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‘Beyond farcical’: Lawyers in shock as top Matrix Chambers barrister suspended from child sex abuse inquiry

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Apparently Ben Emmerson QC only found out when he read about it on the internet

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The lead lawyer working on a national child sex abuse inquiry has been suspended, and lawyers cannot believe it.

According to The Times (£), Ben Emmerson — one of 35 QCs at top human rights and public law set Matrix Chambers — has been removed from his post following news the inquiry has “become very concerned about aspects of [his] leadership of the counsel team”.

The former Doughty Street lawyer, who reportedly earned £400,000 for his work on the inquiry last year, allegedly found out he had been suspended when he read about it online. One lawyer, spectating, tweeted a statement from Emmerson’s solicitors.

Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), an inquiry into whether public bodies have taken their duty to protect children from sexual abuse seriously. It is currently being presided over by its fourth chairwoman, Professor Alexis Jay, following Dame Lowell Goddard’s resignation in the summer and has allegedly spent more than £20 million, but hasn’t even heard any evidence yet.

Though the IICSA is no stranger to controversy, the suspension of 53-year-old Emmerson has come as a real shock to lawyers.

When the news broke, One Crown Office Row’s Adam Wagner tweeted “my goodness”, while human rights specialist Shoaib Khan also struggled to contain his surprise.

Garden Court Chambers’ Joanne Cecil was also on hand to share her dismay.

Criminal barrister Matthew Scott described the news as “quite ridiculous”.

Family lawyer Philip Marshall QC echoed this, commenting on the latest “extraordinary” development in the long running IICSA saga.

Details of Emmerson’s suspension are still thin on the ground, leaving John Cooper QC to ask the question we all want to know the answer to.

25 Comments

Anonymous

Almost as farcical as the inquiry that’s going on up here in Scotland. The chair (Susan O’Brien QC) was sacked in wholly bizarre circumstances…

(7)(4)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(0)

You can't shut me up

Excuse me Legal Cheek, why did you delete my comment which is based on factual information (yet you allow lewd comments to be published)? Here is a BBC article about O’Brien’s insensitive conduct. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36706790

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Lol, clearly the inquiry is uncovering some nasty secrets about some powerful people.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Yeah clearly…. knob

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Lol calm down. Who abused you?

(8)(2)

Trumpenkrieg

Yes, be quiet. Every right-thinking person knows that paedophilic tendencies and the desire to act on them simply do not exist in influential or powerful people.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

… actually, I suspect that the enquiry is finding out very little, at lease about the so called powerful or the establishment.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Whatever helps you sleep at night, dude.

(2)(0)

Elvis is still alive

Wake up, sheep!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Why wake up the sheep? Surely that just will result in another inquiry!!!

(2)(0)

Daffyd the "Sheep Waker"

I don’t want to lose my job!

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I understand the allegation is that Mr Emmerson is a man.

Clearly it is a very serious matter if this is both true and if he hid this from the amazingly skilled and not at all incompetent inquiry chair. Everyone knows that all men are evil and must not be allowed anywhere near children.

(17)(1)

Who'd be a lawyer?

I have every sympathy for the victims. I just wonder what the point of such an enquiry other than to make them feel even more unhappy. Either this was going to be so large it was unweildly and therefore thought by some as designed to fail. Or it wouldn’t cover all the issues therefore thought by some to be a cover up or it’s just all a cover up. Either way it will cost a huge amount and end up satisfying no one.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Lern to spell idiot

(1)(0)

Anonymous

What is it about inquiries in this country? They end up a farce one way or the other. The Iraq inquiry, let’s not get started, the inquiry into the Edinburgh tram system was supposed to investigate why it went significantly over-budget, then the inquiry itself was lambasted for going significantly over budget! Now we have this, and the one in Scotland someone mentioned above!!

(1)(0)

MIKE THOMPSON

I am not a lawyer, nor social worker,nor,again, a victim of abuse. Ben Emmeson stuck me as immensely capable and hard-headed in a poitico-legal morass-sensible, well-organised, keen on standards in a wider perspective that would raise the standing of this investigation. And it happens just after a social worker chief is made Head- Perhaps the usual social work practice in the UK of always blaming the underlings?

(0)(0)

Bitter

Sorry but £400,000? For one person? And all public money. Just seems deeply ridiculous when legal aid has been cut to the bone and I’m working my arse off as a paralegal for £21,000pa. No matter how good he is I doubt he’s worth that – 1/4 of it maybe!!

Some of these senior barristers and often solicitors are raking in the legal aid £££ while we struggle on nothing and face an incredibly uncertain future, all while doing their b*tch work. Yes some of them have fared worse than others but we’re not in the same boat, let’s face it.

(6)(7)

Anonymous

The guy’s a QC at Matrix. Presumably an awful lot of his time has been spent on the inquiry, so not getting income from elsewhere? He could easily make this through his Matrix practice, so why not negotiate a similar sum for the public work? Maybe this is a figure settled upon after he accepted less than he would ordinarily make in a year, who knows! Not defending the figure, I agree that it is a lot of public money, but I think it makes sense at the very least.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I see where you are coming from but why not appoint an experienced criminal junior from a less prestigious set.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

21k is good for a paralegal. I was a trainee on 16,665k. Count your lucky stars and quit moaning.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I think he’s/she’s allowed to moan. The disparity of pay in the legal sector is a f**king joke.

(0)(1)

Every dog has his day

Enquiry after enquiry, even enquiry on top of enquiry, we constantly strive to seek perfection in how we deal with things when we ourselves are not perfect by default of evolution. Abuse against others is obviously wrong and victims need to have their day and say in court, but we need to accept that no system is perfect to administer or manage when we are not perfect to begin with. A perpetuating problematic cycle I’d say.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Every time the lawyers get to the truth and the implications of someone of importance possibly risk exposure the government conveniently interfere hence the amount of resignations and if you continue to pursue a particular controversial issue that displeases the paymasters, just like Emmerson, you’re shown the door…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The only thing “beyond farcical” is this person pocketing GBP 400,000 from the public purse. That kind of money is extremely hard to earn even at the top end of the international commercial bar. It’s fine if he can earn this in the market but that’s not what is happening here and it brings discredit to the system. Don’t be surprised when one day the public stand up to this kind of thing.

(0)(1)

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