Butler-Sloss steps down from Westminster abuse inquiry

Jul 14, 2014

Retired judge Baroness Butler-Sloss quits after claims that she was too close to the establishment

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Baroness Butler-Sloss has stepped down from chairing a new inquiry into allegations that at least 20 senior figures including MPs and cabinet ministers abused children over decades, the Financial Times reports.

Worries had been expressed that the 80-year-old was too close to the establishment she was charged with investigating. Her brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general at the time some of the alleged abuse took place in the 1980s.

A claim then emerged that Havers tried to prevent ex-MP Geoffrey Dickens using parliamentary privilege to make claims about a British diplomat during the 1980s. Dickens compiled a dossier on an alleged paedophile ring at Westminster which he handed to home secretary Leon Brittan.

A victim of abuse by Church of England clergy in Chichester, Phil Johnson, had also raised fears that Butler-Sloss would be too concerned with protecting institutions.

He told the BBC that during an earlier investigation into those claims of abuse, Butler-Sloss had wanted to suppress some of his allegations, telling him she "cared very much about the Church" and didn't want to identify a bishop as an abuser.

The former judge defended herself on Friday, saying she had "never put the reputation of any institution, including the Church of England, above the pursuit of justice for victims". The Home Office backed Butler-Sloss "unreservedly" last week, saying she was "beyond reproach".

Now Butler-Sloss says she "did not sufficiently consider" whether her connections would cause problems when she accepted the appointment. She pointed to a "widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups" that she should not chair the inquiry.

She added in a statement: "This is a victim-orientated inquiry and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns and give appropriate advice to Government.

"Nor should media attention be allowed to be diverted from the extremely important issues at stake, namely whether enough has been done to protect children from sexual abuse and hold to account those who commit these appalling crimes."

Theresa May said she was "saddened" by Butler-Sloss's departure, while a Downing Street spokesman said she would have done a "first-class job" and stepping down was "entirely her decision".

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