National inquiry into child sex abuse facing new setback

Ben Emmerson is reportedly considering standing down from the inquiry. Credit: PA

The national inquiry into child sexual abuse could be facing another serious setback after reports of disagreements over its future between its chairwoman and most senior lawyer.

Ben Emmerson QC, who is counsel to the inquiry, is said to have clashed with chairwoman Alexis Jay and is considering standing down.

He is thought to favour a restructuring to reduce the inquiry's workload, according to The Times (£), but Professor Jay has previously ruled out.

Earlier this month, Professor Jay - the inquiry's fourth chairwoman - admitted its scale and scope were a "substantial challenge".

However she insisted she has "no intention" of asking Home Secretary Amber Rudd to "revise or reduce our terms of reference".

Mr Emmerson's departure would represent a fresh blow for the probe, which has been beset by problems since it was launched by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014.

Mr Emmerson has said that he will "not be making any comment at this time."

Alexis Jay took over as the inquiry's chairwoman in August. Credit: Dave Higgens / PA Archive

The scale of the inquiry has increasingly come under the spotlight.

Described as the most ambitious public inquiry ever launched in England and Wales, it is running a string of investigative strands spanning several decades.

It was initially supposed to last for five years but there have been suggestions it could run for as long as a decade.

Following her resignation in August, former chairwoman Dame Lowell Goddard said there was an "inherent problem" in the inquiry's "sheer scale and size".

The inquiry spent £14.7 million out of a £17.9 million budget in 2015/16.