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Child abuse survivors' meeting: message from Michael Mansfield QC

Statement from Michael Mansfield QC



"I welcome this opportunity to make my position clear.

From the start of this initiative, for me last July, when I became aware of the public petition, I have been more than willing to consider chairing an Inquiry into Child Abuse as requested by the survivors and their families. I say 'consider' because I am currently engaged in the Hillsborough Inquests representing the families of the deceased. There would therefore have to be some negotiation around this. Logistically there are many ways in which difficulties can be accommodated or resolved, particularly as the early stages of any Inquiry are devoted to preparatory matters.

I am honoured to be approached by the families because much of my working life and practice at the Bar has been spent representing communities, groups, and families seeking truth and justice in the face of obfuscation, hostility and deceit by the authorities.

As you are acutely aware, however, the authorities have a habit of ignoring the wishes and needs of those most affected. This has happened yet again on a massive scale until the whole process was ground to a standstill by the second proposed chair standing down. Now of course all kinds of blandishments are being offered to the survivors. I'm sure no one will be taken in and everyone will exercise circumspection.

There are many other issues besides the chair. There are question marks over some of the panel members and the behaviour of at least one already; the terms of reference are restrictive both historically and geographically.

Plainly a Government Inquiry, properly constituted and empowered, would have the best chance of succeeding. I am sanguine about the real possibility of achieving this when none of the obvious steps were adopted in the first place. The ramifications are hugely political and everything will be done to ring fence these risks.

It is for these reasons that I am also prepared to consider an alternative course should the Government renege on their promises and obligations, namely a People's Commission. I have served on a number of these over the last decade concerned with Northern Ireland, Palestine, Iran and London. They have all provided an effective forum for the exposure of malpractice and the determination of accountability. Usually they come into play when the normal institutions have failed. Therefore should this Government or the next fail to meet the basic criteria, the alternative could then be engaged.

Put shortly I want Government to fulfil its democratic remit. To that end I would wish to assist in that exercise as chair of full and fair Inquiry."

MM 10 Jan 2014

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