To classical music abuse survivors – please do let me or the Home Office know of your wishes for the inquiryPosted: December 4, 2014
I will be attending the meeting about the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse at the Home Office on Monday December 8th, to accompany a survivor from a music school. This meeting is one of several to consult with abuse survivors and their representatives on their wishes for the national inquiry (here is an account of the meeting which took place at the end of October).
The website for the inquiry is here – this includes details of the Terms of Reference for the inquiry, the panel, and various other factors.
Amongst the major issues which have come up are whether the inquiry is to be statutory and judge-led, thus having statutory powers to demand evidence from institutions, where the cut-off point should be (at present the inquiry plans to look at events from 1970 onwards, but have indicated they may be prepared to go back further), and of course which institutions are to be considered.
I believe that the Home Secretary are serious about really listening to what survivors want from this inquiry, and what aspects will make them feel safe about participating, in the sense of being prepared to speak to the panel about their own experiences and other information. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for such an inquiry, and I have good reason to believe that the panel may seriously look into abuse in musical education.
With this in mind, I want to call upon all survivors either to let me know of their wishes in this respect (either by posting here, under a pseudonym if desired, or e-mailing me on firstname.lastname@example.org ), preferably before Monday, or to contact directly the Director of Safeguarding at the Home Office, John O’Brien, at email@example.com. I assure everyone who contacts me (and they can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org ) that confidentiality will be absolutely respected, but also that I will forward their wishes as they stand. The important thing is that the Home Office and the Inquiry Secretariat hear what you think, not just what I have to say.
Some survivors and organisations have indicated their intention to withdraw from participation (see this open letter). Whilst having immense respect for some of the signatories of this, and sharing some of their concerns, I do believe that constructive, critical engagement is the better option. We have come a long way in getting this far, and I would worry that if the inquiry ends up being postponed until after the general election, its future may be in jeopardy. I am prepared to believe the view of Labour MP Tom Watson that his political opponent, the Home Secretary Theresa May, is committed to this inquiry and getting to the truth, unlike some of her political colleagues. I was very impressed at the last meeting I attended and want to encourage people in the classical music world to participate and make their views known.
Proper statements and pledges from leading frontbench politicians in all the three major mainland UK political parties have been far from forthcoming; whilst Theresa May has granted a full national inquiry, there have been severe problems with the choices of chair and also the terms of reference. The sheer gravity of what is alleged as concerns politicians themselves seems to be made little apparent. With this in mind, I have drafted the sort of pledge that I feel such politicians ought to make in order to generate some confidence in the process:
A wide variety of allegations have been made of the most serious nature imaginable: that high-level figures in British society, including major politicians in all parties, have been involved in the sexual abuse and trafficking of children in a multitude of named cases. It is also alleged that others have worked to protect and cover up the operations of networks of abusers around the country and further afield. All of this is alleged to have taken place over an extended period of time. It would naturally be inappropriate to comment on the veracity of specific allegations prior to full investigation and the national inquiry, but I wish to pledge the full and unconditional support of my party towards the most thorough investigation possible. This will include maximum co-operation with all investigations, with full unrestricted access to any relevant documentation, including that to which access is currently restricted, and protection for all whistleblowers who might be constrained by the Official Secrets Act or otherwise. These allegations threaten to taint the UK political system and the operation of government permanently, and it is vital that we do everything in our powers to ensure that today’s generation of politicians demonstrate their total abhorrence of and resistance to such hideous actions. With this in mind, we will not shrink from pursuing full exposure and where appropriate prosecution of any figures, no matter how prominent or senior, found to have committed such heinous acts or to have covered up for others who have done so.
If the leaders and frontbenches of the major parties will not give this type of a pledge, then we should hear their reasons for not doing so.