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Child sex abuse inquiry suffers further blow as lawyer suspended

The historic child sexual abuse inquiry has suffered a further blow after its senior lawyer was abruptly suspended last night.

Ben Emmerson QC, counsel to the inquiry, has now been suspended and is under investigation.

The inquiry has been through four chairs since it was established two years ago, with the most recent chair, Professor Alexis Jay, taking up the post after Justice Lowell Goddard resigned last month.

In a statement, the inquiry said: “The inquiry has recently become very concerned about aspects of Mr Emmerson’s leadership of the counsel team. He has therefore been suspended from duty so that these can be properly investigated.”

It was reported yesterday that Emmerson was considering resigning after a dispute with Jay when he said the inquiry should lighten its workload. The inquiry described these allegations as “untrue”.

Justice Goddard recently wrote to the Home Affairs Select Committee saying the inquiry has an “inherent problem” because its scope is too broad.

Lawyers acting for Emmerson said he had only found about his suspension when he saw it “on the internet”.

“If, and when, allegations are put to him, he will respond appropriately,” they said.

David Enright and Sam Stein QC, lawyers representing 20% of the victims, said their clients were “deeply concerned” that the inquiry was making important decisions “behind closed doors”.

Enright said: “We call on the home secretary and chair of IICSA (the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse) to engage actively and urgently to find a way forward that secures the confidence of survivors and provides the inquiry’s legal team with the resources and support they need to deliver justice and truth that survivors deserve.”

A Home Office spokesperson said their commitment to the inquiry was “undiminished”.

(Image c.PA Archive/Press Association Images)

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