My Lords, we all welcome the IICSA inquiry. Unfortunately, an early start was hampered by chairmanship difficulties, and a seamless process under the Inquires Act has become mired in controversy with the disbandment of panels, the removal of chairmen, a churn in staff and questions over remit.
The original remit was to consider, “whether and to what extent public bodies and other institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sex abuse and seek to address public concern over failings exposed by appalling cases of organised and persistent child sexual abuse”. All very laudable. However, I have a fundamental objection to the inquiry’s management. It gives credence to hearsay and allows for the presumption of guilt in the court of public opinion. It should confine itself to considering only cases where guilt has been established in a court. Without due process the door is open to huge injustice and the trashing of reputations, and is an affront to every tenet of natural justice I have nurtured over a lifetime.
Today I intend to examine one case where justice has been stretched to breaking point—that of Greville Janner, a former MP. This is the case of a man with an exemplary record of public service who, during the trial of a children’s home manager and convicted paedophile—a man with a grudge against the MP—was accused of assaulting a child. The grudge led to an accusation against Janner, but following an investigation, Janner was neither arrested nor charged. Decades later he was again investigated, without being interviewed, and again not arrested. To cap it all, following legitimate public outcry over other such cases, he was then singled out in his dying days as a person who would have been prosecuted if he had not been suffering from dementia.
To understand the background to the Janner case we have to return over 70 years, to 1947, when the multilingual and brilliant young man Janner, aged 17 and Jewish, was sent to post-war Germany to help in investigating war crimes and to work in the kinderheim at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. His role was the rehabilitation and mentoring of gravely damaged child survivors of the Holocaust. This experience would haunt Janner over a lifetime. It determined his politics and accounts for his attitude throughout his life to underprivileged children from broken homes. Those who find such experiences difficult to comprehend should read his biography—because it is all there.
As Janner’s godson Nigel Cohen messaged the family on Janner’s death,
“He always tried to help children who needed help. I discussed with him a number of times the risks he exposed himself to by helping people he hardly knew. He always replied simply, they need my help. He refused to be bowed by what others might say”.
The fact is that Janner was an easy target for underprivileged accusers—many of whom had a long history of criminal activity and repeat offending reaching well back into their early years. As I reflect, I almost perceive in Janner a gentle naivety.
One such person was a young lad I will call Anthony, who, in the 1970s, lived in a Leicester children’s home run by a man called Beck. In 1991, while being prosecuted for the rape of children in his care, Beck interrupted his own trial by, during proceedings, abruptly accusing Janner of child abuse. Until then, no one had ever accused Janner of sexual misconduct. The accusation came out of the blue and was soon followed by Anthony claiming to be a victim. When a former High Court judge, Henriques, wrote the report that partly led to IICSA, it is noticeable that he failed to reveal that Anthony had a history of lying and sex offending.
Of course, the Henriques report was one in a series of inquiries and reports into Janner, all of which I have read. Uncharacteristically for Henriques, its flaw was its total failure to understand the significance of the complainants’ backgrounds, criminal pasts and motivations in seeking financial compensation. It is worth noting that not one of the listed complainants, almost all of whom were party to civil actions for damages, received compensation from the Janner estate. Indeed, they have withdrawn their actions on legal advice, perhaps believing that IICSA’s findings can rescue their claims. We do not know the number of people making claims under discredited sexual offences compensation arrangements, a scheme paying out on the balance of probabilities, often without a court decision. That scheme, which cost the taxpayer more than £40 million last year, is institutionally unworldly, in my view. Even the infamous “Nick”, of Ted Heath fame, managed to take the scheme for a ride. Furthermore, it refuses detailed scrutiny under FOIs. Following the “Nick” trial, I believe that it should be reviewed.
Any detailed study of the Janner case inevitably takes us back to the inquiries and what has gone wrong in the justice system. The Beck and Anthony interventions led to the police investigations. It is obvious that the police failed in their task. They failed to interview individuals who were critical to the findings the CPS needed in determining whether action should be brought against Janner. Equally, those of us who question the validity of accusations believe that more detailed inquiries would have exposed the calculated dishonesty at the heart of claims—a fact already established adequately. We do not need an IICSA inquiry to tell us what we already know. I believe that if real evidence had been found, the time to charge Janner was in 1991; but of course, it was not found. To end up here 20 years later, and over 40 years after the alleged events, is a travesty of justice, but that is what has happened.
Operation Enamel was set up in 2014, drawing on the memory of accusers—compensation in mind—from 40 years previously. It does not surprise me that Leicestershire Police refused my FOI application for access to this damning report, as it would have exposed its incompetence. As Henriques wisely put it in paragraph 2.60 of his report:
“The Chief Crown Prosecutor understandably accepts that it is impossible to recollect details of events some twenty four years ago”.
In paragraph 2.70, in relation to accuracy over the timing of a meeting, he states:
“There are any number of possible innocent explanations not least the passage of time”.
If it is difficult to recollect events from 24 years ago, how credible are recollections made after 40 years?
Two factors clearly influenced the police investigation. First, while in prison, Beck had shared a cell with a man called Norman Newall. Beck had confided in Newall. They were close, having known each other for years. In June 1991, Newall revealed in a statement to police that Beck had made a comprehensive confession to him, admitting committing buggery with boys and girls, having sex with numerous children and giving children a good thumping. Also, I have seen a statement that he was going to plead “not guilty” and drag all the top people in. He got one of the kids to say that Greville Janner had taken him to Scotland and buggered him. When asked by Beck’s cell mate if it was true, Beck had replied that it was not but would throw the light off him. He had gone on to say that he was sure the kid would stand up, and he had three newspapers on his side. The kid did stand up; it is Anthony who stands at the heart of this case.
What is interesting about this admission is that Henriques qualifies the Newall statement, stating:
“I have also noted an antecedent history of formidable proportions”.
That was not said in the case of Anthony, a man with an equal record. Nevertheless, I believe that Newall’s statement, and those of others, was key to non-prosecution in 1991. The CPS clearly feared that Newall’s statement would collapse a trial.
Another factor was Anthony’s wider record, which Henriques either ignored or failed to have in mind. We do not know whether a devastating social services report on Anthony was ever made available to the police, or even Henriques. That report may well have influenced both the police and the CPS. Another consideration may have been the police’s knowledge of Anthony’s criminal background. We now know that Anthony was convicted on three separate counts of sexual assault, serving four years in prison. His allegations of sexual assault in Scotland were dismissed as false and his accusations of sexual activity with social worker Barbara Fitt, a woman with a 16-year unblemished record, were dismissed as fantasy.
He is also reported as having forced a six year-old child into oral sex, having exposed himself and masturbated in front of a minor—I am sorry to use these terms but they have to come out—and theft. This man is described as a core participant, and therefore potentially a witness before the inquiry. That is an outrage. Can I be assured that if the Janner strand is foolishly allowed to remain in the inquiry, Members will see all the reports? I must emphasise that there is no mention of any complaint against Janner in the social service record of any complainant, despite many complaints against Beck and others.
So, where do we stand now? I believe that the Janner strand—the lead strand in the IICSA inquiry—is an affront to justice. I want to know why IICSA insists on maintaining that strand. We need to know why. The strand is likely to make findings of fact on contested allegations that Janner cannot challenge from the grave. That is at the heart of my objection. The strand is based on an assumption of being guilty until proven innocent—something rejected by the Janner family. I am concerned that my letters to IICSA on these matters are being replied to by not its chairman but its solicitor, who was not in place when the Janner strand was announced. The chairman is accountable, not the lawyers. I am concerned that little account is being taken of memory loss. I believe that IICSA has no understanding whatsoever of the reputational damage to the Janner family in the court of public opinion if, behind the cloak of anonymity, unsubstantiated and unchallenged claims are made in open hearings.
I am concerned that both the Henriques and Enamel reports, while questioning the veracity of statements supportive of Janner, give unquestioned credence to those of the accusers. I am not sure there is any understanding of Janner’s mentoring relationships with deprived children, arising out of his post-war experience. In Parliament, we knew of it; others would never understand it. It was so open to exploitation. I am concerned about how the statutory compensation scheme is attracting false accusations. I am not convinced that IICSA’s panel is aware of the dangers of anti-Semitism when, on the back of unchallenged accusations, it effectively put a leading member of the Jewish community on trial. Be of no doubt: it is the court of public opinion that matters here. I can tell the House that I, a gentile, would never sit on such a panel in any circumstances—not that I would ever be asked—if only because its worthy remit is now tainted by the stench of injustice. I am so sorry to have to use such a word.
My Lords, I draw attention to my interests declared in the register, in particular my tenure as honorary chair of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation until earlier this year. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, on securing this debate and associate myself with all the points he so eloquently and passionately made.
We all of course accept the need for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. We also all accept the need for it to be operationally independent, just as we accept the need for the police to be operationally independent. However, this does not mean that such bodies are entitled to rewrite their own remits, nor that we as parliamentarians should stand by and watch silently as manifest instances of injustice occur. There must be no power without responsibility. That would negate every precious principle of the rule of law.
I will first deal with the allegations made against the late Sir Edward Heath and their relationship, such as it is, to IICSA. In the wake of the deeply unsatisfactory Operation Conifer, Wiltshire Police deliberately and knowingly left seven accusations against Sir Edward Heath hanging in the air. It would, it claimed, have sought to interview Sir Edward under caution about those seven accusations had he still been alive.
I understand that at no cost to the hard-pressed taxpayer—what a breath of fresh air that is—a certain amount of further research has just been undertaken that has swiftly put at least three of those accusations to the sword. If we were allowed to know more about the accusations, I am confident that the others could be dispatched just as easily. Any remaining shadow or taint on the name of Ted Heath—slight though it now is, for I know of no one credible who believes a word of it—would be laid to rest once and for all.
As the then chair of the Heath foundation, in 2017 I had to consider whether the foundation should apply for core participant status with IICSA. I had my doubts, given that the accusations against Ted Heath had already been so widely discredited. Others of my colleagues, however, made the valid point that core participant status might give the trustees privileged access to more information about the accusations, which could be vital as we all sought to disprove them.
So I went for a meeting at IICSA. It became clear during the course of that meeting that establishing the likely guilt or innocence of individuals was outside the inquiry’s remit. This was subsequently confirmed publicly by the inquiry and in correspondence with me. It has been the stated view of IICSA all along, considering its remit and the first-class legal advice to which it has access, that investigating the truth or otherwise of allegations of child sexual abuse against individual parliamentarians would be neither necessary nor proportionate for the inquiry. I was reassured that there would be no kangaroo court. I quickly concluded that the disadvantages of core participant status far outweighed any possible advantages. No one in their right mind believed that Ted Heath was guilty of these supposed crimes, so there would be no good purpose at all in the foundation associating itself publicly with IICSA.
Subsequently, we have found ourselves in a ludicrous impasse where everyone agrees that someone impartial with judicial authority should examine the seven remaining accusations against Ted Heath, but no one is willing to initiate such an inquiry. The police and crime commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire, Angus Macpherson, has repeatedly said that he too accepts that there should be such an inquiry, but he has consistently refused to fund it. In 2017, he wrote to IICSA asking it to take on responsibility for establishing whether there was any substance to the accusations. I must confess I found this a shameful abrogation of responsibility and felt confident that, when it came, the answer from IICSA would be pretty dusty, and so it proved. Quite rightly and properly, IICSA has declined Mr Macpherson’s request to undertake a line of investigation for which it would lack statutory authority. The Inquiries Act 2005 does not empower an inquiry such as IICSA to commission a review of accusations by a retired judge. It is also not for such an inquiry to establish the likely innocence or guilt of any individual.
So who will commission a suitable inquiry? That question remains hanging and the reputation of a former Prime Minister unjustifiably continues to carry the faintest of taints. Do I need to say more? I know that the Minister has already had a taste of the strength of feeling in this House on all sides, so perhaps I should just move on for now.
That brings me to the question that inspired this debate: the so-called Janner strand of IICSA. Here I must declare an interest, not in the formal, parliamentary sense, but as an individual. I knew Greville Janner well. I do not believe for one moment that he was guilty of offences against children. I shall never forget the day when I finally left the Cabinet in 1995 to return to my law firm as senior partner and found Greville Janner waiting for me. He said, “David, you were chair of the parliamentary committee against anti-Semitism and racism. It’s time for you to return to that role”. I worked closely with him for many years, particularly with the Holocaust Educational Trust. I now have the great honour of being the HET’s vice-president.
Far more important than the opinion of one individual, so far as Greville Janner is concerned, is the fact that the law of the land declares him innocent. The accusations against him have been thoroughly investigated several times and found to be without foundation. Civil cases against him and his estate, with a far lower bar of proof than criminal cases, have also completely collapsed. Yet he is now principally commemorated not for his tireless work on behalf of Holocaust victims, nor for his long and distinguished political career, but as a strand of IICSA.
Implicitly, even explicitly, by naming a strand after Greville Janner, as well as giving privileged platforms to those who make wild, unsubstantiated claims about him, IICSA, in advance of its own hearings, has publicly proclaimed his guilt. In doing so, it has surely breached its own guiding principle. It is simply ludicrous to equate one man, against whom nothing has been proven, with major state and non-state institutions. Without the benefit of trial, IICSA has trashed the good name of Greville Janner. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has set out a persuasive—some would say overwhelming—case for the defence. Why has this case fallen on deaf ears with IICSA?
Unfortunately, it is inevitable that all such inquiries with open-ended budgets, wide remits and sensitivity to public scrutiny and criticism are vulnerable to “mission creep”. The so-called Janner strand suggests that IICSA may already have succumbed.
Numerous institutions in this country have failed to protect vulnerable children from the vile attentions of sexual predators. That is to our shame as a nation, and we must do everything we can both to help genuine victims to heal and to prevent further such abuse.
IICSA certainly has a job to do. However, that job does not require it, enable it or empower it to make definitive judgments on the innocence or guilt of individuals. That is a matter for the courts. Rightly, IICSA has absolved itself of any responsibility for considering the credibility of the seven accusations against Sir Edward Heath. Why, then, does it treat Greville Janner differently? That must be the question on which I hope my noble friend the Minister will give us an answer. Why may his name be sullied in this arbitrary fashion? This is not just about the good names of two men, both notable public servants; it is also about the very nature of our nation and our society.
The principle of someone being innocent until proven guilty is the foundation stone of the rule of law, all our freedoms and surely our very way of life. That principle is every bit as important for the dead as it is for the living. While retaining their cherished operational independence, police forces and independent inquiries such as IICSA must be ever mindful of that fact or no one’s reputation will ever be safe again.
In matters of justice, the buck ultimately stops here with us. I hope my noble friend the Minister can provide some reassurance that, even in death, Sir Edward Heath, Greville Janner and others who have been subject to unproven accusations are entitled to justice and untainted reputations.
My Lords, I am grateful for the clarity with which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has spoken and am glad to follow him in this debate. I can speak today with direct experience of the work of IICSA and its handling of evidence. In March this year, the inquiry held public hearings over 14 days in its case study of the Chichester diocese, in which I gave written and oral evidence. As part of that case study, the inquiry has also heard evidence from survivors of sexual abuse. I begin today by asking the House to keep in mind the courage, and personal cost, with which survivors have been willing to share their testimony.
The inquiry has had from the start, and continues to have, the unequivocal support of the institutions of the Church of England. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury called for and has publicly welcomed the inquiry. The Archbishops’ Council continues to support it and has given a commitment to co-operate fully with its work.
The Church and we as a diocese are shamed and profoundly sorry for the abuse that has been perpetrated in our midst; for our grave failings in preventing and responding to incidents of abuse; and for our past shortcomings in providing care and support to survivors. My heartfelt apologies are already on record. But words of apology in this context can have substance and credibility only if we are seen to face up to our failures and deliver a real shift in safeguarding practice and culture.
It is right that the grave and costly failings of the Church and of other institutions should be investigated independently. It is right that survivors of abuse are listened to with respect and afforded dignity, which is happening not just through public hearings but through the important work of the Truth Project commissioned by IICSA. It is right also that institutions and their processes which have failed vulnerable people co-operate energetically and with humility in assisting the inquiry.
As someone who has appeared before a public hearing of the inquiry, in giving evidence I found its approach to be robust, challenging and extremely well informed. I was left with a strong impression that the inquiry’s staff, counsel and panel members were approaching their difficult task with considerable skill and care.
As a diocese and in the wider Church of England, we see our engagement with the inquiry as an expression of a more general willingness to be accountable to external bodies for how we keep children and vulnerable adults safe.
It was an inquiry and not a judicial court. There was, as I have described, robust examination, but there was never what I would call cross-examination which led to intimidation. I was asked clearly and cogently about my knowledge and understanding of the safeguarding procedures. I would not say that I was cross-examined. They wanted the information and knowledge that I had; they did not want to cross-examine me.
I was not present for the oral statements given by survivors, but survivors were also able to do that and were called to give evidence as well.
In Chichester, our safeguarding practice benefits significantly from the full engagement at a senior level by the police, the probation service and adult and children’s social services through our diocesan safe- guarding advisory panel. Similar involvement from the statutory agencies is ensured nationally by the work of the Church’s national safeguarding panel, with its newly appointed independent chair, Meg Munn. The inquiry itself must, of course, also be open and accountable—above all to survivors of child sexual abuse and those representing them. Everyone recognises the considerable challenges posed by the scale of the inquiry, which is surely a reflection of the pervasiveness of our failures, as a society and as institutions, to safeguard the most vulnerable. My own experience is that the inquiry is meeting those challenges through an approach that is thorough and well and clearly focused.
The inquiry’s case study into the diocese of Chichester is yet to report. We are ready to listen carefully to its recommendations, particularly to anything more that might be done better to protect children and vulnerable people from the risk of abuse. Whatever its recommendations, it is my hope that the inquiry will ensure that institutions are and continue to be held to account for their failings, and that it will do all this in a way that sustains the support and confidence of those survivors whose lives have been so gravely and shamefully affected by our failings to protect them in the past.
My Lords, one of the great merits of this most welcome debate, for which we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is that it helps to focus attention again on a serious issue with which, like the noble Lord and other participants in this debate, I have been much preoccupied in the last few years. It is one that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will need to bear carefully in mind as it goes about its work, for reasons that we have already heard. The issue is well-known: it is the failure of the Church as well as of the state to accord, at all times and in all places, full and equal respect to the legal rights of both the alleged abuser and the complainant in cases of child sex abuse.
The House considered the injustices that can arise in a debate that I initiated in June two years ago. The cause of this deeply troubling state of affairs is equally well-known: it arises from the view, so widely held in recent years among the police and in the Church of England too, that the complainant should not only be heard seriously and respectfully but should almost always be believed. Because, for so many years, complainants were brushed aside or disbelieved, the police and the Church, among others, have rushed to the other extreme and given almost automatic credence to complainants at the expense of alleged abusers.
As a result, as my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral said, the cardinal legal principle, so long established in our country as one of the bedrocks of our liberties—that those against whom crimes are alleged must be regarded as innocent until proved guilty—has been compromised, sometimes perilously so. Grave injustice has been done to many people: some prominent in our public affairs; others suffering outside the glare of publicity; others still who are dead, their reputations horribly sullied by allegations that they cannot themselves rebut.
The Government frequently emphasise the operational independence of the police, sometimes almost giving the impression that they think it has become almost a separate estate of the realm—a result, in part, of the arrival of those newcomers, the police and crime commissioners, whose performance varies so widely across the country and for whom hardly any elector wishes to vote.
We surely must ensure that the police are called effectively to account when operations have been concluded and there is serious reason to believe that injustice may have been done to those who have been investigated. Often, large sums of public money are spent on these operations. Failure by any crime commissioner to make provision for proper review of completed operations in these early days of the new system should lead to intervention by the Government; otherwise, public confidence in the police will be seriously eroded, and many police and crime commissioners will come to feel they have no need to bestir themselves to arrange for serious criticisms of completed operations to be properly investigated.
I hope that the Government will make it clear from the Front Bench at the end of this debate that those who weighted the scales against alleged abusers were wholly wrong. In this connection, they must keep a watchful eye on the work of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, for reasons set out so powerfully by previous speakers. While the independent inquiry pursues its investigations, the Government should give every support to those who deserve redress because they were unfairly treated in cases of child sex abuse. Sadly, on this point, the state has not so far distinguished itself in some notable instances where redress is imperative.
I salute the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for the determination and tenacity with which he has sought to correct injustices done to those who cannot act for themselves because they are no longer alive. He has spoken movingly about the unsatisfactory manner in which the independent inquiry has approached the investigation of allegations against the late Lord Janner.
The noble Lord, my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral and I also share a common conviction that a great wrong has been done to Sir Edward Heath, a man I did not know but in whose work I take a great interest as a political historian. If he is to be seen accurately by posterity, the seven allegations of child sex abuse against him, left open at the end of the much-criticised Operation Conifer, must be cleared up, as my noble friend Lord Hunt has emphasised. This is no less than our duty to a Conservative statesman in this generation, when the facts can be readily established, as it is unlikely to be possible hereafter. It is simply wrong to let his reputation remain gravely tarnished by doing nothing.
Last week, with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and others in all parts of the House, I set out in detail why an independent inquiry must be held. Shamefully, the Government have brushed aside the unanimous view of this House. The matter cannot rest there. I have now tabled a further Motion for debate that,
“this House resolves that an independent inquiry should be established by Her Majesty’s Government to review the seven allegations against Sir Edward Heath left unresolved at the end of Operation Conifer”.
This is the strongest form of words that the rules of this House provide in circumstances where the Government have failed to do their duty.
The injustice that has been inflicted posthumously on a Conservative statesman should come within the remit of the independent inquiry, as the inquiry itself has recognised and my noble friend Lord Hunt has explained. Yet, perversely, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire keeps on saying that the inquiry should investigate, despite its clear refusal. It is a measure of this man’s extraordinary irresponsibility. He could set up an inquiry himself but keeps on passing the buck. Since he will not act, the Government obviously should, and yet they constantly refuse.
The Government now maintain that they have provided a full and sufficient explanation for their refusal to establish an inquiry in a letter dated
The key section is as follows:
“The problem that the police encountered was their inability to interview Sir Edward himself in order to secure his account of events. I have every sympathy, but that problem will of course remain and it is not clear to what extent a further review of the existing evidence by a judge or retired prosecutor would resolve this”.
“Not clear”, says the Home Secretary. That seems absurd. A review of the seven unsubstantiated allegations by a retired judge or other leading lawyer, who would probe and scrutinise every aspect of them, would establish whether or not all, or some, or even one of them carried serious credibility.
The Home Secretary has not provided any adequate justification for his inaction. He should write another letter, much longer and fuller this time, for which I asked in our debate in the House last week on the injustice done to Sir Edward. I hope that I shall hear from the Front Bench this evening that such a letter is in preparation and that all who took part in last week’s debate will shortly receive it.
Where, above all in our land, should we expect to find unwavering support for natural justice? What are the last places where a rush to pass judgment on an alleged but unproven sex abuser might be anticipated? Surely the answer is the Christian churches and our established Church, represented here in this House, in particular. But a terrible wrong done to arguably the greatest of all Anglican bishops of the last century has damaged confidence in the Church’s rectitude.
In October three years ago, completely out of the blue, the Church of England’s national press office announced that compensation had been paid to a woman who said that she had been sexually abused as a child by George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, who died 60 years ago and was revered in this country and far beyond it for the depth of his learning, the strength of his support for both suffering Christians and Jews in Nazi Germany and for his remorseless opposition to the carpet-bombing of German cities during the war, a stand that is often said to have cost him the archbishopric of Canterbury. The Church’s judgment on Bishop Bell three years ago was a terrible wrong to this colossal figure in the history of Christianity, because the single, uncorroborated allegation against him had not been properly investigated by the secret group within the Church who passed judgment on him. Key living witnesses were neither sought, found nor interviewed. His extensive collection of private papers at Lambeth Palace was only cursorily examined.
These shortcomings, and more besides, emerged in the independent review of the case carried out by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, and published exactly one year ago. His report was scathing about the procedures that had been used. The noble Lord found that the Church had,
“failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”.
He described the manner in which the Church had conducted its investigation as “inappropriate and impermissible”, and called the financial payment “indefensibly wrong”. No one in the course of the process spoke on behalf of this most distinguished and long-dead bishop, yet the Church saw no need to express penitence or regret for the great wrong that had been done to Bishop Bell, a wrong which the noble Lord’s report illustrated so fully.
The Church chose to regard it purely as a question of its own processes. Even when those processes had been shot to pieces, the Archbishop of Canterbury himself continued to maintain the conclusions which the processes had drawn, quite regardless, pronouncing that a “significant cloud” still hung over the reputation of George Bell. That cloud was entirely the work of the Church itself, and many critics were not slow to observe that its authorities had a vested interest in maintaining it in the air, regardless of the fact that there was no longer anything to support it. A little over a month after the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, published his report, the Church embarked on another secret inquiry after one further allegation appeared. Nearly a year on, that second inquiry has yet to be completed.
Bishop Bell has been much in my mind over the last few years and in the mind of many others, too: distinguished clergymen in this country and other European nations, historians and lawyers, powerful commentators in the press, along with so many other people up and down the land who have been grievously distressed by the conduct of their Church. I had hoped that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester might, in the course of his remarks, at least have made it clear that this second inquiry will be brought to a swift conclusion and that a report will be published as soon as possible. As it is, I urge all those who have not done so to look at the report of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I hope that we will, sooner rather than later, have from the Church a proper, firm pronouncement removing the stain placed on Bishop Bell, whose reputation it should never have compromised in the first place.
I regret to say that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has not been a great help in securing justice for Bishop Bell. Having decided, quite rightly, that it would not conduct an investigation itself since the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, had already done so, it proceeded in March to give a platform to the Chichester diocesan safeguarding adviser, a member of the team that failed to investigate the first allegation properly, so that he could justify himself at length and snipe at a number of comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile.
Could there be a more flagrant denial of the presumption of innocence than in the case of Bishop Bell? The independent inquiry should take note. It is examining some truly shocking cases of child sex abuse, but it must take great care to respect the rights of those who are accused and avoid serious mistakes of the kind that have been made in both state and Church when justice and fairness were overridden because the complainants were assumed to be telling the truth.
The right reverend Prelate is intervening on me, so my noble friend Lord Lexden cannot reply.
I shall start with the words that noble Lords most dread—“It is not my intention today to make a long speech”. I intend only a short intervention to express concerns about the proposed treatment of Lord Janner by the child abuse inquiry and to associate myself in that regard with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.
My opening observation is that what we have learned in the past few years about the prevalence of child abuse is deeply shocking. We have learned that all sorts of institutions covered up the behaviour in order to avoid embarrassment, and that was shameful. I have always thought that it was highly unlikely that the behaviour—both the abuse and the cover-up—that was so prevalent in society would be absent from political institutions, so I vigorously support an independent inquiry. I also note that, as Parliament is one of the institutions being inquired into, the inquiry will wish to maintain a robust attitude to our criticisms and to insist that it is better placed to make judgments than people in this House.
I knew Lord Janner, I know and love his family, and I accept that this means that I do not have the independence that the inquiry claims for itself. Yet, while accepting that, I hope that the inquiry will prove able and willing to listen to legitimate concerns, politely put. My concern is that the decision to hold a separate strand on Lord Janner—the one strand on a person—is very odd indeed. The inquiry suggests that it will not relitigate criminal or civil proceedings and that it has no power to determine criminal or civil liability. Does this mean that allegations will be aired as if they were true, without subjecting them to question? The inquiry insists that it has made no assumption of guilt, but let us not be naive. The danger of a separate strand is obvious; we can all see it. I can certainly see it—I am a newspaper journalist, after all.
If the inquiry simply airs allegations without cross-examination it will give the impression of guilt. It will put on the record charges without proper regard to whether they are true—and I cannot think that is fair or right. Of course Lord Janner must not be treated better than other people, but we are discussing the fact that he is being treated worse than other people. I completely appreciate the importance of the rights of victims, and the right of victims to be heard, but the inquiry has to make sure not just that it is listening to victims—and in some cases it may not be—but that it is listening to victims of Lord Janner, and it cannot know that unless it inquires into facts that it says it will not inquire into and is obviously taking as read. This cannot be done casually or lazily. Nor can it be done, as I fear it is, by assumption. So I hope that the inquiry will be able to reassure those of us who worry about this.
I have a third point to make before I sit down. The inquiry must take care not to think that, as Lord Janner is dead, it matters less what is said about him. He has a family; they loved him and his reputation matters to them. He belonged to a community who much admired him, and his reputation matters to his community. He was a parliamentarian and he thrived here, and his reputation matters to Parliament—and it matters to me, too. So it matters what the inquiry says.
It is important to emphasise that the inquiry must tell the truth. It must do so bravely, without favour and independently of people like me and my judgment. But you know what? It must do it fairly, too.
My Lords, I am very grateful for permission to speak briefly in the gap. I have just come back from an overseas trip, which is why my name was not on the list. I am speaking simply because I felt that in a debate such as this it was very unlikely that somebody would speak any science, so I am intending to do that for a couple of minutes.
Some years ago we photoshopped pictures of married adults who had young children aged six into a hot air balloon. We showed them the photographs and tried to reinforce the idea that they remembered being in this balloon when they themselves were six. We had gathered pictures of them as six-year olds from the grandparents of the children whom we were studying at the time. To a man and a woman, each person who saw the photoshopped image of themselves aged six in a hot air balloon denied that they had been in one. But by the following day a number of them—quite a large proportion—remembered being in a hot air balloon. We had manipulated their memory. Moreover, those who were of a neurotic disposition tended to remember thinking that they might fall out of the balloon or hit the ground with a bump, and those who were in fact rather optimistic people on the general OCEAN scoring, which is a standard psychometric test, were happy to see the birds and the sheep in the fields and thought how lovely it was to be floating with a gas burner holding them up in the hot air balloon. This was an entirely created memory.
When we look through the scientific records, which are not particularly good, we can see that recreated memory and long-term memory is a very controversial area. Several people have looked at this. For example, one expert in Calgary in Canada points out that, while the issue of long-term memory is highly controversial in many cases, memory is open to two particular issues, one of which is contamination. It is very easy to contaminate somebody’s memory, perhaps if it involves a topical issue or a famous person, or if they have a carer or well-wisher who feels that they have been badly treated and tries to reassure them that there will be justice for them and to encourage them.
That is one of the reasons why, with respect, I take slight issue with what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester said. He talked about the courage of these individuals in coming forward. Of course they have courage, but the very fact that they are told that they have courage could actually encourage them in a memory that is in fact not substantiated. I am not for a moment suggesting that people are lying; that is not my point. The point is that I know this from my own experience at school. I was convinced that one master had ill-treated me, but when I went back to my school recently to look at the reports I found that he had already left the school by the time when I thought he had ill-treated me—and that is an easy mistake to make. By the way, I do not think that I am a depressed person or somebody who is particularly neurotic, but it is interesting that that memory stuck with me. If I were thinking about writing a memoir, I obviously would not want to write about that now, given that I have absolutely no evidence for it.
This is something that we need to consider, because in our efforts to do right we might do great harm and do wrong. Not having cross-examination, where you can look at the evidence properly, is a major flaw, and that is something that we have to understand when we take evidence in these situations.
My Lords, I, too, am very grateful for the opportunity to speak in the gap in this debate. I wanted to take part in the debate, but felt some inhibition about doing so for two reasons. First, I was briefly instructed on behalf of the estate of the late Greville Janner in a civil claim—all the claims have now been withdrawn. Secondly, I gave a statement and evidence to IICSA. However, having heard the right reverend Prelate, who is in a similar provision, give his account to your Lordships’ House, it seemed only appropriate that I should at least briefly, without in any way compromising or suggesting any lack of independence on the inquiry, give a perhaps slightly different version of what took place.
My involvement in the inquiry came about because, 20 years ago, I was counsel instructed by the insurance company in the north Wales abuse cases and, as such, was instructed to cross-examine a number of claimants who were giving accounts of allegations and seeking damages for something that had happened 20 years before that. I gave a statement about my involvement, in so far as I could remember it. I was then subjected to some hostile cross-examination by counsel for the inquiry on the basis that my cross-examination had been too hostile and might well have upset the claimants seeking damages. I was even asked by one of those sitting with the chair whether I was aware of vulnerable witness training. I am. First, it did not apply 20 years ago and, secondly, it has never applied to civil claims for damages. So I was a little concerned by the inquiry’s approach. I remain hopeful that the inquiry will achieve a potentially extremely important task and that something will emerge from it, but my experience causes me a little anxiety, and I felt that in those circumstances, I should bring that to the House’s attention.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours for securing this debate. Its timing is to be regretted, as it has not allowed as many noble Lords to participate as would have liked to.
I do not intend to talk about the individual cases of Lord Janner, Sir Edward Heath or even Bishop Bell, but that is not to minimise the strength of feeling that we have heard this afternoon or the impact that they have had on all those touched by them. As we have heard today, there are very strong views on the subject, particularly among those close to people against whom allegations of a sexual nature have been made, especially where those people are deceased and unable to defend themselves. The same difficulty applies to those who might be mentally incapable of defending themselves in a court of law.
The Minister will be delighted to hear me mention pre-charge anonymity. Her research on the subject will now bear fruit. Noble Lords will know that I have an outstanding—by which I refer to the fact that it has not yet received a Second Reading, rather than the calibre of the legislation—Private Member’s Bill on the subject of pre-charge anonymity. It was drafted by the Member of Parliament for Broxtowe, Anna Soubry, but I had more luck in the ballot than she did in the other place. The Bill is intended to prevent the media reporting the identity of someone accused of but not charged with a criminal offence.
In the course of preparing for the debate, I have worked closely with the widow of Lord Brittan, Cliff Richard and Paul Gambaccini on the issue, although Diana Brittan’s case is perhaps the most relevant to the concerns expressed in your Lordships’ House in recent years. I mention my involvement in those matters by way of declaring an interest in the issue. I have seen close up the devastating impact on those wrongly accused and their families. I therefore want to concentrate on this most difficult area of allegations made against those unable to defend themselves or incapable of doing so.
Some speeches in your Lordships’ House have a profound impact and remain in one’s memory because they are made by someone with an outstanding reputation and unparalleled experience. Such a speech was made on
Beginning at col. 1684, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, addressed how to deal with allegations made against those who have died, some of them many years ago. She suggested that a distinction should be made between the management of allegations against a living person and those against one who is deceased. She went on to say, as other noble Lords have said this afternoon, that there is a firm commitment in English criminal law to the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a criminal court. Of course someone such as Jimmy Savile, in whose case the weight of evidence was overwhelming, was never brought before a court, cannot be brought before a court, and is therefore technically not guilty according to the law. The noble and learned Baroness went on to refer to a judgment appealed to the House of Lords from the Court of Appeal, quoting the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nicholls, who said:
“The more improbable the event, the stronger must be the evidence that it did occur before, on the balance of probability, its occurrence will be established”.
The important lesson of Savile, however, is that an event should not necessarily be judged improbable because of the public reputation of the individual. I emphasise that I am not referring to anything that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said today about Greville Janner, the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Wirral and Lord Lexden, about Edward Heath, or the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about Bishop George Bell.
The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, believed that in general, with a few people, or particularly with only one person, making the allegation, however convincing, the authority or organisation dealing with the allegation has a duty to recognise that it may well be able to get the story only from one side. She suggested that a policy or formula was needed to make it clear that it should listen to and recognise the seriousness of the allegations, and give appropriate support to the person making them, but should generally—perhaps always—resist the temptation to say that the account is convincing and to be believed.
I strongly agree with the noble and learned Baroness. The investigating authority, whether an independent inquiry or the police, should always listen to and recognise the seriousness of the allegations and give appropriate support to the person making them. They should be treated as if the allegations are true and they have suffered in the way they describe, but in cases where there are only a few complainants, or only one, and the investigating authority can hear only from one side, even on the balance of probabilities the investigating authority should resist going as far as implying that the accused is guilty. As the noble and learned Baroness went on to say, that is not to say that this did not mean that, on the balance of probabilities, the survivor should not be compensated on the basis of the civil burden of proof, rather than the criminal burden of proof that someone is guilty, which, as we all know, is beyond reasonable doubt. I emphasise that I am talking about cases where only one side can be heard.
Survivors of child sexual exploitation need to be heard. The “truth project” element of the independent inquiry is an important part of it. Hearing their accounts is a powerful way of driving the cultural changes we need: how they were not listened to, how their allegations were dismissed out of hand, and how, in many cases, they turned out to be true. The inquiry should hear also, and is committed to hearing, from those falsely accused of child sexual exploitation and about the impact that it had on them.
The research project, which researches records and news reports, is also an important part of the inquiry. At the same time, as my own party has found, going back 65 years to a time when evidence was not collated as it should be today—when notes were made on pieces of paper, kept in different parts of an organisation and not properly archived—may say more about how badly organisations dealt with such issues then, rather than unearthing the truth about what happened. As a party, we are providing every assistance we can to the inquiry.
The public hearings project, where witnesses can be compelled to give evidence and are cross-examined, should be focused on institutional failings and how to ensure that these do not happen in the future, although individual cases will have to be examined to identify what those failings have been. This is a very difficult area—for survivors, for those accused, and for the institutions and authorities charged with establishing the truth. I believe that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is acutely aware of these difficulties, but those involved would do well to listen to the words of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.
My Lords, this is a sad and delicate subject for our last substantive debate before Christmas, but the fact that it has been such a non-partisan and thoughtful debate makes it important and appropriate none the less. It also gives me a belated opportunity to welcome the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, to her role; she has already, very quickly, discharged it with enormous distinction and thought. I look forward to hearing her remarks on this difficult subject in a moment. This is also an opportunity for me to thank my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours for a lifetime of commitment to principles of natural justice and other human rights principles.
It is especially difficult to discuss these matters in the context of people who we have known, loved and respected. I must, for the second time today, thank the right reverend Prelate for the way in which he has handled these difficult matters, not least—if I may say it—when two of my formidable noble friends almost began a cross-examination; he showed enormous talent and fortitude.
Human rights are indivisible and, in this context, that means due process, fair trial and fair hearing rights, as well as vital human rights for the vulnerable to be protected from abuse—and who could be more vulnerable than children? This must be said, so that no one outside your Lordships’ House thinks for a moment that your Lordships’ House is trying to discourage victims of abuse from coming forward. I am sure that goes without saying here, but I want to say it in your Lordships’ name. Unfortunately, that will sometimes mean coming forward a long time after the event because of the nature of childhood and so on.
All of us want of course to build a society where the presumption of innocence is real, and where it is easier for victims of all kinds of abuse to come forward in the moment through proper, open and accessible procedures, and not years later in the media. Yet we still live in a society where the presumption of innocence is not real in ordinary life, where slurs and quick, harsh judgments are made—dare I say it—in political life and in the media, where we hear “there is no smoke without fire” et cetera. This makes it very hard to make the presumption of innocence a real norm in our daily lives. It is still too difficult for victims to come forward, children especially. We must remember that when people oppose sex education and more horizontal power structures, whether in education or any other part of public life.
We must do better in the future. In the meantime, and perhaps for ever, we will be dealing with very difficult balances of rights. Most noble Lords recognised that in their contributions. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, cited with great admiration, and humility on his own part, the wise words of others but his own speech was one that I shall remember for some time. Before he entered your Lordships’ House, his contribution to fair-minded policing was enormous. We are dealing with difficult balances of rights. We must always remember that a miscarriage of justice creates an extra victim when, by accident or design, it is perpetrated.
People in public life can be more powerful than other people and have more access to power but they are also ripe targets for false accusations. That creates another enormous tension here. Members of minority communities, as was pointed out a number of times, are particularly vulnerable to slurs, especially in relation to sex offending. Rightly and understandably, sex offending is taken very seriously as one of the most terrible types of offending in our society. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was right to point out the importance of the conventional and normal practice of anonymity pre-charge that has been departed from of late, with very unfortunate results. I look forward to reading the Bill from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in due course.
Noble Lords, particularly the noble Lords, Lord Campbell-Savours and Lord Hunt, pointed out that when allegations are against the dead—who, of course, can no longer speak for themselves—it is sometimes unfair when slurs are swirling around unchecked not to conduct an inquiry to provide the possibility of vindication. Equally, it can be unfair to conduct an inquiry if it is somehow special, different, and the evidence is not handled with enormous care.
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness to allow me briefly to intervene. One of the problems is that dead people cannot sue for defamation. That may be an omission but it is an important one.
Perhaps I may come to that in a moment. I will try to make progress on account of the time. It can be an injustice one way or another and I hope that those charged with this inquiry, which we have all welcomed, will take on board comments noble Lords have made today when they come to read Hansard.
It has been a long-held principle of the common law that the dead cannot be defamed. As a human rights analysis it must be right, as the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, did, to take on board the interests of loved ones and legacies to public service that can be damaged if these decisions are made lightly or improperly. I can do no better than to end with the words of another fine journalist, if only to recognise the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein. These are the words of Edward Murrow, the great American journalist. He said:
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law ... we will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. If we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, we will remember we are not descended from fearful men”— or women, by the way—
“not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular”.
Happy Christmas, my Lords.
Before I respond to noble Lords’ excellent and moving speeches, in the interests of transparency I would like the House to note that in the past I met, in her capacity as an inspector at HMIC, one of the panel members of the IICSA before she joined the panel. In the past I have also met professionally two of the members of the Victims and Survivors’ Consultative Panel. On a personal level, many members of my husband’s family and one of our children went to Downside School, which has obviously been subject to one of the strands of the inquiry.
I start by thanking all noble Lords for their contributions. I will do my best to address the points that they have articulated so passionately throughout the debate but, before doing so, I hope they will find it helpful if I recap on the scope, role and progress of the inquiry and then focus in more detail on the subject of the noble Lord’s Motion.
Some serious questions were raised by a number of noble Lords about the approach of the inquiry, including suggestions that there was a presumption of guilt and the need for cross-examination. I remind your Lordships that the primary purpose of the inquiry is to establish the facts, and therefore it should be inquisitorial rather than adversarial in nature. I understand that that is in line with the findings of the 2014 House of Lords Select Committee’s post-legislative scrutiny of the Inquiries Act 2005, which concluded that,
“an inquisitorial procedure for inquiries is greatly to be preferred to an adversarial procedure”.
It concluded that the Inquiries Act 2005 provides the right procedural framework for an inquiry to be conducted,
“efficiently, effectively and above all fairly”.
I should be grateful if the noble Baroness would give way. I am not a lawyer, so I ask this in genuine innocence. I am not sure that the terms “inquisitorial” and “adversarial” are always in the best interests of justice in cases such as these. I am sure that it is possible to cross-examine somebody without necessarily being adversarial, trying instead to tease out what works and what seems to be the most likely truthful path. I do not suggest for a moment that one wants to humiliate somebody who claims to have been abused. I hope that we can try to seek the truth, using our intuitive judgment rather more successfully than we might by simply listening to an account which is not properly contested. That is a very real issue in cases such as these because many people feel that they have been very badly damaged, although the probability is that in many cases they have not been.
That makes two of us, as I am not a lawyer either. I hear the noble Lord’s concerns, but I think the approach of inquiries, as set down in the Inquiries Act 2005, has been reviewed and endorsed by your Lordships’ House. The Government do not see a need to make special provision for how inquiries into specific matters, such as child sexual abuse, are carried out.
I do not think my personal view on this is relevant. I understand the inquiry is being carried out strictly in accordance with the legislation that allows that to happen.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, as your Lordships know, was set up by the Government in March 2015 to consider the extent to which state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, and to make recommendations to protect children from such abuse in future. As a statutory inquiry, it is underpinned by the Inquiries Act 2005 and has been given the powers it needs to expose the ways in which institutions failed in their duties to provide safe spaces for children and to get to the truth. As many noble Lords have noted, shining a light on these wrongdoings is of paramount importance, matched by the need to ensure that these failings are addressed and mitigated so that children are better safeguarded in future.
Noble Lords well know that the inquiry is independent of the Government, and rightly so. This inquiry is about people who suffered sexual abuse and exploitation as children because of the failure of state and non-state institutions and who for years have never found justice—people who believe that the state failed to listen to them in the past. That is why it is absolutely crucial that this inquiry is, and is seen to be, completely independent.
Under the Inquiries Act, the then Home Secretary agreed the terms of reference that set out the roles and responsibilities of the inquiry, and it is for the chair and panel to decide what the inquiry investigates and how. It is therefore not appropriate for me to use this debate to comment on the investigations of the inquiry, or to be seen to influence how the inquiry has interpreted its terms of reference. However, I can use this opportunity to remind noble Lords of the progress that the inquiry, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, has been making in getting to the truth for victims and survivors.
The inquiry has confirmed 13 strands of investigation and has set out a timetable of public hearings that takes it up to February 2020. It has rolled out its Truth Project, providing victims and survivors with the opportunity to tell the inquiry what has happened to them. The inquiry has said that almost 2,000 accounts of child sexual abuse have been shared with its Truth Project so far. Over 200 individual victims and survivors are complainant core participants in the inquiry, as well as a number of other survivor groups and institutions.
In April 2018, the inquiry published an interim report in which it confirmed that it expected to make substantial progress by 2020. The inquiry also made a series of wide-ranging recommendations for change. Yesterday, after careful consideration, the Government published their response to the interim report. I am pleased to say we will take forward the great majority of the inquiry’s recommendations, and I am particularly pleased to note that the Government will establish a scheme to ensure that former child migrants receive a payment as soon as possible in recognition of the fundamentally flawed nature of the historic child migration policy.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, raised concerns about whether it is too easy for those alleging abuse to receive compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The inquiry is looking at the issue of compensation in some detail—although I fear the noble Lord may not be entirely pleased. The interim report rather highlighted barriers faced by victims and survivors when applying for compensation, including concern that some eligibility criteria have an unfair impact on them. For example, the inquiry reports that those with unspent criminal convictions are excluded from claiming compensation from the scheme in most cases, yet inquiry research also shows that some victims and survivors may commit criminal offences that can be directly attributed to the abuse they suffered, perhaps because it was encouraged by a grooming abuser—I am thinking particularly of the cases of the girls in Rotherham, with which the noble Lord is familiar. The Government have announced a review to consider whether the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme remains fit for purpose, and will consult publicly in 2019. I understand that in the past there have been instances where there has been abuse of the scheme.
This inquiry and the progress made would not have been possible without the strength of those victims and survivors who have been affected by child sexual abuse, and have come forward to give evidence, as noted by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. We offer our continued support and sympathies for them. We also recognise the role of Professor Alexis Jay in leading and making progress with the inquiry.
While progress is being made, as the inquiry’s timeline for public hearings highlights, there is still much work for the inquiry to do as it continues to expose what went wrong, but also setting out how we can provide a safer future for children. Of course, the Government acknowledge that any investigation or inquiry of this type will have an impact on individuals who are alleged to have sexually abused children, as well as their family and friends. Many noble Lords have put that case most clearly this evening. The inquiry has protocols for restriction orders and redaction of information that may identify individuals within the material it discloses to core participants and potentially to the wider public, and these are published on the inquiry’s website.
On the issue of police releasing names to the media before a charge has been made, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, this is covered by the College of Policing guidance on media relations, which has recently been updated to make it absolutely clear that it also applies to the release of names of deceased persons.
I understand that noble Lords have concerns about some aspects of the inquiry’s work, yet I urge the House to note the vital work of the inquiry and how crucial its independence from government is to its success.
I now turn to the noble Lord’s Motion to acknowledge the inquiry’s handling of evidence and the concerns raised by many of your Lordships, since this is the largest public inquiry of its kind. The inquiry is clear on its website that,
“Written and oral evidence … will include testimony from core participants who allege that they are the victim and survivor of sexual offences”,
and who are referred to by the inquiry as complainant core participants. I appreciate that this concerns some noble Lords. However, as the Government and the inquiry have been clear throughout, the inquiry’s focus is deliberately on the conduct of institutions and how any allegations were dealt with. At the risk of repeating myself, it is not for the Government to interfere with how the independent inquiry conducts its investigations.
The inquiry is receiving evidence and documentation from victims, survivors, government departments, police forces, churches, schools, local authorities and many other state and non-state institutions across England and Wales. It has held public hearings in relation to eight of its investigative strands, and has received over 158,000 documents, totalling over 1.7 million pages of A4. It is clear that the task the inquiry faces is significant. It has published on its website all the protocols it follows for the handling and publishing of documents. When the inquiry is closed down, the evidence will be transferred to the National Archives.
Several noble Lords raised the issue of false allegations and unproven allegations. False allegations are obviously an extremely serious matter, and accusers could be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Obviously, that would be up to the police to decide in each individual case. Where noble Lords feel that allegations are unproven, that information should be shared with the relevant police force.
In response to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, on the single-strand aspect with regard to Lord Janner being named, I really do recognise and respect the strength not just of his feelings on this subject but of those of many other noble Lords who have spoken. However, I again remind the House that the inquiry’s focus is on the conduct of institutions and how allegations were dealt with. It is not looking into specific allegations of child abuse made against any particular person, living or dead. The position on this particular investigation into the handling of accusations about Lord Janner was revised, and refocused on the institutional failings, as was set out in the notices of determination published in April and May 2017. I understand that this position is being kept under review.
I hope I understood the point raised by my noble friend Lord Finkelstein correctly. On the timing of the public hearing of this strand, the chair has indicated that it will come after the conclusion of the criminal investigations into Leicestershire Police.
My noble friend Lord Hunt asked why the inquiry was not looking at the seven outstanding allegations in relation to Sir Edward Heath but was looking at the case of Lord Janner. I hope that I have addressed that question; indeed, I feel that the noble Lord partly addressed it himself, in clarifying the fact that the inquiry is there to examine institutional failings—and it is those failings that it plans to look at in relation to Lord Janner.
My noble friend Lord Lexden asked about the need for an investigation into the seven outstanding allegations against Sir Edward Heath. I am sure that he will not be surprised to hear that the Government’s position remains unchanged from the recent debates and Questions on this subject and is set out in the letter from my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster.
Will my noble friend kindly bear in mind what I said about the inadequacy, the undue brevity and the incompleteness of the points made in that letter?
I thank the noble Lord for asking me to clarify that. I was going to say that I am unable to confirm at this stage whether my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is preparing a letter but I confirm that, as I reported to the House earlier this week, I wrote to him with a copy of the Hansard of the earlier debate.
I recognise the strength of feeling of distinguished public servants regarding both the accusations they face and the approach of IICSA and other inquiries. As was said very eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, reputation is an important and sensitive issue. I thank noble Lords for their contributions on this matter and for noting the progress of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Several noble Lords spoke about the need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; your Lordships have done that today most eloquently. Equally, I trust that your Lordships recognise that the inquiry is playing a crucial role in giving a voice to victims of historical abuse, exposing institutional failings and identifying steps to protect children now and in the future. I urge this House to give the inquiry the support it deserves.
My Lords, I listened closely to the debate, which begs a single question: why does IICSA insist on maintaining the Janner strand when all the evidence points to the need to scrap it? I hope that Ministers will ask IICSA that question because I hope to get an explanation.
I want to make one or two comments about some of the interventions. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, spoke about the remit, which is also at the heart of my problem. What evidence will fall into the public domain under the established remit? That brings us to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester’s comments. He referred repeatedly to “survivors”, but a survivor is only a survivor if his or her evidence is the truth. If not, they are not a survivor. I am concerned about a procedure where there may be an absence of cross-examination. The noble Lord, Lord Lexden, expressed concern about how the police have handled such inquiries, particularly the Heath inquiry. That inquiry adequately illustrates the deficiency in policing systems. The noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, spoke kindly about his friendship with the family; I am sure that the family members here today will appreciate his comments.
My noble friend Lord Winston drew our attention to false memory. He will probably know about the British False Memory Society; I hope that it can pick up his comments in our debate and perhaps make direct contact with him. Like me, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, expressed concern about how the inquiry may proceed. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, gave us notice of his Bill on anonymity. My noble friend Lady Chakrabarti brought to the discussions comments on the required balance in dealing with these cases. Although I agree with much of what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Barran, I am concerned that she may not appreciate fully the damage done to families when accusers make accusations without being questioned closely on them in inquiries.
Finally, I want to sweep across all the cases we have dealt with in recent years: Sir Cliff Richard, Lord Leon Brittan, Lord Edwin Bramall, former Member of Parliament Harvey Proctor, TV personality Paul Gambaccini and former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath—all prominent public figures, all named, shamed and humiliated. Their reputations were, if not destroyed, nearly destroyed. Now, we are in the eye of the storm before Greville Janner’s name is cleared and his personal honour is restored. How much longer will the Government stand by and do nothing in these huge miscarriages of justice?