The Chair of IICSA has made a final decision that IICSA will no longer investigate the scandalous and significant level of child sexual abuse at the Detention Centre over more than two decades.
On behalf of our clients we are disappointed with the Inquiry Chair’s Decision despite extensive representations that a different decision should be made.
We believe that the Inquiry rightly concluded over four years ago when it decided to investigate that: “The apparent scale of abuse at Medomsley demands a rigorous investigation into how multiple allegations, if true, could have gone uninvestigated and the offending undetected for so long.” We also welcome the Chair’s decision today that “I have no doubt that there are credible allegations of abuse at Medomsley from a large number of survivors, and that this relates to both physical and sexual abuse of those under and over 18.” And her decision that “I will ask the Solicitor to the Inquiry to draw this Determination to the attention of the relevant Minister. He should make a request that they bear its contents in mind when determining the request which we understand has been made that an independent inquiry be established into events at Medomsley which affected all of those detained there.”
Child sexual abuse at Medomsley was occurring alongside sexual abuse of young men (aged 18-21) and serious physical abuse of detainees of all ages (17-21). We have argued that the Inquiry must investigate all of the abuse. This is both for the sake of fairness to all victims and in order to properly understand how child sexual abuse could have taken place. We wrote to both the Chair to IICSA and the then Home Secretary in April 2019 and argued that this required either a change of terms of reference to IICSA (who can look at child sexual abuse only) or a decision by the Home Secretary to hold a full public inquiry into Medomsley. The chair has decided that it would not be appropriate to seek to alter her terms of reference.
We are disappointed that the then Home Secretary failed over a period of 6 months to even properly acknowledge our letter, let alone respond to it. We have now had a response from the Ministry of Justice that they are due to take a decision and will be seeking a full inquiry called by them.
We also disagree with the decision of IICSA that an inquiry into Medomsley would be unlikely to “result in currently relevant conclusions and/or recommendations.” There are a considerable number of victims who are willing to give evidence of their experiences which include not only their treatment but also the failure of other public bodies to protect them or to investigate and prosecute offenders for a very long period of time. There are very serious and credible allegations that the prison service and others could have prevented some of the worst offences that occurred. The Inquiry has not as yet looked at such detail into historical custodial child sexual abuse and what happened at Medomsley can provide lessons for the future to help prevent such abuse.
We remain concerned that if the Ministry of Justice does not decide to conduct an inquiry into Medomsley, this decision today will result in the situation in which no inquiry is planned into the worst scandal of abuse in prison in this country’s history.