I have been informed through a reliable source (not an MP or anyone working for one) that the Labour Party, upon consultation through the Home Office, who are desperate to avoid a third unsuitable chair for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, have nominated three possible candidates. These are:
Shami Chakrabarti, barrister and Director of Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties) since 2003.
Baroness (Helena) Kennedy QC, barrister specialising in human rights and civil liberties and Labour peer.
Michael Mansfield QC, well-known radical barrister, whose candidacy would certainly be supported by some survivors and their representatives.
These candidates, none of who appear suitable, do however demonstrate the problems with figures close to the Labour Party and associated left wing’s own ‘establishment’, and especially the field of civil liberties and NCCL, about whom there is considerable evidence of strong links to the Paedophile Information Exchange, who they arguably helped to legitimise. I have no doubt that Chakrabarti would do the job extremely well, but because of her position, it would be impossible to guarantee confidence that her work on NCCL would be seen to be fair and objective. I have yet to research properly the extent of Kennedy’s NCCL connections, but certainly there is every likelihood that she is close to many of the individuals who will come under scrutiny, such as Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman. Kennedy also chaired an episode of the late night discussion programme After Dark in 2003 in which former PIE chair Tom O’Carroll appeared. It was also recently reported in the Sunday Times that Kennedy had been offered the chair, but had turned it down. Mansfield was very close to NCCL and Harman, working together with her during the key period when the civil liberties organisation was connected to PIE.
All the political parties need to look for candidates for chair not in order to protect their own interests, seen thus as a ‘safe pair of hands’, but who has the requisite degree of independence to consider the major allegations of child abuse occurring at the hands of senior figures in each party, possibly protected by those parties. A political damage limitation exercise on the part of any party would make a mockery of the inquiry.
For my part, I would suggest consideration of lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, who has done much work defending those on Death Row in the US, and inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Though his specialist area is not child sexual exploitation, Stafford-Smith is a principled individual whose work is mostly abroad, and so would seem to have had less regular contact with the multiple British establishments whose own sorry involvement needs proper scrutiny.