Former abuse probe head Dame Lowell Goddard rejects 'malicious' language claims
Dame Lowell Goddard has rejected claims she used racist language during her time as head of the national inquiry into child sexual abuse.
The New Zealand high court judge described allegations made in The Times as "falsities", "malicious" and part of a "vicious campaign".
The newspaper reported a number of claims made by what it said were "well-placed figures" at the inquiry's headquarters about her alleged conduct, including that she said Britain had so many paedophiles because it has so many Asian men.
In a statement Dame Lowell said she had consulted lawyers in London, adding: " I confirm my absolute rejection of this attack. I am confident that in New Zealand my known reputation from my work over many years will provide its own refutation of these falsities."
Dame Lowell resigned from the beleaguered inquiry, which has been plagued by problems since it was launched in 2014, in August.
At the time she called for the probe to be overhauled, saying "there is an inherent problem in the sheer scale and size".
Professor Alexis Jay replaced Dame Lowell as chair.
The probe - described as the most ambitious public inquiry ever in England and Wales - was earmarked to take five years, but there have been suggestions it could run for as long as a decade.
In her statement about the Times report, Dame Lowell said: " Nearly two years ago I stepped down as a New Zealand judge to answer the urgent request of the British government to chair its inquiry into child sex abuse. Subsequently, for reasons I have made public, I resigned and returned to New Zealand.
"Two days ago I was contacted by The Times and asked to respond to matters which it now says it obtained from 'figures' within the inquiry.
"I responded through my London lawyers, identifying the falsity of the matters raised, and the malicious background to them.
"The newspaper has today published articles about me and the inquiry, using some of those same matters in its attack.
"I reported to the Home Secretary and to the Parliamentary select committee on my resignation and my reasons for it.
"My major concern was to protect the inquiry and its work, and identify how the problems I encountered could be overcome."
Dame Lowell said that the conduct " of those involved has since come under scrutiny.
"This will give New Zealanders some insight into what I experienced.
"I await the advice of my London lawyers on these articles, which I have only just seen.
"I confirm my absolute rejection of this attack. I am confident that in New Zealand my known reputation from my work over many years will provide its own refutation of these falsities.
"I will be making no further statement and will not engage with those conducting this vicious campaign."
Last month the inquiry's senior lawyer Ben Emmerson QC resigned after being suspended amid reports he was about to step down.
The departure was announced just hours after it was revealed his junior colleague Elizabeth Prochaska had also left her role.
In the wake of the resignations Prof Jay refuted suggestions Mr Emmerson had quit because of a difference of opinion with her about the inquiry's future.
Shortly before Dame Lowell quit The Times revealed that she had spent more than 70 days working abroad or on holiday during her time in charge.
The inquiry's financial report for 2015/16 included details of spending amounting to more than half a million pounds in relation to Dame Lowell's terms.
The inquiry incurred costs of £67,319 during the last financial year on travel included in the New Zealand high court judge's terms of appointment.
"This included travel to and from New Zealand for her and her family," the report said.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Theresa May has "serious questions to answer" about how much she was told during her time at the Home Office about the allegations surrounding Dame Lowell.
The Times reported that Home Office officials and advisers received warnings about the alleged behaviour.
"Theresa May and the Home Office have serious questions to answer," said Ms Abbott. "This inquiry has a lot of ground to cover, but it is already on its fourth chair and now there are suggestions that Home Office officials turned a blind eye to allegations of impropriety.
"How can the victims expect this inquiry to uncover child abuse when it has faced multiple setbacks of its own?
"After years of waiting for justice they deserve better. It is crucial that this inquiry gets on with its vital task."
Downing Street declined to comment on whether Mrs May was informed about concerns allegedly reported to her officials during her time as Home Secretary.
The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said: "With regard to the allegations that have been reported today, the Home Office has made it very clear that they don't regard it as appropriate to comment on individual staffing matters of this sort. I have nothing to add to that."
The spokeswoman added: "The Prime Minister's view is that the inquiry into child abuse is of huge importance. We owe it to the victims and survivors to get to the truth and what we should be focusing on is allowing Alexis Jay the opportunity to get on with that.
"The Prime Minister is focusing on making sure that the inquiry can now get on with its work."
The spokeswoman pointed out that Dame Lowell's appointment followed "extensive" consultation with victims' groups and was endorsed by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.
"There was a consensus that this was a good appointment and that Dame Goddard (sic) had the skills and experience to deliver," she said.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The independent inquiry has a vital role to play in exposing the failure of public bodies and other major organisations to prevent child sexual abuse.
"We owe it to victims and survivors to get to the truth and the Independent Inquiry is continuing its vital work."