Lowell Goddard to head historical sex abuse inquiry

Goddard has no links to the British establishment. Picture: PA

Goddard has no links to the British establishment. Picture: PA

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A NEW Zealand High Court judge has been named as the head of a new inquiry into historical child sex abuse.

Lowell Goddard will lead the inquiry, which will have statutory powers and a new panel, Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons. Mrs May said she was determined to “expose despicable crimes”.

Since the original child abuse inquiry was set up last July, two chairwomen have resigned amid concerns over their links with the establishment.

The Home Secretary said Justice Goddard was “as removed as possible from the organisations and institutions that might become the focus of the inquiry”.

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said Justice Goddard would “enhance the whole credibility of the inquiry”.

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Justice Goddard, who was appointed to the New Zealand High Court in 1995, said she was “committed to leading a robust and independent inquiry”. The Auckland-born judge has previously led an inquiry into police handling of child abuse cases in New Zealand.

The original inquiry was sparked by claims of paedophiles operating in Westminster in the 1980s. And the inquiry will investigate whether “public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales”.

Mrs May said Justice Lowell was a “highly respected” judge and an “outstanding candidate with experience in challenging authority in this field”.

“We must leave no stone unturned if we are to take this once in a generation opportunity to get to the truth,” she said.

Justice Goddard will face a “pre-appointment hearing” before the home affairs committee on 11 February to ensure “further transparency”, Mrs May said.

She also said there would be a “co-ordinated national policing response” to “follow up any lead the inquiry uncovers”.

And she said the decision to select a new panel was “by no means a criticism of the current panel members”.

Justice Goddard said she was “honoured” to lead the inquiry and was aware of the “scale of the undertaking”.

“The many, many survivors of child sexual abuse, committed over decades, deserve a robust and thorough investigation of the appalling crimes perpetrated upon them,” she said.

The first person appointed to chair the inquiry was Baroness Butler-Sloss. She stood down in July last year 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 amid a barrage of criticism over her “establishment links”, most notably to the late, former home secretary Leon Brittan.

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