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

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By Katie King on

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


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.