UK & World News

  • 5 September 2014, 10:53

Sex Abuse Inquiry Judge Replacement Revealed

The replacement for a retired judge who stood down from heading a historic child sex abuse inquiry amid controversy has been unveiled.

Fiona Woolf, the current Lord Mayor of London and a leading tax lawyer, will now head up the probe to examine whether alleged abuse by politicians and other powerful figures between the 1970s and 1990s was swept under the carpet.

Professor Alexis Jay, the author of the recent report into abuse in Rotherham, has also agreed to act as an expert adviser to the inquiry.

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss had originally been chosen to lead the panel, but the peer's appointment was engulfed in controversy because, as an establishment figure herself, victim groups and child protection campaigners said she was the wrong person to head the Government's investigation.

Announcing the new appointment, Mrs May said: "In recent years, we have seen appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse which have exposed serious failings by public bodies and important institutions.

"These failings have sent shockwaves through the country and shaken public confidence in the pillars of society in which we should have total trust.

"That is why the government has announced that an independent panel of experts will consider whether such organisations have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

"We are absolutely clear that we must learn the lessons of past failures and the panel will be instrumental in helping us to do this.

"I am pleased to announce today that Fiona Woolf has been appointed to lead this inquiry. I look forward to an update on the panel's progress in due course."

Ms Woolf said: "Ensuring lessons are learned from the mistakes which have been made in the past and resulted in children being subjected to the most horrific crimes is a vital and solemn undertaking.

"I was honoured to be approached to lead such an important inquiry, and look forward to working with the panel to ensure these mistakes are identified and never repeated."

The inquiry panel is due to provide an interim report for Parliament before May 2015.

A separate review, led by NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless and relating to the Home Office's handling of historic child sex abuse allegations, is taking place and will report in due course.

Baroness Butler-Sloss stepped down days after being appointed to chair the inquiry in July, after questions were raised over potential conflicts of interest as her brother Lord Havers was attorney general at the time of some of the events to be investigated.

He is alleged to have had a row with former Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens in the 1980s in an attempt to stop him using parliamentary privilege to make allegations about paedophilia.

The peer, who had resisted calls to quit, said in her resignation statement at the time that following "a widespread perception" she was not the right person to chair the inquiry, "I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been Attorney General would cause difficulties".

Labour MP Simon Danczuk, who has been leading a campaign for a full investigation into the claims, said she had made "the right decision".