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Ex-child sex abuse inquiry head 'found it too much for her' suggests Amber Rudd

Published 07/09/2016

Home Secretary Amber Rudd is to appear before MPs
Home Secretary Amber Rudd is to appear before MPs

Former head of the independent child sexual abuse inquiry Dame Lowell Goddard resigned "because she found it too much for her", Home Secretary Amber Rudd has suggested.

A Commons committee also heard that the probe refunded £2.5 million to the Home Office last year - despite Dame Lowell's claim that its budget does not match its "sheer scale and size".

Last month the New Zealand high court judge became the third chairwoman to quit the inquiry, which has been beset by problems since it was launched in 2014.

Earlier this week it emerged that following her departure Dame Lowell delivered a critical assessment in a written submission to the Home Affairs committee in which she called for a complete review of the inquiry.

Ms Rudd was questioned about the episode as she appeared at the committee.

Asked why she believed Dame Lowell had stood down, the Home Secretary said: " I think she went, although it is a matter for her I have to say, that she went because she found it too much for her and a lthough she could contribute to it and there was some good work done in the past year, ultimately she found it too lonely. She was a long way from home and she decided to step down.

"That's all the information I have about why she decided to go."

Asked if Dame Lowell was "out of her depth", Ms Rudd said: "I never met her. I can only conclude from what she set out in the letter that she knew what she was doing because I thought that the letter was pretty well informed about what the issues were and really showed that she cared about the issues.

"But she did set out in the letter that she didn't feel that she could actually deliver on it."

The probe was given a budget of £17.9 million for 2015/16.

In her written evidence to the committee, Dame Lowell 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."

Interim committee chairman Tim Loughton asked Ms Rudd: "Is it not the case that last year the inquiry refunded £2.5 million to the Home Office because they had under-spent their budget?"

Ms Rudd replied: "It's correct that last year was under- spent and I think it's incorrect to suggest it would be under-resourced."

The Home Secretary also insisted there was no need for a review of the inquiry's terms of reference.

It was earmarked to take five years, but there have been suggestions that the probe - described as the most ambitious public inquiry ever in England and Wales - could run for as long as a decade.

In her written submission, Dame Lowell said she was pleased to set the inquiry on its way, adding: "Ultimately however I had to face a situation which I could not solve and which would continue unless challenged. I resigned to make that challenge occur."

Last month Professor Alexis Jay was named as the inquiry's fourth chairwoman.

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