Senior lawyer suspended from national inquiry into child sex abuse over leadership concerns

Ben Emmerson QC Credit: PA
  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

The most senior lawyer on the national probe into child sexual abuse has been suspended from duty.

Ben Emmerson QC's suspension comes after the inquiry became "very concerned about" aspects of his leadership, a spokesperson for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse 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."

Earlier on Wednesday it was reported that Mr Emmerson, who is counsel to the inquiry, had previously clashed with chairwoman Alexis Jay and was 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 it out.

However, earlier this month, Professor Jay - the inquiry's fourth chairwoman - admitted the inquiry's 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 suspension represents a fresh blow for the probe, which has been beset by problems since it was launched by then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014.

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".

Amber Rudd retains full confidence in the inquiry, a spokesperson for the Home Secretary said, adding that Ms Rudd believes the suspension to be a matter for the inquiry and its work will continue.

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