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Abuse inquiry in thrown into chaos as Woolf resigns

By Staff Reporter

The inquiry into historic child sex abuse has been thrown into chaos after the chairman announced she was stepping down in the face of a barrage of criticism.

Fiona Woolf said she had no choice but to quit after accepting the victims had lost all confidence in her ability to conduct the investigation impartially.

It follows sustained pressure over her links with the former home secretary, Lord Brittan, who is facing claims that he failed to act on a dossier of paedophile allegations in the 1980s.

Her departure is a huge blow for the Government after the previous chairman, Baroness Butler-Sloss, also had to quit because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general during the same period.

Mrs Woolf - who is the Lord Mayor of London - said it has been clear to her for some time that she did not have the confidence of the victims and that she should now "get out of the way".

"Ultimately what turned the tide was less about putting up with the innuendo and negative comment in the Press, but more about the victims themselves. This is for them," she said.

"I am obviously sad that people are not confident in my ability to chair what is a hugely important inquiry impartially. I don't think it was going to be possible for me to chair it without everybody's support."

Her announcement came after victims' representatives issued a unanimous call for her to be replaced following a meeting with the inquiry panel's secretariat.

Following a bruising appearance before the Commons Home Affairs Committee earlier this month, Mrs Woolf said that she had realised the writing was on the wall after lawyers for the victims demanded a meeting.

"I made my decision a few days back and warned the Home Office of it," she said.

Home Secretary Theresa May - who had strongly defended her appointment - said she had accepted Mrs Woolf's resignation "with regret".

Mrs May said she would be meeting survivors' groups before appointing a successor.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said that Mrs May needed to explain why "basic background checks" which would have revealed Mrs Woolf's links with Lord Brittan were not carried out before she was appointed.

"Theresa May has some explaining to do. To lose one chair is a misfortune but to lose two is total carelessness on her part."

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