Theresa-May

Theresa May is expected to announce the new chair of the troubled child abuse inquiry following the resignations of two previous holders of the post.

The Home Secretary has also been considering the format of the inquiry, which could potentially involve scrapping the existing panel and replacing it with a more powerful body.

The new appointment follows the loss of two former chairwomen, who stood down over perceived conflicts of interest.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has been having a series of meetings with survivors of child abuse right up to this point. She is going to make an announcement today.”

The first person appointed to lead the inquiry was Baroness Butler-Sloss, who stood down as chairwoman in July last year amid questions over the role played by her late brother, Lord Havers, who was attorney general in the 1980s.

Her replacement Dame Fiona Woolf resigned following a barrage of criticism over her “Establishment links”, most notably in relation to former home secretary Leon Brittan, who died last month.

Mrs May, who set up the inquiry to consider whether public bodies had neglected or covered up allegations of child sex abuse following claims paedophiles had operated in Westminster in the 1980s, is also due to set out how it will proceed.

A fresh statutory inquiry or a Royal Commission could be set up to continue the work.

Alison Millar, from the law firm Leigh Day, which is representing dozens of abuse victims, said the inquiry had been a “shambles”.

Asked what she wanted to see happen, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Obviously, rebooting this inquiry so that it has a new head in terms of the chair and so it is reconstituted with statutory powers, I think that’s very important.

“There is, as far as I can tell, almost unanimous agreement that an inquiry of this nature requires the power to compel witnesses to attend and to require the production of documents.

“I think terms of reference and a structure that engages much better with abuse survivors and gives them the confidence that this inquiry will listen to them and learn from them.”

She added: “The people I represent have really been waiting a lifetime for an inquiry like this but have become increasingly sceptical that this inquiry is going to get to the fundamental truth given the shambles there has been in the over 200 days since it first set up.”

Ms Millar suggested a Royal Commission could be the way forward: “That is the scale of the problem and if we are going to do this we have got to do this properly.”

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton said the situation had become a “mess” but the inquiry had to happen.

The Tory MP told Today: “We have just got to park on one side that this could have been handled a lot better, the way it was established could have been rather more transparent.

“I think nobody should doubt the Home Secretary’s absolute sincerity and commitment that we should get to the bottom of what is a very long, complicated, historical sex abuse story.”

He added: “People’s confidence has been completely knocked because of this constant tsunami of historic cases coming out.

“We need to get to the bottom of it, we need to see where it went wrong, how society appears to have covered up, is that cover-up still happening in certain places, are people responsible for that cover-up still in places of responsibility and, ultimately, now we must be assured that we have a child protection system… that is fit for purpose.

“That’s why we need an over-arching inquiry on top of all these different reviews and prosecutions going on, which must continue to go on, and we have got to get this back on track.”

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