Child sex abuse inquiry chairwoman called before MPs

Dame Lowell Goddard, who has become the third chairman to resign from Britain's troubled inquiry into child sex abuse.  Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Dame Lowell Goddard, who has become the third chairman to resign from Britain's troubled inquiry into child sex abuse. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

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The chairwoman who has quit the troubled inquiry into child sex abuse has been asked to explain herself to MPs.

Dame Lowell Goddard is the third person to resign as head of the wide-ranging inquiry, which was set up amid claims of an establishment cover-up following allegations a paedophile ring operated in Westminster in the 1980s.

Her shock move has been met with anger and disappointment by abuse victims, and Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said her departure is “extremely disappointing”.

Mr Vaz told Sky News: “She is someone with impeccable credentials, so this is a big shock that she chooses to resign now.

“I think what’s really important is that we find out the reasons why she has decided to take this course of action.

“I’ve written to her today to ask her to come before the committee when we return at the end of August and share with us her thoughts about the setting up of this inquiry and why she resigned, and where she thinks we could go.”

Dame Lowell was appointed in April 2015 and had spent more than 70 days working abroad or on holiday during her time in charge.

An inquiry spokesman said the 67-year-old had spent 44 days in New Zealand and Australia on inquiry business and was entitled to 30 days’ annual leave.

Dame Lowell did not give full reasons for leaving but said 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”.

She also said its “legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off”.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the inquiry would “continue without delay” and a new chairman would be found.

Concerns have been raised that the Government will struggle to find someone of the right calibre and experience to take on the role, but Mr Vaz said he is confident a replacement will be found.

He said: “There are people who are qualified to do this job. Yes of course we have had three very distinguished people who have all said it’s too much for them, maybe we should be Balkanising this by looking at different parts to this inquiry? But we will only discover whether this is a possibility if we hear from Judge Goddard herself.”

He added: “I think that will be her biggest legacy; to be able to advise, in a non partisan way, the Government, Parliament and the public as to how to proceed.”

He said it is a “tough job” but “there are six billion people on the planet, I’m sure we can find someone else.”

Lucy Duckworth, who sits on the Victims and Survivors’ Consultative Panel, stressed that the inquiry must continue.

She told the BBC: “We need to make sure that, going forward, survivors that are encouraged to come and share their story with the inquiry are well supported and that is what is taking the time.”

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald said the inquiry was becoming “unmanageable” and Ms Rudd must “take a whole fresh look at this”.

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