May announces third abuse inquiry chair

Home secretary announces new chair of abuse inquiry, which will now have statutory powers 


By Matt Foster

04 Feb 2015

Theresa May has appointed a New Zealand High Court judge as the new chair of the child sexual abuse inquiry.

Justice Lowell Goddard becomes the third person chosen to lead the inquiry after the Home Secretary's previous choices quit amid concerns over their establishment links.

Making the announcement in a Commons statement, Ms May added that she was scrapping the existing form of the inquiry and replacing it with a new one with statutory powers, while reviewing the terms of reference.

New chair Justice Lowell Goddard was admitted to the Bar in 1975, was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1988 and has served as Chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.  

She will face a pre-appointment hearing before the Home Affairs Committee next week. Ms May confirmed that the appointment had been discussed with Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.

The inquiry, which is investigating the way state and other institutions dealt with historical allegations of child abuse, has already suffered a number of setbacks, with two previous chairwomen stepping down over potential conflicts of interest. 

According to investigative site Exaro News, Whitehall sources said 148 potential candidates had been rejected for the post.

Former children's minister Tim Loughton this morning repeated calls for the scope of the inquiry to be broadened to include the child protection system as a whole.

"People’s confidence has been completely knocked because of this constant tsunami of historic cases coming out," he told the Today programme.

"We need to get to the bottom of it; we need to see where it went wrong, how society appears to have covered up, is that cover-up still happening in certain places, are people responsible for that cover-up still in places of responsibility?"

The news comes as a new Government-commissioned report finds that Rotherham council is “not fit for purpose”.

The council experienced “past and present failures” in dealing with child abuse in Rotherham, the report says.

An inspection by Louise Casey found that staff at the council did not take responsibility for child abuse, and that they thought “the media were out to get them”.

Ms Casey said the findings showed “failures to accept, understand and combat the issue of child sexual exploitation, resulting in a lack of support for victims and insufficient action against known perpetrators”.

She added that culture at the council was unhealthy, and rife with “bullying, sexism and suppression”.

A previous report from Professor Alexis Jay said that more than 1,400 children had been abused between 1997 and 2013.

Meanwhile, the Times reports that a police officer and two councillors have been accused of having sex with victims of the Rotherham child abuse scandal. 

The paper says complaints against two Rotherham councillors - including one still in post - have been passed to the National Crime Agency.

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