Alexis Jay and the legal assassins

Alexis Jay is the fourth chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The three previous chairs were from the legal profession. The last chair Justice Goddard resigned. Critics have suggested she lacked the necessary skills to meet the task. In particular, she was considered to be a poor judge[1], which raises the question of why she was chosen. Leaving that question aside, we need to consider the problem of legal assassins.

What is clear is that Justice Goddard was unprepared for the legal challenges she would face. The same holds for Alexis Jay. Even though Jay has been on the panel for the past two years and dealt successfully with the Rotherham case, she has never faced the legal challenges that await her.

In the Rotherham case, there were no QCs arguing back or contesting her claims, her investigation, her method, or her motives. To the extent that Rotherham Council resisted it was more as muted criticism of a defeated opponent bitter in defeat. She will face institutions and QCs that are experienced at legal and bureaucratic infighting. She will face legal assassins. Men and women trained and experience in destroying victims and defending institutions. The QCs and Barristers she will face are well versed in these issues since they have been contesting them for the past 60 years on the side of the very institutions and people she is trying to hold to account.

Power does not like to be held to account and the laws that QCs wield so well are structured to sustain the status quo against such claims. As the Hillsborough survivors and victims’ families found, the legal system was their greatest barrier for it sustained the Police in their silence and sadism. The QC could claim they were “only following legal instruction” yet that raises the question does a QC have a moral duty to explain that legal instruction will fail?

Jay faces QCs and institutions that have no concerns about following a morally flawed legal strategy. Their goal is to defend their clients even at the expense of the inquiry. If the inquiry collapses it will serve their clients, individual or institutional, for they have no desire to see their clients be held to account in any way except on their terms. The difference with a criminal trial where legal combat between two arguments is judged by cold reason and an inquiry is that the goal is not guilt or innocence, it is to hold the parties to account. To hold an institution does not require legal combat. However, the legal assassins hired for this purpose will ensure that it does become and remain legal combat so that they can control the field of battle.

Jay has the unenviable task of trying to shift the battleground even as she tries to manage a complex and complicated Inquiry. I hope she succeeds; I doubt the forces arrayed against her will let her.

[1] See for example this survey see also


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
This entry was posted in accountability, ethics, politics, public interest, public opinion, reputation management and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.