Third chairwoman quits child sex abuse inquiry: Goddard statement in full
Britain’s troubled inquiry into child sex abuse has been thrown into doubt as New Zealand high court judge Dame Lowell Goddard became its third chairman to resign.
Dame Lowell said the investigation has struggled to shake off its “legacy of failure” with her shock resignation leaving abuse victims fearing there may be delays to the long-awaited inquiry.
Dame Lowell, 67, who was appointed in April 2015, had spent more than 70 days working abroad or on holiday during her time in charge. An inquiry spokesman said she had spent 44 days in New Zealand and Australia on inquiry business and was entitled to 30 days’ annual leave.
She did not give full reasons for leaving but in a statement said that accepting the job had been “an incredibly difficult step to take, as it meant relinquishing my career in New Zealand and leaving behind my beloved family”.
The inquiry has been beset by setbacks since it was set up in 2014 amid claims of an establishment cover-up following allegations that a paedophile ring operated in Westminster in the 1980s.
In a statement, Dame Lowell said: “The conduct of any public inquiry is not an easy task, let alone one of the magnitude of this.
“Compounding the many difficulties was its legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off and, with hindsight, it would have been better to have started completely afresh.
“While it has been a struggle in many respects, I am confident there have been achievements and some very real gains for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in getting their voices heard.
“I have nothing but the greatest of respect for the victims and survivors, and have particularly enjoyed working with the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel which I established.”
Dame Lowell stated her resignation was “with immediate effect” as she quit in a resignation letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Thursday afternoon.
Ms Rudd said the inquiry would “continue without delay” and a new chairman would be found.
She described the inquiry, which has launched 13 investigations including strongly-denied claims linked to Lord Greville Janner, as the “most ambitious public inquiry ever established in England and Wales”.
In accepting Dame Lowell’s resignation, she wrote: “I know how personally committed you have been to ensuring that the inquiry is a success for those at its heart: the survivors and the victims.
“You have consistently demonstrated your desire to leave no stone unturned in order that the voices of those victims might be heard.
“It is a testament to your commitment that you have taken the difficult decision to stand down now, having set the inquiry firmly on course, and allow someone else to lead it through to the end. With regret, I agree that this the right decision.”
A National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children spokesman said: “Whatever the reasons for Judge Lowell Goddard’s decision to stand down it is essential that the inquiry continues with minimum disruption and a replacement chair is found urgently.
“Victims and survivors have already waited too long to have their voices heard and for the abuse they suffered as children to be acknowledged and believed.”
Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon who represents more than 50 victims giving evidence at the inquiry, said: “It is incredibly important for survivors that the inquiry continues so the truth is uncovered and their voices are finally heard. It is crucial that the Home Secretary appoints a new chair as soon as possible so this can happen.”
Baroness Butler-Sloss stood down in July 2014 amid questions over the role played by her late brother, Lord Havers, who was attorney general in the 1980s.
Her replacement Dame Fiona Woolf resigned following a barrage of criticism over her “establishment links”, most notably in relation to former home secretary Leon Brittan, who died in 2015.
The inquiry’s terms of reference say that its purpose includes considering “the extent to which state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation”.
Lord Janner, who died aged 87 in December, is alleged to have abused children over a period of 30 years, with offences said to have taken place in children’s homes and hotels.
Some of Lord Janner’s accusers have started civil proceedings to sue his estate, according to his son Daniel Janner QC.
Mr Janner told the Press Association: “I was about to demand Justice Goddard’s resignation tomorrow as she had refused my application last week to adjourn the inquiry pending the civil proceedings.
“The obscenity of a proxy prosecution against a dead and innocent man who cannot defend himself must stop.
“This is a manifestation of a national frenzy. My late father is not an institution and Goddard was set up to look at institutional failings.
“We are not even given the right to cross-exam in the Goddard inquiry which is why we refused to participate.
“We now seek justice in the civil proceedings.”
Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs committee, said the decision to quit was “astonishing”.
He said: “This is the third head of the inquiry who has now resigned.
“Serious questions need to be asked about why the Home Office has not monitored events more carefully.
“We will expect a full explanation from both the Prime Minister and the new Home Secretary about these matters. We need to examine again the remit, cost, purpose and ambition of what the inquiry was tasked with.”
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said: “In the months that Justice Goddard has been leading the Independent Inquiry, hundreds of survivors of appalling sexual abuse have come forward to tell of their experiences. They must be assured that the process will move forward.
“We must not let our failure to find a judge with the relevant knowledge and the necessary staying power deter us from progressing with this complex and demanding task.
“I hope the new Home Secretary will not attempt to take control of the investigation. The independence of this inquiry must not be compromised by ministers or officials.
“The Government must find a new chair as a matter of great urgency.”
Here is the full statement from Dame Lowell Goddard, who has resigned as head of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse:
“I announce with regret my decision to resign as chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, effective from today.
When I was first approached through the British High Commissioner in Wellington in late 2014, and asked to consider taking up the role, I had to think long and hard about it.
After carefully discussing the matter with the Home Secretary and her officials and seeking the counsel of those people in New Zealand whose opinions mattered to me, I decided that I should undertake the role, given my relevant experience and track record in the area.
It was, however, an incredibly difficult step to take, as it meant relinquishing my career in New Zealand and leaving behind my beloved family.
The conduct of any public inquiry is not an easy task, let alone one of the magnitude of this. Compounding the many difficulties was its legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off and with hindsight it would have been better to have started completely afresh.
While it has been a struggle in many respects, I am confident there have been achievements and some very real gains for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in getting their voices heard.
I have nothing but the greatest of respect for the victims and survivors and have particularly enjoyed working with the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel which I established.”
13 separate investigations form child sex abuse inquiry
The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse is to carry out 13 separate investigations. Here is an overview of each:
:: Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster.
This will be an “overarching inquiry” into allegations of abuse and exploitation involving “people of public prominence associated with Westminster”. It will examine high profile claims involving “current or former” MPs, senior civil servants and members of the intelligence and security agencies.
:: The Roman Catholic Church.
This will look into the extent of any institutional failures to protect children from abuse within the church in England and Wales. The investigation is expected to identify specific case studies, with the first examining the English Benedictine Congregation, which has been the subject of numerous allegations of child sexual abuse. The Catholic church in England and Wales said it has set up a council to assist the inquiry, adding it is “committed to the safeguarding of all children and vulnerable adults”.
:: The Anglican Church.
This investigation will look at the extent of any institutional failures to protect children from abuse within the Anglican Church. The Church of England said it welcomed chair Justice Lowell Goddard’s statement, adding that the Archbishop of Canterbury has requested that the church be one of the first institutions to be considered in the work of the inquiry.
:: The internet.
The inquiry will look into institutional responses to child sexual abuse and exploitation “facilitated” by the internet. This will include investigations of the policies of internet firms.
:: Residential schools.
This will investigate abuse and exploitation of children in residential schools in both the state and independent sector.
:: Nottinghamshire councils.
This will look into the extent of any institutional failures to protect children in the care of Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire councils following allegations of widespread sexual abuse and exploitation. In a joint statement, the councils’ chief executives said: “From the outset, we have taken these allegations seriously. The safety and well-being of children in our care today must be, and is, of the highest priority.”
:: Lambeth Council.
This will examine the extent of any institutional failures to protect children after allegations of abuse in children’s homes run by the London authority. Council leader Lib Peck said: “We welcome news that the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse will investigate the very serious, historic failings at children’s homes run by Lambeth in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. I know how important it is for the victims of these offences that the suffering they experienced is re-examined, and I have apologised on behalf of the council for the historic failings that let down so many young people.”
:: Lord Janner.
This will look into allegations of child sex abuse against Lord Greville Janner. Claims against the late politician were originally expected to be aired during inquiry proceedings starting in September, but Dame Lowell adjourned the hearing until March. The peer, who died aged 87 in December, is alleged to have abused children over a period spanning more than 30 years and dating back to the 1950s, with offending allegedly taking place at children’s homes and hotels. His family said he was “an honourable man, entirely innocent and never convicted of any crime”.
:: Protection of children outside the UK.
This will scrutinise “grave allegations” that have emerged regarding abuse by individuals working for British institutions and organisations abroad. It will examine bodies which recruit people to work abroad, including the Armed Forces, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British Council and private companies and charitable organisations.
:: Sexual abuse of children in custodial institutions.
This will examine the scale of abuse within the secure estate for children and young people. The inquiry has identified Medomsley Youth Detention Centre, County Durham, as the first case study.
:: Child sexual exploitation by organised networks.
This will focus on institutional responses to systematic grooming and sexual abuse of children by groups of offenders as seen in cities including Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford. Its work will include examining whether the regulation of the night-time economy and taxi licensing is effective in protecting children from abuse.
:: Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale.
An inquiry into allegations of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children residing at or attending Cambridge House Boys’ Hostel, Knowl View School, and other institutions where their placement was arranged or provided by Rochdale Borough Council. Steve Rumbelow, chief executive of the council, said it will provide its full support to the inquiry.
:: Accountability and reparations for victims and survivors of abuse.
This arm of the inquiry will focus on the support services and legal remedies available to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. It was included in response to multiple reports of inadequate support services and a civil justice system that may not deliver genuine reparation.
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