This draft letter has been sent by @IanMcFadyen1996 to the Home Office (in roughly this form). It seeks information from the Home Office as to what it has been told by inquiry panel members and proposes judicial review (ie consideration of the issue by a High Court judge) if no, or no satisfactory, reply is received from the Home Office.
This letter does not contain legal advice. It is a version of what can be written to the Home Office’s legal department (Treasury Solicitor) based on a precedent on the internet (http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/protocol/prot_jrv). It seeks information from the Home Secretary as to what she knew of Mrs Woolf’s impartiality and any personal bias before she was appointed.
If anyone has any doubts as to what is said here, they should take separate legal advice; or, if a solicitor is already instructed, speak with him/her before doing anything.
The sending of this letter does not commit the sender to take any form of court action; but can be the basis for judicial review process if that is decided upon.
**Start of letter**
[Address of sender]
 September 2014
One Kemble Street
Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: appointment of the inquiry panel and Mrs Woolf
Proposed claim for judicial review
This letter is written in the terms of the judicial review pre-action protocol. It concerns the Home Secretary’s appointment of Mrs Fiona Woolf to an inquiry (with terms of reference as yet undisclosed). I believe the Home Secretary has used discretionary powers (ie the inquiry is not set up under Inquiries Act 2005 s 5). She is the proposed defendant.
I am , and my interest in the subject matter of this letter is as a survivor of child abuse. Some information about that abuse is set on the page(s) I have added to this letter.
I am assuming the inquiry is not set up under Inquiries Act 2005. I shall assume, however, that in many respects the 2005 Act merely sets out what is understood to be the common law. It is your powers in law and how they are exercised which I am concerned about.
In particular you have a duty to act fairly. You and any member of the panel must be – and be seen to be – impartial. That is each panel member must be free from any possible bias, or bias which might be thought to influence him or her.
Details of the matter being challenged
It is not clear to me that the qualifications of Mrs Woolf bring her within the terms of suitability, certainly as would be the position under Inquiries Act 2005 s 8(1)(a). She has no professional experience of children or other relevant law; nor has she any judicial experience (I do not include sitting as a magistrate). She is not an advocate so will have very little experience of court work, of dealing with examination of vulnerable witnesses or of cross-examining reluctant witnesses; and in an inquiry such as this, such skills will be essential.
With all her other duties are you sure that Mrs Woolf will have the appropriate amount of time needed to devote to the heavy task ahead of her. (In the Waterhouse Inquiry in North Wales 9,000 social services files and 3,500 statements were read: many more may be needed to be considered in this inquiry.)
Of more concern to me is whether you have considered her ‘impartiality’ (at common law and in terms of Inquiries Act 2005 s 9): is she free from ‘bias’ (in the technical sense of the word)? Have you received from her full information as to her acquaintance with individuals whom she may have to interview as part of the panel, and on whom she may have to prepare a damaging report? Her role will be that of an inquisitor, not unlike the police perhaps: can she perform in this way if her neighbour, for example, is someone whose role she has to investigate in her inquiry?
I shall ask you to publish such information as you have received from each inquiry member.
I have been told you said in the latter part of July that you would ‘consult’ concerning the setting up of the inquiry. I am not clear what you meant by this, and with whom you intend to consult. If it was only with the seven MPs who were concerned over all this, even they were not consulted.
Certainly survivors such as myself were not approached for any views we might have.
The issue – bias: impartiality
The main issue and basis for any possible challenge to your setting up of the inquiry is the importance of openness in relation to personal, business or other relations of panel members with those who may be – or should be – criticised, or inquired into, by the inquiry. This applies to all to members, and especially perhaps the chair of the inquiry.
Have all members been fully frank with you as to their impartiality? If so, please would you publish what has been said?
The details of the action that the defendant is expected to take
The actions I ask you to take are to forward to me:
- Immediate publication of what you have been told by Lady Woolf and other panel members as to any matters which might go to their partiality in this inquiry
- A statement of your reasons for appointing Lady Woolf instead of, for example, a Court of Appeal or Supreme Court judge (whether practising or recently retired)
- Information as to what you may have intended by ‘consultation’ when you set up the inquiry; and of what consultation you actually carried out
The details of any information sought
Proposed reply date
The setting up of this inquiry has already been long delayed. I would not want appointment of any panel member to delay it still further. If I am judicially to review your decision time limits in this area are very short (see eg Inquiries Act 2005 s 38(1)).
I hope, therefore, you can reply to this letter (since all information should already be available to you) by or before 4 pm on 17 September 2014.