The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has announced that it has become the UK’s first public inquiry to hear evidence in a virtual public hearing. The hearing, which seeks to address child protection issues in religious organisations and settings, got underway on Monday and is set to hear evidence until 22nd May.
The original two-week hearing was due to take place back in March, but was suspended upon government advice related to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, a team from the IICSA has been hard at work devising a plan to hold the hearing in a virtual setting. The chair of the inquiry, professor Alexis Jay OBE, then decided that proceedings could go ahead via video conferencing technology.
Witnesses will be supported by the inquiry’s support and safeguarding team, with the hearing examining child protection policies and safeguarding cultures in religious organisations in England and Wales, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Methodists, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and non-conformist Christian denominations.
Professor Alexis Jay said: “We have now found a way to continue our vital programme of public hearings while ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved during these challenging times.
“A huge amount of work has gone into making this virtual hearing possible and I want to thank all of the witnesses, legal teams, IT teams and Inquiry staff involved.
“The evidence heard will be crucial in helping us make findings and recommendations that can better protect children from sexual abuse.”