Dame Lowell Goddard resigns from child sex abuse inquiry

Aug 5, 2016

Investigation will continue 'without delay', says Amber Rudd, after New Zealand judge becomes third chairwoman to step down

Dame Lowell Goddard has resigned her position as head of a major inquiry into child sexual abuse. She is the third person to quit the role.

Her departure came on the day The Times reported she "spent three months on holiday or abroad during her first year in the job".

Goddard, "whose pay and benefits package amounts to £500,000 a year, spent 44 working days in New Zealand, her home country, and Australia", says the paper, adding that she also took her 30-day annual leave allowance.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the inquiry would not be derailed by the resignation.

"I want to assure everyone with an interest in the inquiry, particularly victims and survivors, that the work of the inquiry will continue without delay," she said.

Goddard had been hand-picked for the role by Theresa May, then home secretary, after two previous chairs – Lady Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf – were "criticised publicly for their links to the establishment", The Guardian says.

In a statement last night, Goddard said the inquiry had a "legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off", but she was "confident there have been achievements and some very real gains for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in getting their voices heard".

Goddard child sex abuse inquiry: What to expect as hearings begin

27 July

Preliminary hearings have begun in the long-awaited inquiry into historic child sexual abuse.

The independent investigation, chaired by New Zealand high court judge Dame Lowell Goddard, is the largest ever undertaken in Britain, with speculation that it could last for up to a decade.

What will the inquiry look at?

"The inquiry is unprecedented in both size and scope," says Goddard. With a first-year budget of £17.9m and 155 staff members, it will focus on whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales.

The police, health service, the Crown Prosecution Service and religious bodies will all be put under the spotlight during the hearings. At the end of the investigation, Goddard and her colleagues promise to demand accountability, support victims and make recommendations for the future.

"There is no doubt that the inquiry's task is immense," Goddard recently wrote in The Guardian. "But the scale and magnitude of the problem of child sexual abuse means there is no easy fix. This is the opportunity to get to the heart of one of the biggest challenges for our generation."

However, she has already been accused of sidelining survivors in the investigation. Their testimonies will have no direct legal consequences and will only be used as "ballast" to the final report, says Phil Frampton, chair of the Care Leavers' Association. "[It's] a form of window dressing that may leave many survivors not only bound to secrecy about their testimony but also deeply distressed."

What's on the agenda this week?

Four days of preliminary hearings are taking place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. These will focus on several institutions and people, including the late Lord Janner, who has been accused of sexual abuse, as well as the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. The sessions will also look at the protection of children outside the UK. The hearings are open to the press and public. A full timetable can be found here.

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