New Zealand judge heading Britain's historic child abuse inquiry

A High Court judge has been chosen from 150 candidates to lead an investigation into Britain's historic child sex abuse allegations.

New Zealand judge Justice Lowell Goddard has been chosen to lead an investigation into Britain’s historic child sex abuse allegations.

Justice Goddard, a High Court judge, was picked from 150 candidates to chair the wide-ranging inquiry, which includes looking into alleged abuse of children in hospitals, care homes, schools and churches.

British Home Secretary Theresa May, who set up the inquiry last July, announced the appointment overnight, saying she was determined to "expose despicable crimes".

The inquiry has already embarrassed the British government. Since the original child abuse inquiry was set up last July, two chairwomen have resigned amid concerns about conflicts of interest.

Part of the reason Justice Goddard was chosen was she was "as removed as possible from the organisations and institutions that might become the focus of the inquiry", Mrs May said.

The inquiry will investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales.

Under powers established under the Inquiries Act 2005, Justice Goddard will be able to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence, and force them to provide documentary evidence.

Justice Goddard is well equipped to lead the inquiry, having previously led an inquiry into New Zealand police handling of more than 100 child abuse cases.

She has helped establish support programmes for survivors of abuse, has been chair of New Zealand’s Independent Police Conduct Authority and sits on the UN subcommittee on the prevention of torture.

In a statement, Justice Goddard said: "I am honoured to be asked to lead this crucial Inquiry – and am well aware of the scale of the undertaking.

"The inquiry will be long, challenging and complex. The many, many survivors of child sexual abuse, committed over decades, deserve a robust and thorough investigation of the appalling crimes perpetrated upon them.

"It is vitally important that their voices are now being heard. I am committed to leading a robust and independent inquiry that will act on these matters without fear or favour and will hold those responsible to account.

“The outcome of the Inquiry must ensure that the children of today and of the future will not only be protected from such dreadful exploitation but also empowered to combat it.”

New Zealand Law Society president Chris Moore says there is a very challenging job ahead, but he cannot think of anyone with better credentials to tackle it.

“[Justice Goddard] is an outstanding appointment. She’s got a warm, inclusive demeanour and even though she deals a lot with the underbelly of society she’s very caring. I know she believes very strongly that even though you have to be dispassionate as a judge, you don’t have to be desensitised.”

The inquiry was first set up last July to consider whether public bodies had neglected or covered up allegations of child sex abuse following claims paedophiles had operated in Westminster in the 1980s.

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