Child abuse inquiry gets statutory footing as new panel members named

Four new panel members, including the author of a report on sexual exploitation in Rotherham, have been appointed to the reformed independent inquiry into child abuse, the home secretary has announced.

After months of controversy about the makeup and power of the inquiry, Theresa May confirmed on Thursday it was to be placed on a statutory footing “to compel witnesses to determine whether state and non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to children”.

The home secretary said she had listened to demands from the survivors that the period of time covered by the inquiry be extended. May said there would be no cutoff point for investigations and added that no individual or institution should be able to fall through the gaps because of “geographical boundaries”.

She said information would be shared between the inquiry in England and Wales, a forthcoming inquiry being set up in Scotland, the Hart inquiry in Northern Ireland and the Jersey independent care inquiry, all of which will have joint protocols.

May said the inquiry would have the full cooperation of the government and access to all relevant information.

The four panel members selected by the chair of the independent inquiry, Justice Lowell Goddard, are Drusila Sharpling, an inspector with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary; Prof Alexis Jay, author of the report into the Rotherham child sex scandal; Ivor Frank, an expert in family and human rights law; and Malcolm Evans, chair of the United Nations subcommittee for the prevention of torture.

The Survivors’ Alliance, an umbrella group of several victims’ organisations, welcomed the announcement. “The new terms of reference and structure give the inquiry wider powers to compel witnesses to give evidence and will uncover the atrocities and cover-ups prevalent in our institutions for decades,” it said.

“Expanding the terms of reference means institutions responsible for trafficking and abusing children outside England and Wales will also now be investigated.”

May said survivors had to have a strong voice in the work of the inquiry and Goddard would soon announce the setting up of a consultative panel of survivors and victims, and would seek their views on who should be on it.

May said: “I am confident that the new statutory inquiry, under the chairmanship of Justice Goddard, will challenge individuals and institutions without fear or favour and get to the truth. This will not be an easy task but I believe the inquiry now has the right leadership, individuals and powers to make this happen.”