Lowell Goddard branded 'disgraceful' for refusing to appear before MPs
Dame Lowell Goddard, the former head of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA), has been accused of "disgraceful" conduct after refusing to appear before a committee of MPs.
The New Zealand high court has said she did not need to return to the UK to give evidence in person as there were no unanswered questions relating to her time at the head of the inquiry.
Her comments were described as "astonishing" by Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee which had called Dame Lowell to appear before them.
Ms Cooper said members would be examining what action they could take to compel her to give evidence if she ever set foot again in the UK.
Dame Lowell returned to her native country following her resignation in August as chair of the troubled IICSA after just 18 months in the post.
In a letter to Ms Cooper, Dame Lowell said she had not been required to remain in England once she had stepped down.
The judge - who provided an eight-page written submission to the committee last week - said she had been advised by senior counsel in New Zealand that she should not give oral evidence.
"As a high court judge in New Zealand for many years before I resigned to take up the chair of the IICSA, I have a duty to maintain judicial independence," she wrote.
"That is why I have volunteered detailed written reports (in preference to oral communication) so that no dispute on powers or damage to IICSA's independence could arise. I am not aware of any matter which remains unanswered."
Dame Lowell also hit out at that the failure of the Government to defend her in the face of "defamatory" attacks in the media, following reports she made racially derogatory comments and was difficult to work with.
"I have been the subject of malicious defamatory attacks in some UK media. I have drawn the HASC's (Home Affairs Select Committee's) attention to the falsity of these and their apparent purpose," she wrote.
"I am disappointed that there has been no Government defence of me in England, despite the fact that information refuting some of the more serious allegations has been held by the Home Office and your committee since the time of my initial recruitment."
Ms Cooper said the refusal by Dame Lowell - who received almost £500,000-a-year in pay and allowances while she was the inquiry chair - to give evidence in person about her resignation was "disgraceful".
"Dame Goddard has been paid significant amounts of public money to do an extremely important job which she suddenly resigned from, leaving a series of questions about what has been happening over the last 18 months and why the inquiry got into difficulties," she said.
"Yet rather than give oral evidence to answer these questions she is relying on the fact that she is out of the UK to avoid the requirement to give evidence to Parliament.
"The committee has always believed it is vital that Dame Lowell Goddard gives oral evidence to us and we will explore what options are available to us to require her to come before the committee should she enter the UK again at any time in the future."