Campaigners fear child sex abuse inquiry will be derailed after resignation

Dame Lowell Goddard’s decision to quit as head of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse – 18 months after she took on the role – has been met with concern from campaign groups amid fears the investigation will be derailed.

The inquiry is now looking for its fourth chairman since its launch, in the summer of 2014, to carry out the 13 separate investigations.

Matthew Reed (pictured), chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “The crucial work of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse must not be derailed by the departure of the chair.

“The inquiry was established in order to identify the extent to which institutions across England and Wales have failed to protect children against sexual abuse over successive generations. For the sake of victims of abuse, it is important that progress is made quickly to appoint a new chair.

“However, there have now been three chairs appointed since the inquiry was first announced. Given this, it is equally important to ensure the new chair is the right person for the task ahead.”

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.”

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.”

One of the 13 strands of the inquiry looked it allegations against Lord Janner, who died aged 87 in December.

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 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-examine in the Goddard inquiry which is why we refused to participate.

“We now seek justice in the civil proceedings.”

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