Child sex abuse inquiry opens Welsh office in Cardiff

By Jenny Johnson
BBC News

media captionProf Alexis Jay is heading the independent sexual abuse inquiry

Victims of historical sexual abuse have been urged to come forward and give evidence to an independent inquiry after it opened an office in Wales.

Prof Alexis Jay, the fourth chairwoman of the troubled probe, attended the launch event in Cardiff.

Its "truth project" is being rolled out in Wales, where victims and survivors of abuse can share their experiences.

The inquiry has been beset by controversies - including the three previous chairwomen resigning.

Prime Minister Theresa May set it up as home secretary in 2014 to investigate allegations made against local authorities, religious organisations, the armed forces and public and private institutions in England and Wales, as well as people in the public eye.

Last week Prof Jay unveiled her strategy to complete most of its work by 2020 and said she will not seek "any reduction or restriction" in its scope.

But she has denied that the inquiry was in crisis.

"The inquiry itself and the many people employed by it have been united to this point," Prof Jay told BBC Wales.

"Myself and my fellow panel members are absolutely clear, and have always been clear, about what needs to be done, but we do need the time and space to get on with this critical work.

"The inquiry has never been in crisis in terms of the 160-odd staff that we employ, they've been getting on with their work very purposefully and because they are committed to it."

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's launch, Prof Jay said its purpose was to "generate knowledge, interest and awareness amongst victims and survivors of the Truth Project and to encourage them to come forward".

"That's one of the reasons we have so many organisations whose role is to support victims and survivors in attendance, as well as many of the statutory agencies," she said.

media captionAlan Collins, a specialist child abuse lawyer, says there is a 'powerful motivation' for victims to come forward

One alleged victim of childhood abuse, who is due to give evidence to the truth project next month, told BBC Wales he hopes engaging with the inquiry will help him find "a bit of peace".

"There's been a lot of controversy with the project and I have had the element of doubt, until I had an email last week saying we'd like to interview you," he said.

"So from my point of view, I'm running with it, I'm going to give my evidence, my story, and I'm hopeful… that's all I can be, really."

The man says he was abused by a youth worker in the late 1970s while attending a summer camp in Porthcawl.

Although the allegations - echoed by two other men - were investigated by South Wales Police, the investigation stalled due to the poor health of the accused, now aged in his 80s.

The three men are now pursuing a civil claim for damages against Cardiff Council, who they claim employed the youth worker at the time.

A spokesman for Cardiff council said the authority was "unable to comment on specific cases whilst matters are ongoing".

NSPCC Cymru said the launch of the Wales office is an "important step" in reaching Welsh survivors of abuse.

Abuse inquiry: How we got here

7 July 2014 - Government announces independent inquiry into the way public bodies investigated and handled child sex abuse claims. Baroness Butler-Sloss chosen as head

9 July - Baroness Butler-Sloss faces calls to quit because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s

14 July - She stands down, saying she is "not the right person" for the job

5 September - Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf named the new head of the inquiry

11 October - Mrs Woolf discloses she had five dinners with Lord Brittan from 2008-12

22 October - Abuse victim launches legal challenge against Mrs Woolf leading the inquiry, amid growing calls for her resignation

31 October - Victims' groups tell government officials they are "unanimous" Mrs Woolf should quit. She steps down later that day

4 February 2015 - Justice Lowell Goddard, a serving judge of the High Court of New Zealand, announced as the new head of the inquiry

13 July - Dame Lowell's pay is revealed as more than £480,000 a year

November - Inquiry begins hearing directly from victims and survivors

4 August 2016 - Dame Lowell writes to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to resign from her post

11 August 2016 - Prof Alexis Jay named as new head of the inquiry

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