Public Consultation on the Terms of Reference
On 10 June 2019, the Commissioning Body announced the appointment of Tom Crowther QC to the position of Chair to the Independent Inquiry into Telford Child Sexual Exploitation (the “Inquiry”). Following this appointment, the first task for the Commissioning Body and the Chair is to agree the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. A key element of that is public consultation.
Early in 2019, the Commissioning Body began working with the Survivors Committee in Telford to start discussions in relation to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. Early engagement with the Survivors Committee was a priority. This work was designed to ensure that public consultation on the Terms of Reference was focussed, and that once appointed the Chair’s work could begin without delay.
The Terms of Reference of an inquiry are crucially important; they define the breadth and complexity of an inquiry’s work. It is important to strike the right balance between:
Terms of Reference that are too wide or unclear, and therefore an inquiry may end up delivering wide-ranging recommendations that do not address the essential issues, as well as increasing the cost and duration of an inquiry, creating unacceptable delay; and
Terms of Reference that are too narrow, thereby restricting an inquiry from dealing with all relevant matters and delivering results.
The objective is to define Terms of Reference that provide answers to the key issues, but which are achievable to deliver within an acceptable timeframe.
Invitation to Consult
The Commissioning Body and the Chair would like to hear the views of those who are directly affected by the matters due to be considered, and those that are likely to be involved in some way with the Inquiry’s work. The opportunity to provide input to this consultation process is however open to all, and all responses will be considered.
In broad terms, the purpose of the Inquiry is:
to fully investigate and establish the facts of child sexual exploitation (“CSE”) in Telford & Wrekin;
to identify if, and where, public, and other, services have failed and where possible, to establish who is accountable for any failure; and
to make recommendations for the future.
The Commissioning Body and the Chair would like to invite input and commentary on what the Inquiry’s work should cover.
All comments and views are welcome; the Chair and the Commissioning Body approach this consultation process with an open mind. There are however a few areas where views are specifically sought:
Question 1: What period of time should be under examination?
The Inquiry has not yet received any documentation in relation to CSE in Telford. It is however apparent from discussions that have taken place with CSE survivors that instances of CSE extend back many years, and are also continuing today. There are a number of aspects to consider when defining the period of time that the Inquiry will examine and how far back it should look:
the importance of learning lessons and identifying any patterns and trends from historical events;
the availability of documentation and the availability and recall of witnesses relating to historical events, which may mean that reaching any reliable and meaningful findings in respect of events dating back a number of decades is difficult; and
the impact that having Terms of Reference that span a number of decades will have on the duration of the Inquiry, and the Chair’s ability to deliver recommendations designed to make things better for the future without unacceptable delay.
The Inquiry is also giving careful consideration to whether the period under examination could be restricted to a specific timeframe, but with a number of case studies being examined from an earlier period, particularly where evidence is available, which would allow meaningful conclusions on that earlier period to be reached.
Views are sought on the timeframe that the Inquiry should consider, and whether historical case studies may serve to cover an earlier period.
Question 2: Location
The Inquiry has been established by Telford & Wrekin Council. It is therefore important that it is the local community that benefits from the Inquiry’s work, although inevitably lessons may be capable of being applied more widely.
The Inquiry’s preliminary view is that the instances of CSE relevant to the Inquiry are those where the victim/survivor lived in Telford at the time of the exploitation, or the first instance of exploitation, as there may be instances where the exploitation continued despite that victim/survivor having moved out of the area. This would mean that where CSE has taken place in Telford, but the victim/survivor did not live in Telford, such cases would not be covered by the Inquiry’s remit.
Please provide your views and comments on location.
Question 3: How should the Inquiry define ‘CSE’ and the cases that it looks at?
The Inquiry is tasked with examining CSE. It is therefore important to define what this means in practice, and therefore what cases will/will not fall within the remit of the Inquiry. The Chair and the Commissioning Body invites views and comments on how ‘CSE’ should be defined. What important aspects should be included? Should the instances of CSE examined by the Inquiry be limited to those where the victim/survivor was a child at the time of the exploitation, and how should this be defined?
Question 4: What do you want the Inquiry to achieve?
It is vital that those who are directly affected by the matters due to be considered, and those that are likely to be involved in some way with the Inquiry’s work, have an opportunity to explain what they want the Inquiry to achieve.
Any other additional comments and views on the scope of the Inquiry’s work are welcome.
On Tuesday 2 July 2019 at 6:00pm, the Inquiry will be holding a public session to provide an opportunity to meet the Chair of the Inquiry and for the Chair to gather input as part of the consultation process. There will be a short opening address from the Chair, but the purpose of the event is for the public to provide their views and comments on the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. Details of the public session are as follows:
Date and Time: Tuesday 2 July 2019 at 6:00pm
Venue: Ramada Hotel, Forge Gate, Telford, TF3 4NA
The public session is open to all. If you will have difficulties in travelling to the public session, please get in touch on 0800 389 4322, and we can make necessary arrangements.
To assist the Inquiry in managing the arrangements, it would be helpful if you could register your interest and likely attendance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 28 June 2019.
The consultation will close on Friday 5 July 2019 at 12:00 noon.
Responses to the consultation can be sent as follows:
By E-mail to mail@IITCSE.com with the subject “Consultation Response”.
By Post to IITCSE, c/o Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP, 115 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AL.
By calling the Inquiry team on 0800 389 4322, and a member of the Inquiry team can make a note of your comments.
Those providing a written response are asked to keep to a word limit of 1,000 words, as far as possible.
The Commissioning Body and the Chair will consider all responses to the consultation, and take these into account when preparing and agreeing the Terms of Reference.
13 June 2019