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‘Hugely experienced’: Child abuse inquiry picks 2 Bedford Row QC Altman to replace Emmerson

After its top lawyer resigned in September, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has appointed a new lead counsel in the form of 2 Bedford Row’s Brian Altman QC.

Altman, known for his successful prosecution of Milly Dowler’s killer, joins the inquiry, after the former top lawyer Ben Emmerson QC quit in September last year. Emmerson QC of Matrix Chambers left and several other members of the counsel team resigned last autumn.

The inquiry is currently leading 13 separate investigations into child abuse both historical and recent as well as making recommendations for safeguarding children in the future.

IICSA chair Professor Alexis Jay said: ‘Altman is hugely experienced, having spent 16 years as treasury counsel, the last two and a half years of which were as first senior treasury counsel. This is an important appointment for the inquiry and I look forward to working with Brian as we take forward the work of the inquiry.’

But the scale of the inquiry has led some lawyers involved in IICSA to tell Legal Business to question the scope and cost of the investigation.

The inquiry has also had challenges to its governance following the resignation of its previous chair Dame Lowell Goddard in August, which led to the appointment of Jay (pictured). Jay became the fourth chair of the inquiry in its two year existence.

Meanwhile, Emmerson had resigned from the inquiry amid media allegations of a sexual assault and harassment. Matrix Chambers conducted its own review into Emmerson’s exit, clearing him of any wrongdoing in December 2016.

Jay also led a full internal review of its work which was published in December. The inquiry confirmed it would continue to work on all 13 of its existing investigations, including an expanded programme of research for 2017/18. The inquiry will also be looking into the Football Association and ask for findings of its review into historic child sexual abuse in football.

IICSA also set a 2018 deadline for a preliminary report containing its recommendations. Top QCs involved in the inquiry have privately expressed their belief to Legal Business the inquiry could last until 2020 at a cost of £100m.

For more on the internal politics of public inquiry law, see ‘Watching the watchmen – at the sharp end with the lawyers on public inquiries’