Child abuse whistleblowers call on #CSAinquiry panellist Barbara Hearn to go - reports the Times today. The most senior member of the investigation into historical child sexual abuse after the resignation of Fiona Woolf has previously warned people not to give evidence to inquiries.
Barbara Hearn was the first person to be appointed to the panel to assist Mrs Woolf and it was announced that she would help to “finalise membership of the panel and agree terms of reference for the inquiry”.
The former social worker faced calls to resign last night after it was revealed that when she was criticised by an investigation into the death of a young girl, she said that she “would never go through an inquiry again”.
Two key whistleblowers who have exposed the organised sexual abuse of children called for Ms Hearn to resign and said that they would not give evidence if she remained on the panel.
Ms Hearn was criticised in an official inquiry into the death of Lucy Gates, two, in Bexley, southeast London, after neglect and abuse by her mother.
Ms Hearn had been the family’s newly qualified social worker from 1976 until a year before Lucy’s death in 1979.
After the inquiry published its findings in 1982, Ms Hearn said: “I would never go through an inquiry again. It’s about hurting people, not about analysis of professional processes. My message to others is don’t involve yourself unless you feel you absolutely have to and you feel it will have a negative effect on your career if you don’t.”
Ms Hearn, 61, does not mention her involvement in the Lucy Gates inquiry in her letter to the home secretary detailing any relevant issues.
She had been nominated for the present inquiry panel by Tom Watson, the Labour MP with whom she had been working as an unpaid adviser for the past two years.
The whistleblowers also highlighted concerns about Ms Hearn’s connections with social work managers from the Labour-controlled Islington council in north London when there was widespread sexual abuse in the borough’s children’s homes.
Ms Hearn was appointed to the National Children’s Bureau in the 1990s by John Rea Price, who had been director of social services at Islington council. She later became deputy chief executive of the organisation, where she worked closely with Sara Noakes, who had been in charge of child protection in Islington at the time of the paedophile abuse. The two women wrote a book together about child protection for social workers.
In her letter to Theresa May, Ms Hearn says she is aware of “allegations” of sexual abuse at Islington children’s homes and that she was appointed by Mr Rae Price, but does not mention Ms Noakes.
Liz Davies, who exposed the abuse in Islington and is now a lecturer in child protection at London Metropolitan University, said she was appalled by Ms Hearn’s description of well-documented abuse in the north London borough as mere “allegations”. She said: “Barbara cannot have credibility when she so casually dismisses the evidence of inquiries and investigations about the Islington child abuse scandal.”
Peter McKelvie, a retired child protection manager who raised the alarm two years ago about establishment involvement in child abuse, also called for Ms Hearn to resign yesterday at a meeting of victims’ representatives and the inquiry panel’s secretariat.
Ms Hearn did not respond to requests to comment.
Who’s next in line?
Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws Forceful leading civil liberties lawyer, broadcaster and prominent voice on the Labour benches in the Lords who has long experience of acting as a barrister in cases of domestic violence and child abuse
Sir Alan Ward Recently retired and widely respected Court of Appeal judge with long experience of family disputes. Humane and humorous — helped the novelist Ian McEwan with his latest book on The Children Act
Lady Justice Hallett Court of Appeal judge, below, who won plaudits for her skilful and sensitive handling as coroner of the 7/7 inquests. A policeman’s daughter with a down-to-earth touch, good people skills and extensive criminal experience. However judicial bosses might be reluctant to lose a serving judge to an inquiry whose duration is uncertain
Lord Carlile of Berriew Leading barrister and Lib Dem peer who served as the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation from 2005 to 2011. He is prepared to speak out against the authorities