as featured in the Telegraph View, 6th November 2012

An obsession with inquiries is in danger of turning a scandal into a circus

Since the allegations against Jimmy Savile surfaced, at least half a dozen inquiries have been set up to ascertain who knew what the late BBC presenter was up to and how he could get away with it for so long. The net is now widening. There is also to be a police inquiry into whether the police properly investigated the physical and sexual abuse of children at care homes in North Wales between 1974 and 1990, and an independent inquiry into whether the original independent inquiry, chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, did a proper job. David Cameron even suggested that a “super-inquiry” might be established, to bring together all of the existing inquiries under one umbrella.

No one denies that the roots of the problem are deep, or that, as a country, we have been bad at coming to terms with the scandal of child abuse. Over the years, institutions from the Church to the Scouts have been riven with allegations of physical and sexual mistreatment – yet, all too often, there has been a propensity not to take such claims seriously. For too long, the girls abused in Rochdale were ignored, as were those assaulted by Savile.

Unfortunately, however, the reflexive tendency of modern politicians to see inquiries (judicial and otherwise) as a panacea when under pressure is in danger of turning a scandal into a circus, and of fostering a witch-hunt culture. It is understandable that, confronted by allegations that a “senior Conservative from the Thatcher era” had been involved in the North Wales scandal, Mr Cameron should have promised action. But we are in danger of becoming bogged down in inquiries, when what is needed is for the police to investigate any criminal behaviour and bring the perpetrators to book.

The original probe into the North Wales allegations, for example, was by no means a whitewash. Sir Ronald and his team took evidence from 600 witnesses. Some 80 individuals were identified as abusers; dozens of recommendations were made; and more than 100 compensation claims were settled. But the tribunal was not a court of law, where criminal allegations could be tested. Its remit was to find out how such appalling people had been allowed to work in homes intended to care for vulnerable children. It also found no evidence that there was “a wide-ranging conspiracy involving prominent persons and others”.

Keith Bristow, the head of the new National Crime Agency, has now been asked to test whether this is the case. If he uncovers evidence that would warrant prosecution, then it should and must be followed up. It is surely best to let the police do their work, and to focus on getting justice for the victims, through the due process of the law.

Compassion | Experience | Sensitivity

As experienced lawyers in this field, we understand that sexual abuse is an extremely upsetting issue to discuss and many victims of abuse have reservations and anxieties about coming forward and seeking compensation for the effect their experiences have had on them.

Whether you have been abused as an adult or a child, the experience can have devastating emotional and physical effects and we understand that it can be extremely difficult for you to find the confidence to make your voice heard.

At Abacus, we have a dedicated team of lawyers that have the expertise and experience necessary in handling such difficult situations, with compassion, sensitivity and understanding.

We will be your voice, working in highly specialist teams and with our support, empathy and guidance, we will help you make your claim for compensation, to get you the results you so rightly deserve.

If you need help and would like to speak to one of our team call us on 0161 833 0044 or email Marie Nielson at