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Sex abuse victims to withdraw support from inquiry unless it’s given more powers

Victims of alleged sex abuse have written to Theresa May saying they are going to pull their support for the historic sex abuse inquiry as they believe in its current form it is “not fit for purpose”.

The letter is another blow to the inquiry, which has already seen two women appointed by May to lead the investigation stand down amid allegations of conflict of interest.

The 23 signatories said in the letter they had no option but to end their engagement with the inquiry until May scraps the current panel and replaces it "on a transparent basis".

The letter states: "As survivors and associated professionals, we were very much hoping to take up the invitations to engage with your Ministerial Officers to discuss the Child Sex Abuse Inquiry, but we regret to say we have to decline.

"We, alongside many survivors, have made numerous representations to you regarding our view that the inquiry as it stands is not fit for purpose.

"The Home Office seems to be running the inquiry to meet others’ needs rather than those of survivors and the public.

"We therefore have little option but to end engagement with the Inquiry and call on other survivors, whistleblowers, associated professionals and agencies to follow suit."

The signatories want the home secretary to declare a statutory inquiry and extend the cut-off date to 1945.

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), said that his organisation would withdraw its co-operation if May did not agree to give the additional power to the inquiry. He said: “Mrs May has said she is willing to meet us about our requests but if she says no we will probably walk away. I am not hopeful that we will get what we want.

“The home secretary has said she is willing to consider granting the inquiry statutory status at some point in the future but that she will not do so at this stage. We think this is wrong. It’s a deal-breaker.”

Giving the inquiry statutory powers would allow it to compel the production of documents and the attendance of witnesses, as well as to ensure that anyone who gave false evidence could face criminal sanctions.

The home secretary is scheduled to meet with groups representing victims today at the Home Office. It is being billed as a make-or-break meeting as the groups are expected to pull their support unless May meets their demands.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The Home Secretary is absolutely committed to ensuring the inquiry has the confidence of survivors and that is why she is meeting them and their representatives to hear their views and to ensure the right person is appointed to lead the inquiry panel in its vital work.

"As the Home Secretary has said, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to the truth."

(Image: c. Oli Scarff/PA Wire)

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