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Professor Alexis Jay named new chairwoman of child sexual abuse inquiry

Published 11/08/2016

Professor Alexis Jay will chair the inquiry
Professor Alexis Jay will chair the inquiry

Professor Alexis Jay, a former senior social worker, has been named as the fourth chairwoman of the embattled independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.

The child protection expert insisted that the probe is "open for business" after she was appointed following the resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard last week.

Prof Jay previously led an inquiry that revealed at least 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

She said: " I am committed to ensuring this inquiry does everything it has set out to do and does so with pace, with confidence and with clarity.

"Be in no doubt - the inquiry is open for business and people are busier than ever working hard to increase momentum.

"The panel and I are determined to make progress on all parts of the inquiry's work, including speaking to victims and survivors."

Prof Jay, who will take over as head of the inquiry having already served as a member of a panel established to assist the chair, said she was "determined to overcome the challenges along the way".

She added: " I will lead the largest public inquiry of its kind and together with my fellow panel members we will fearlessly examine institutional failures, past and present, and make recommendations so that the children of England and Wales are better protected now and in the future."

Prof Jay, who worked in local government for more than 30 years, came to prominence in 2014 when her report revealing that hundreds of children were raped, trafficked and abused in Rotherham sparked national outrage .

Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs committee, said: "Professor Jay is clearly a suitable candidate with vast experience in these matters, is already a panel member, and has been commended for her inquiry in Rotherham.

"I am sure the Home Secretary will have noted that Professor Jay will be the first chair of the inquiry without legal or judicial qualifications.

"I hope it will be fourth time lucky, as we must not let the victims and survivors down."

He added: "I understand perfectly the Home Secretary's desire to proceed with the appointment of the new chair in a speedy manner.

"However, the public need to be given a full explanation as to why Justice Lowell Goddard resigned."

Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: "Alexis Jay has a great track record of investigating abuse and is determined to get to the truth."

Shadow minister Sarah Champion welcomed the appointment, adding: "We now need to see results from the inquiry."

The inquiry, which has been beset by problems since it was launched in 2014, was rocked by the departure of Dame Lowell.

The New Zealand high court judge took on the role after Baroness Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf both stood down.

It emerged that Dame Lowell, who was appointed in April 2015, had spent more than 70 days working abroad or on holiday during her time in charge. Last week an inquiry spokesman said the 67-year-old had spent 44 days in New Zealand and Australia on inquiry business and was entitled to 30 days of annual leave.

The inquiry was given a budget of £17.9 million for 2015/16 and has been described as the most ambitious public inquiry ever established 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.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Prof Jay "has a strong track record in uncovering the truth".

She added: "Let there be no doubt - 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."

It is understood the details of Prof Jay's pay are still being finalised but her remuneration package is expected to be significantly lower than her predecessor's.

Dame Lowell was receiving a salary of £360,000 a year, an annual rental allowance of £110,000 and £12,000 a year to cover utilities.

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