The second most senior lawyer in the inquiry into child sex abuse in the UK stepped down earlier this month, it has emerged. Elizabeth Prochaska stepped down as first junior counsel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on 15 September.
Prochaska, who founded the women's campaign group Birthrights and was the judicial assistant to Baroness Hale and Lord Brown, worked on the inquiry for more than a year.
In a statement Ms Prochaska said: "I can confirm that after 15 months working on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, I resigned from my position as junior counsel with effect from September 15 2016.
"I very much valued the experience of working with the Inquiry and I wish all my former colleagues the best as they continue their work."
It added: "It has been said that the Inquiry is in crisis. This is simply not the case, and the chair and panel are united in their determination to see this important work through to a conclusion."
Her decision to leave was kept quiet and came weeks before leading counsel Ben Emmerson QC was suspended on Thursday (29 September). He read on the internet that he has been suspended and has instructed lawyers from Bindmans to act on his behalf.
"We can confirm that after 15 months working on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Elizabeth Prochaska resigned from her position as Junior Counsel with effect from 15 September 2016," an IICSA statement said. "We are very grateful for her commitment over the time that she worked with the IISCA and for the valuable contribution that she made to its work and wish her well for the future."
Her decision to leave the inquiry plunges it into further trouble after Emmerson, who was named lawyer of the year 2016 at The Lawyer Awards, was suspended over concerns about his leadership. It is believed more than one complaint had been made against the QC's handling of his team.
"The Inquiry has recently become very concerned about aspects of Mr Emmerson's leadership of the Counsel Team. He has therefore been suspended from duty so that these can be properly investigated.
"Suggestions in the press that Mr Emmerson was considering resigning after raising disagreements over the future direction of the Inquiry are untrue. They are not a matter on which he has advised the Chair or Panel." Emmerson has so far refused to comment.
The inquiry was set up in 2014 to to examine whether public bodies failed to protect children from sexual abuse. It has been hampered from the outset with resignations by its three chairwomen.
Baroness Butler-Sloss lasted less than a week at the helm in July 2014 before stepping down. Fiona Woolf was appointed her replacement by then home secretary Therea May only for her to resign in October. The third chairperson, New Zealand judge Justice Lowell Goddard, resigned in August. Professor Alexis Jay currently heads to inquiry.
Prime Minister Theresa May insisted on Thursday evening that the inquiry would go ahead as planned. Speaking during a visit to Wiltshire, she said it retained both her and Home Secretary Amber Rudd's confidence.
Mrs May said: "I set the inquiry up when I was home secretary and the current Home Secretary has made clear the original terms of reference were the right ones and I think that's important.
"We should always remember why it is that the inquiry was set up in the first place and when those terms of reference were set they were agreed with victims and survivors and it is victims and survivors who are at the heart of this inquiry."