In a development that has angered survivors, the overarching inquiry into historic child abuse in Britain is looking to hire 20 more barristers (trial lawyers) to assist Justice Lowell Goddard. Warning that it will turn proceedings into a “lawyer-fest”, potential witnesses have spoken of the delays and intimidatory “anti-survivor” atmosphere the hires will engender.
ExaroNews reports that Goddard has tasked Ben Emmerson with recruiting ten Queen’s Counsel (QC), the most senior rank of British trial layer, and ten junior barristers. Being a QC himself, Emmerson and his team will represent a total of 21 lawyers made up of specialists in child care, local authorities, public law and criminal law.
The 20 new hires, the majority of which will be part-time positions, will report to Emmerson. In addition interested parties to the inquiry such as the BBC, local authorities and political parties will hire their own teams of lawyers.
The cost and time implications are considerable, as predicted by those who warned Home Secretary Theresa May of this when she agreed to the legal industry’s demands to run the investigation as a statutory inquiry.
Lord Savile’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ inquiry into the shooting of 14 people by British soldiers in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, lasted 12 years. That inquiry boasted five barristers, one a QC, and cost £13.5 milllion.
Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into British journalism had eight barristers, one again being a QC. That inquiry lasted 16 months and cost £1.76 million.
ABC News has reported that the Goddard’s child sex abuse inquiry is unlikely to have reported its final conclusions before 2023. With 21 trial lawyers’ involvement, at a minimum, the costs are likely to be astronomical.
Some critics have focused on the costs. Marilyn Hawes of Enough Abuse, a support and training organisation for those attempting to identify abuse, said: “Why are they feathering their pockets? This inquiry is becoming a gravy-train for lawyers.”
Abuse survivor Jenny Tomlin agrees, telling ExaroNews “it is a complete waste of money.” However, she identifies a further issue: “They are probably going to slow the whole process down…Survivors will be putting their heads in their hands.”
Another victim, Esther Baker, alludes to a belief that the over-lawyering is a deliberate tactic: “I think that they are trying to terrify anyone that has experienced harm from people – including the judicial system – into staying quiet…It clearly discourages people with undisclosed evidence coming forward.”