Survivors of child sex abuse back independent panel and condemn ‘bullying’ campaign
By David Hencke and Mark Watts | 10 January 2015
Panel members are livid that civil servants in the department arranged for Theresa May, home secretary, to “consult” a non-representative group of just two abuse survivors and a pair of campaigners who are known as vehement opponents to the inquiry.
They believe that officials are trying to bounce May into abandoning the panel in favour of a judge-led inquiry. And this is despite overwhelming backing for the panel from scores of abuse survivors who attended a series of consultative meetings.
Whitehall sources also revealed that at least three of the four people presented to May by officials for “consultation” were aggrieved because they had unsuccessfully lobbied to be put on the inquiry panel themselves.
It comes as the best-selling author, Jenny Tomlin, herself a survivor of child sex abuse, lambasted those who had embarked on campaign to undermine the independent panel.
Tomlin, mother of the television and stage actress, Martine McCutcheon, is especially well-known for her book, ‘Behind Closed Doors’. She told Exaro: “I have attended the meetings with panel members, and found them dedicated, hard-working and really wanting the inquiry to succeed. Where people are not happy, it is really because they are not informed and have not bothered to attend the meetings themselves.
“So people become very hostile and alienate themselves by putting all this stuff up on the social-media websites without never, ever having attended one meeting. They just make this assumption.
“I went there, and there were about 30 people in the room. We could ask whatever we wanted, and they answered all our questions. I was uplifted; they were so extremely dedicated.
“I find it surprising and a little upsetting that the home secretary has been bullied by other people that wanted a more transparent way of appointing the panel. But I do feel that people who are on the panel should be given another opportunity.”
She also condemned the campaign of “character assassination” against panel members, including an abuse survivor, Graham Wilmer, who founded the Lantern Project, which provides support services for those who were sexually attacked as children.
Her comments echo those of another abuse survivor known as “Becky”, who talked to Channel 4 News last week.
She made clear that she had previously refused to give anyone a full account of her childhood abuse, but had decided to do so with the inquiry panel. But she said that she could not re-engage with the inquiry if the panel is scrapped.
Becky told Exaro: “I attended the meeting in Manchester, and I am really keen that the panel is not disbanded and should continue with its work.”
Exaro revealed last month, in a story that was widely followed up, that May was set to disband the inquiry panel.
The home secretary had written to each member of the panel to say that she was considering turning it into a statutory inquiry, or setting up a fresh statutory inquiry or a Royal Commission.
But her move prompted fury among panel members. They want May to convert the inquiry to statutory status and keep the current panel. They also want her to set out publicly how panel members were proposed and came to be appointed.
The row escalated as the Home Office threatened to sue any panel members who spoke out about their treatment.
Becky also told of her anguish, in an e-mail to two of its members, about news of the plan to axe the panel. She complained that vocal male survivors of abuse were drowning out women’s voices such as hers.
She wrote: “Whoever makes this decision, I send a plea out. It may be too late, it probably is, but please do not let politics, or criticism, or those vocal complainers take the story of all these children away again.
“Some of us are ready to stand up and shout, whatever the consequences may be.”
“Please do not take that away. I do not care if the Press need to hear stories like mine instead of the criticism.”
“Just please do not let that be for nothing.”
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