The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)
Keoghs Disease and Abuse Aware 2018
IICSA is an Independent Statutory Inquiry set up by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary. The inquiry is independent from the Government and has a wide-ranging (many would argue an excessively wide-ranging) remit to those institutions. As a statutory inquiry it is vested with various powers. It has authority to compel witnesses to give evidence and to compel the production of any material it feels is necessary in order to investigate the circumstances in which institutions may have let children down in the past.
The inquiry is split into three core projects: the Research Project (RP), the Truth Project (TP), and the Public Hearings Project (PHP). Within the context of these projects, the inquiry has also launched 13 investigations into a broad range of institutions with a view to making recommendations to ensure better protection for children in the future. The inquiry’s investigative work underpins the PHP and as many of the inquiry’s investigations cover large subject areas, the inquiry has had to divide some into case studies, focusing on small, topical sections.
Of greatest importance to Keoghs and their clients is the Accountability and Reparations Investigation (A&RI) where the inquiry has been looking at the Civil Justice System (CJS) to determine whether changes are required to ensure better access to justice for survivors of sexual abuse. Consideration is being given to the current law of limitation in England and Wales, as well as access to funding in sexual abuse cases.
So far, over 1,000 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have taken part in the inquiry’s TP and five public hearings have been held already. IICSA has also published its report and findings in relation to child migration programmes and the Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale investigations. IICSA has also held seven seminars covering a wide range of issues including Civil Justice and Criminal Injuries Compensation.
Alastair Gillespie, partner and head of Keoghs’ abuse team, was one of only two defendant lawyers to give evidence at IICSA’s November 2016 seminar on the Civil Justice system. The seminar, part of the A&RI, covered a number of important topics in the context of civil claims for compensation, including access to funding, liability issues, defences (including limitation), quantum of awards and other options for resolution of these claims (including redress schemes).
Alastair made a key contribution to the seminars, offering valuable insights into how claims of this nature are dealt with in practice and also highlighting the difficulties faced in having to respond to claims dating back over 50 years’ since index events. Following the seminar, IICSA published their interim report in April 2018. This contained a number of recommendations in respect of the Civil Justice system. Of note, the inquiry has recommended that:
- The Association of British Insurers (ABI) considers whether a register of public liability insurers could be introduced to assist claimants in child sexual abuse cases in locating insurers relevant to their claim.
- The ABI will set out its consideration of the issue and the conclusions it has reached in a written update within 12 months of the publication of this report.
- The Ministry of Justice provides in primary legislation that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in civil court cases where they are claiming compensation in relation to the abuse they suffered, are afforded the same protections as vulnerable witnesses in criminal cases.
- The cost of bringing a civil claim is not increased.
- The Civil Procedure Rule Committee amends the CPR to ensure that judges presiding over cases relating to child sexual abuse consider the use of protections for vulnerable witnesses.
These recommendations highlight IICSA’s desire to ensure that survivors are not unnecessarily discouraged from bringing claims for compensation. It is likely that these recommendations set the tone for what will come in the future once the reparations and accountability investigation is concluded. It is likely that if IICSA’s recommendations are implemented, that there will be an increase in the number of sexual abuse claims faced by insurer clients
The inquiry has recently announced that it expects to have gathered sufficient evidence to conclude open hearings by 2020. Six public hearings and two seminars are scheduled to take place before April 2019, including the public hearing in the A&RI (to be heard over three weeks from 26 November 2018) in which Keoghs are directly involved. Alastair and his team act for a leading insurer in respect of two of IICSA’s case studies, namely those of St Aidan’s and St Vincent’s children’s homes and the North Wales children’s homes.
The team have been heavily involved in assisting the clients in preparing witness evidence, complying with their disclosure obligations as well as preparing for the public hearings due to take place in November 2018. The St Aidan’s and St Vincent’s and North Wales children’s homes case studies form an important part of IICSA’s A&RI, and it is likely that their report in respect of this investigation will follow in the New Year.