.

Exaro revealed a warning by Graham Wilmer, who was on the dissolved panel, that the replacement would not have any CSA survivors of on it. He was one of two abuse survivors on the original panel.

The warning proved true with the appointment of a replacement panel of five people, including: Alexis Jay, author of the report last year on CSA in Rotherham; Drusilla Sharpling, barrister and former senior prosecutor; Malcolm Evans, professor of public international law; and Ivor Frank, barrister and advisor to the Home Office.

Frank and Sharpling were on the original panel, and Jay was the expert advisor to it, providing some continuity.

Marilyn Hawes, founder of Enough Abuse, which provides support and training to help tackle CSA, told Exaro: “They are turning this into a lawyer-fest. Why do they need 20 barristers, including 10 QCs, and why are they feathering their pockets? This inquiry is becoming a gravy-train for lawyers.”

Jenny Tomlin, best-selling author and herself an abuse survivor, said: “I do not see any reason for 20 barristers. It is a complete waste of money.”

“They are probably going to slow the whole process down. What an earth are the chairwoman and secretariat doing?”

She added: “Survivors will be putting their heads in their hands.”

Another abuse survivor, Esther Baker, said that the structure of the inquiry would deter key witnesses from coming forward.

She said: “I think that they are trying to terrify anyone that has experienced harm from people – including the judicial system – into staying quiet.

“How is someone such as me supposed to engage in an inquiry that appears to be doing its best to make this inquiry ‘anti-survivor’ in every way possible. It clearly discourages people with undisclosed evidence from coming forward.”

Shy Keenan, anti-paedophile campaigner and consultant, also condemned the inquiry for its “giant payday-fest” for lawyers and “anti-victim prejudice”.

The inquiry has been dogged by controversy after two previous chairwomen were forced to step down amid claims of conflicts of interest.

Last week, Exaro was commended in the Online Media Awards for ‘breaking news story of the year’.

As well as winning a series of nominations in major awards, Exaro’s disclosures on the ‘Westminster paedophile network’ are gaining increasing recognition on domestic and overseas broadcasters and other media outlets.

Additional research by Ben Stupples.

Related Stories : Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread

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