NZ judge resigns as head of inquiry into Britain’s child abuse
Overnight, New Zealand judge Dame Lowell Goddard resigned as head of Britain’s independent inquiry into sexual abuse of children after just a year.
She had set out a vision for a five-year investigation into historical abuse and its cover up but the inquiry has been beset by delays and there are reports it could take as long as a decade to conclude at the cost of hundreds of millions of pounds.
Her resignation has thrown the future of the inquiry into doubt and comes after reports criticised her for spending three months away from the UK since her appointment.
The 67-year old was has also been criticised for her benefits and pay, with a £360,000 ($658,151) salary and £110,000 ($201,101) accommodation allowance as well as paid-for return flights to New Zealand for her and her family.
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.
Her letter of resignation in full (via the BBC):
Dear Home Secretary,
I regret to advise that I am offering you my resignation as chair of the Independent Inquiry into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, with immediate effect. I trust you will accept this decision.
Hon Dame Lowell Goddard QC
Home Secretary Amber Rudd:
Dear Dame Lowell,
Thank you for your letter today, offering your resignation as Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
I know that this will have been a difficult decision for you to make, and something you will have carefully considered. I was sorry to receive your letter, but I accept your decision.
We all recognise that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is the most ambitious public inquiry ever established in England and Wales. Under your leadership, the Inquiry has already instituted and made progress on each of its three core projects: the Research Project; the Truth Project; and the Public Hearings Project. I am grateful to you for bringing your experience to bear in devising how the Inquiry will operate, guided by its three fundamental principles: that it will be comprehensive, inclusive, and thorough.
I know how personally committed you have been to ensuring that the Inquiry is a success for those at its heart: the survivors and the victims. You have consistently demonstrated your desire to leave no stone unturned in order that the voices of those victims might be heard. It is a testament to your commitment that you have taken the difficult decision to stand down now, having set the Inquiry firmly on course, and allow someone else to lead it through to the end. With regret, I agree that this is the right decision.
I know you will want to be reassured that work continues without delay, and most importantly that victims and survivors know that the Government's commitment to this Inquiry is undiminished. I want to be absolutely clear. The success of this Inquiry remains an absolute priority for this Government. I am determined to keep the process on track and am taking immediate steps to appoint a new Chair as soon as possible. I will, of course, consult with victims and survivors groups before making a public announcement about the appointment.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment to the Inquiry over the course of the last 16 months. Your hard work will have a lasting impact on the Inquiry and, ultimately, in getting to the truth about the institutional response to child sexual abuse in this country. Of that, you can take pride.
With my thanks and very best wishes for your future endeavours.
Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP
Dame Lowell Goddard later released a full statement:
I announce with regret my decision to resign as chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, effective from today.
When I was first approached through the British High Commissioner in Wellington in late 2014, and asked to consider taking up the role, I had to think long and hard about it.
After carefully discussing the matter with the home secretary and her officials and seeking the counsel of those people in New Zealand whose opinions mattered to me, I decided that I should undertake the role, given my relevant experience and track record in the area.
It was, however, an incredibly difficult step to take, as it meant relinquishing my career in New Zealand and leaving behind my beloved family.
The conduct of any public inquiry is not an easy task, let alone one of the magnitude of this. Compounding the many difficulties was its legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off and with hindsight it would have been better to have started completely afresh.
While it has been a struggle in many respects, I am confident there have been achievements and some very real gains for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in getting their voices heard.
I have nothing but the greatest of respect for the victims and survivors and have particularly enjoyed working with the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel which I established."
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