Emotions were running high at a meeting in parliament to discuss the statutory inquiry into child sexual abuse.
Organised by the White Flowers campaign group, the meeting brought together survivors of child sexual abuse, whistle-blowers, members of the legal profession and politicians.
The inquiry has had a turbulent start, with survivors rejecting the initial choices to chair the inquiry of both Baroness Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf over their close links to the Westminster establishment. New Zealand judge Justice Lowell Goddard has since been appointed as chair.
There were angry scenes and visible upset as survivors expressed their frustrations at the struggle they have faced to be believed and to receive justice.
One survivor told PSW: “Many survivors will be at different stages in healing, legal work and other ways to deal with the impact of their experiences.
“While many will be sympathetic with our survivors’ frustration, it is important to consider the manner in which it is given. Many survivors are still traumatised and need a supportive, non-aggressive environment in which to be heard.
“Perhaps more consultation is required amongst survivors, allowing strong personal testimonies to be heard and understood.
“We need to set time aside to agree ground rules and expectations of the inquiry and create a cohesive protocol for proceedings. This, however, will not be easy.
“It would help our cause if there was more unity between the survivors and all the organisations keen to help the inquiry.
“There needs to be strong leadership where people can be elected to positions which will enhance the profile of the campaign.
“It is clear that the government and the inquiry need to listen and embrace the survivors insights and wisdom in order to effectively communicate the crimes that have been committed against children and the lifelong devastation this has caused to the adults they became.”
Michael Mansfield QC, well known for his involvement in a number of prominent and controversial court cases and inquests such as Bloody Sunday, the Hillsborough disaster and the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, also spoke at the meeting and sent a message of unity to survivors.
BASW Professional Officer Karen Goodman, who attended the meeting, said: “Michael Mansfield’s message to survivors to fight on together in unity was wise beyond words and should be embraced as a battle cry.
“I have no doubt the White Flowers campaign will embrace this challenge and continue to fight for the central and integral inclusion of survivors in the inquiry. As Mansfield pointed out, survivors are crucial and only then can the inquiry be authentic, effective, and trusted by both survivors and the public”.
White Flowers campaign organiser Phil Frampton explained how survivors’ faith in the process had been undermined: “It is a year on since the original inquiry was called and survivors’ apprehensions concerning government interventions are borne out by the fact that not one member of the establishment has been brought to trial by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)”, he said.
“The CPS uses excuses such as lost memory or lost documents but it is still busy sending whistleblowers to trial for all their efforts to protect survivors.
“White Flowers has stood up to government efforts to marginalise survivors and we will continue to fight for an independent, unfettered voice in the inquiry.
“We want to work with whistleblowers, BASW and trade unions to ensure that the truth comes out and those who speak out are supported rather than persecuted”.
On the same day as the meeting, the Inquiry sent out further guidance on the detail of what may or may not be destroyed across Government and by other agencies “setting out categories of documentation that must be kept pending further requests from the Inquiry”.