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Child abuse inquiry should be remodelled, says ex-chief Dame Lowell Goddard

Published 06/09/2016

Dame Lowell Goddard criticised the inquiry's functioning and called for it to focus on the present to ensure the future protection of children, according to The Times
Dame Lowell Goddard criticised the inquiry's functioning and called for it to focus on the present to ensure the future protection of children, according to The Times

The wide-ranging inquiry into child sex abuse needs to be completely reviewed and remodelled, the judge who resigned as its head last month has warned.

Dame Lowell Goddard delivered a stinging critique of the inquiry's functioning and called for it to focus on the present to ensure the future protection of children, according to The Times.

The New Zealand high court judge became the third chief to quit the inquiry - which was set up amid claims of an establishment cover-up following allegations that a paedophile ring operated in Westminster in the 1980s - since it was launched in 2014.

Dame Lowell, who followed Baroness Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf in resigning, said she did so to "challenge" the way the probe is running.

The newspaper referred to a memorandum in which she said: " With the benefit of hindsight, or more realistically the benefit of experience, it is clear there is an inherent problem in the sheer scale and size of the inquiry (which its budget does not match) and therefore in its manageability."

She added: " I have recommended in my report to the Home Secretary that my departure provides a timely opportunity to undertake a complete review of the inquiry in its present form, with a view to remodelling it and recalibrating its emphasis more towards current events and thus focusing major attention on the present and future protection of children."

In a statement after quitting she said there had been a "legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off".

The inquiry was given a budget of £17.9 million for 2015/16 and has been described as the most ambitious public inquiry ever in England and Wales. It was estimated to take five years, but there have been suggestions it could run for as long as a decade.

After her resignation Dame Lowell was asked to go before the Home Affairs Select Committee to explain her departure.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd is due to appear before the committee on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "The independent inquiry has a vital role to play in exposing the failure of public bodies and other major organisations to prevent systematic child sexual abuse.

"Our commitment to this inquiry is undiminished. We owe it to victims and survivors to confront the appalling reality of how children were let down by the very people who were charged to protect them and to learn from the mistakes of the past."

"Last month, the Home Secretary accepted the resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard and appointed Professor Alexis Jay as chair. She has a strong track record in uncovering the truth and it is essential that she is able to get on with the important job of delivering justice to those that deserve it."

Asked whether there was still a need for the inquiry to proceed, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "Obviously lots of people feel that there is. There was obviously a lot of under-reporting.

"I don't think it matters what I think. There is a great deal of concern about how these cases may have been ignored in the past."

Ms Saunders added: "We have certainly all learnt a lot of lessons, when you look at the guidance prosecutors now have and the training we have given to prosecutors in order to make sure that they don't subscribe to any myths and stereotypes, that they look at the offences not just the complainant.

"I think prosecutions have grown in number and grown successfully in number and I think that's all indicative of the way in which we have developed our approach."

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