Professor Alexis Jay appointed as the new head of the CSA inquiry
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News broke yesterday of the appointment of Professor Alexis Jay to head the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Professor Jay will replace Dame Lowell Goddard, the New Zealand lawyer who resigned from the chair of the Inquiry this week.
However Imran Khan, a solicitor for a group of survivors that has been granted core participant status at the inquiry, has said that his clients want "some reassurance" failing which there "may have to be a challenge."
Professor Jay is already a member of the IICSA's expert panel, and she has a 30 year history in social work. Apparently the objection to her appointment stems from concerns amongst survivors, about her ability to investigate the past failures of her own profession. There may also be concerns about the fact that she does not come from the legal profession.
Peter Garsden, President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers went on the BBC today to say that he welcomed Professor Jay's appointment.
There are a number of points to be made here:
- Professor Jay has 30 years of experience in social work. It would be surprising if at some point in her career, she had not been involved with a local authority or some other institution, which had experienced a major child abuse scandal. That on its own, cannot make her unsuitable to chair this Inquiry.
- The fact that she does not come from the judiciary should not be a bar to her heading this Inquiry, when she has the help of highly experienced lawyers to guide her through the various legal pitfalls, such as confidentiality and findings of fact.
- Social workers both junior and senior are an integral part of the legal process, particularly in family and adoption cases where they supply the evidence. They have to understand the legal tests that are routinely used by the courts and the importance of confidentiality. Professor Jay will be no exception.
- She was the chair of the investigation into the Rotherham grooming scandal, which criticised both police and social workers.
- Sometimes a non-legal mind can be a positive factor in a process where survivors feel swamped by lawyers and what appear to be incomprehensible legal rules.
Professor Jay has said that she is fully committed to the IICSA. Crucially she recognises one of the core purposes of the Inquiry, which is to ensure that children are better protected now and in the future.
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