Most senior lawyer resigns from national child sexual abuse inquiry

Ben Emmerson QC Credit: PA

The most senior lawyer in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has resigned.

Chairwoman Professor Alexis Jay confirmed Ben Emmerson QC had resigned as counsel to the inquiry.

Ben Emmerson QC's resignation comes a day after he was suspended from the inquiry after it became "very concerned about" aspects of his leadership.

In a resignation letter posted on the inquiry's website, Mr Emmerson said he would be "sad" to leave, saying: "I remain totally committed to securing a fair and just result for those who matter most, the victims and survivors of childhood abuse."

Professor Alexis Jay Credit: PA

Addressing the letter to Prof Jay, he added: "Shortly after you took over, you announced a review of the Inquiry's ways of working to identify any changes that may be necessary in the public interest.

"When you decided to re-appoint me as counsel to the Inquiry in early September, I had my personal doubts about whether I was genuinely the right person to steer that review process. Since then, it has become clear to me that I am not the person to take this review forward on your behalf.

"It is now time for someone else to take the helm with a different leadership of the Counsel team. There is no truth in suggestions that I have resigned due to a difference of opinion with you about the next steps for the Inquiry."

Prof Jay echoed Mr Emmerson's statement that the resignation was not over a "difference of opinion", saying: "There is no truth in suggestions that he has resigned due to a difference of opinion with me about the next steps for the inquiry."

Earlier on Thursday senior lawyer Elizabeth Prochaska also resigned from her position as junior counsel in the inquiry, in yet another blow for the probe.

Human rights specialist Ms Prochaska, confirmed on Thursday that she had stepped down, after 15 months in the position.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd had earlier faced calls to address the "crisis" that has engulfed the national child abuse probe following the suspension of Mr Emmerson.

He revealed that no allegations had been put to him and he was left to discover the news from the press.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said the inquiry retains both her and Mrs Rudd's confidence.

She was asked about the probe during a visit to meet soldiers at Picton Barracks, in Bulford, Wiltshire.

Ms May said that "for too many years, too many years" people's claims of child abuse had "not been taken seriously", and that an investigation is needed to stop abuse taking place in the future.

The Prime Minister added that she was confident the right people are in place to deal with the inquiry.

She said: "This is a really important inquiry. I am very confident. Professor Alexis Jay, who is now chairman of the inquiry, has already shown through the work she did in child sexual exploitation in Rotherham that she is somebody who gets to the heart of these matters and isn't afraid to get to the truth and hold up those who she feels have failed.

"We need to ask why so many institutions and so many people who were supposed to be looking after children in the past and considering their welfare have actually failed them. It is important we learn those lessons. This is crucial for victims and survivors."