The UK child sex abuse inquiry has not only become riven by resignations, but is the most expensive enquiry in UK history – with now five lawyers having resigned from the enquiry having been paid over £3million has already been paid out to lawyers involved in the child sex abuse inquiry amid claims.
The inquiry’s top lawyer, Ben Emmerson QC has left along with now five who have left.
Emmerson’s deputy assistant, Elizabeth Prochaska, the inquiry’s junior counsel, has also resigned, although saying it was not connected to the slew of other resignations that have plagued the gold-plated enquiry.
The final bill for the probe could top £200million as lawyers leave as quickly as the money is poured into the inquiry involving 27 lawyers charging to £200 an hour.
And so far not one word of evidence has actually been heard.
Ben Emmerson QC, who was appointed by Theresa May to be lead counsel, was suspended last week and the Daily Mail reported he quit 24 hours later.
But he is just one of the five lawyers who recently closed the door on the enquiry which is reportedly in “meltdown”.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Emmerson insisted his decision to resign was not caused by a “difference of opinion” with Alexis Jay, the new chairman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) but for other reasons.
His announcement simply noted: “It is now time for someone else to take the helm with a different leadership of the Counsel team.”
However the IICSA had said that they were very concerned about aspects of Emmerson’s leadership of the legal team.
The resignation follows the surprise, recent resignation of New Zealand High Court Judge Lowell Goddard QC who quit amid allegations that she was not up to the job, although she stated the inquiry was in need of ‘remodelling’ and delivered a stiff and stinging rebuke to the way in which it was set up with its sprawling mandate to investigate historic child sex abuse claims.
There were also suggestions that Justice Goddard had fallen out with Professor Alexis
Jay, the new chair of the inquiry and who previously led the 2014 inquiry that revealed at least 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
However the Telegraph also reported other issues, such as drunkenness and racist attitudes, claiming –
include astonishing allegations that one senior official had been “permanently drunk” and had even expressed racist views on official business.
IICSA has moved to reassure victims. “We are aware that recent events are unsettling, particularly for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and all those who are engaged with the inquiry’s work. It has been said that the Inquiry is in crisis. This is simply not the case,” said a spokesman.
Among the departees are also Abigail Bright and Alexandra Felix who may or may not have been supporters of Ben Emmerson, who who reflect the deep discord within the rank-and-file of the inquiry’s team, rendering its ability to continue its wide-ranging probe into the British establishment a shambles.
Whether others in the legal team left standing will follow the others or not is a mute point, but the fact that the highly
politicised and controversial, let alone expensive, inquiry can continue at all is now a question that appears to be up for debate.
The Daily Mail reported that Michael Mansfield QC has also waded into the furore, saying he would be willing to consider a co-chair position to end the turmoil that has created an apparent impasse with the ability of the inquiry to undertake its work..
The barrister said a lawyer must be appointed to help Professor Jay, a former social worker, steer the inquiry: ‘I’m very willing to consider it, but that’s another issue as to who they want to do it. But they need another lawyer at the top because there are legal decisions to be made, and I’m afraid the present chair isn’t a lawyer.’