Child Sex Abuse Stories Buried Under EU Referendum Hysteria

15/06/2016 13:01 | Updated 15 June 2016

The historic child sex abuse inquiry, led by Justice Goddard, announced yesterday that it was fast tracking claims that child migrants sent to Australia and Canada between 1920 and 1970, had been sexually abused. Prior to and on arrival at their overseas homes. In 1998, a parliamentary report documented that the abuse suffered by some of those in Australia was "widespread, systematic and exceptionally depraved".

The inquiry will look at the role of the state, the Church of England and high profile charities in the abuse and cover up of children from as young as three.

Twenty years after the Rotherham child abuse scandal, the first arrest was made on Thursday. In the wake of the Jay report, which revealed the rape and trafficking of 1,400 children between 1997 and 2013, the National Crime Agency (NCA) began an investigation in 2014. Last week it was announced that the investigation will take at least 8 years to complete. Two years in, and having already been ignored by the South Yorkshire Police for a decade, this protracted timeline adds insult to injury for beleaguered survivors.

In January, Les Paul was convicted (for the third time) for abusing four boys whilst he was a care home manager in Lambeth in the 1980s. The Goddard historic child sex inquiry is currently investigating claims of high level systemic paedophile networks operating throughout Lambeth care homes in the 80's and 90's.

A recent Newsnight investigation revealed that, in 1986, Lambeth discovered that one of its care home managers, Michael Carroll, had a previous conviction of child abuse which he hadn't disclosed in his job application. Yet, the conviction, and his failure to disclose it, did not result in his dismissal. It gets worse, when Carroll asked if he could turn one of the care homes into a centre to provide therapy for victims of child abuse, Lambeth agreed. It wasn't until Carroll was sacked for fiddling his expenses in 1991 that the press was made aware of his child sex convictions.

In a report published on Thursday, Leicestershire County Council pledged its full support for the Goddard inquiry. The council is one of several organisations required by law to contribute to the inquiry's first investigation which is looking into allegations against former Leicester Labour MP Grenville Janner.

Some survivors have expressed misgivings about the pressure being brought to bear on Justice Goddard by lawyers representing the myriad of institutions accused of exposing children to abuse by powerful politicians. Nigel O'Mara was recently rejected by Justice Goddard to be a "core participant" in her inquiry into alleged abuses by Lord Janner and the late liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith.

In 1992 Mr O'Mara co-founded a helpline for survivors of sexual abuse and claims to have received a number of calls from young men alleging they had been abused as children in care by Janner and Smith. He said the reports were sent to Kenneth Clarke, then home secretary, in 1992 and 1993 but that no response was forthcoming.

David Enright, Mr O'Mara's solicitor, told the press that the high court was "overflowing with lawyers and barristers representing every institution and organisation alleged to have failed to protect children from sexual abuse by these powerful politicians". All of whom, he said, enjoyed full participation in the Goddard inquiry, including ongoing access and influence over it. "A key witness" (Mr O'Mara) will not".

When Justice Goddard took over the inquiry she promised to put survivors at its heart. If she is to instil trust and credibility, survivors' voices cannot be silenced and side-lined by loquacious lawyers acting on behalf of powerful institutions and individuals.

I was critical of Justice Goddard's predecessors. Their establishment links undermined trust amongst survivors, without which the inquiry could not claim credence. I publicly gave Ms Goddard my conditional backing when she was appointed sixteen months ago. I said then and repeat again now, that survivors must have absolute trust in the integrity of the process. Otherwise, it will unravel.

Theresa May described the inquiry as "A once in a lifetime opportunity". We owe it to survivors to get it right.