Profile: Fiona Woolf, second head of child abuse inquiry

By Beth Sagar-Fenton
BBC News

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Fiona Woolf was the government's second choice to lead a wide-ranging inquiry into historical child sexual abuse.

Edinburgh-born Mrs Woolf, 66, was appointed after the resignation of Baroness Butler-Sloss, who stepped down just six days after being named as head of the inquiry.

MPs and victims had raised concerns about Baroness Butler-Sloss's family links because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s during a period when it was alleged ministers had hushed up child abuse allegations.

Within weeks of Mrs Woolf's appointment on 5 September, she too was facing calls to stand down because of her connections with Margaret Thatcher's cabinet.

Lawyer Alison Millar said abuse victims did not have "faith" in Mrs Woolf after she disclosed she had socialised with Lord Brittan, whose handling of a 1980s "dossier" on child abuse has been questioned. Lord Brittan denies any wrongdoing.

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Mrs Woolf became the second woman since 1189 to take on the role of Lord Mayor of London when she was elected in 2013.

Travelling for 100 days a year promoting the UK financial services industry, the role is a largely ambassadorial one.

When at home in the City of London, Mrs Woolf lives and works inside the 18th Century Mansion House, enjoying what she calls her "30-second commute".

As well as raising money for health charities, she has made it a mission to increase diversity among City workers.

Launching her Power of Diversity programme, she said: "The world has changed since I became the first female partner at my law firm CMS 30 years ago.

"But it has not changed fast enough, and we need to challenge traditional thinking and make sure far fewer women and people from diverse backgrounds get left behind."


After studying psychology and law at Keele University and comparative law at Strasbourg, Mrs Woolf qualified as a solicitor in 1973.

By the age of 33 she had risen to be a partner in CMS Cameron McKenna, one of the world's largest law firms.

Working for most of her life in energy markets and infrastructure law, her colleague Dick Tyler told the Financial Times she was "always a trailblazer".

Mrs Woolf became a specialist in advising governments on major infrastructure developments, working on the high-profile Channel Tunnel treaty agreements between France and Britain in 1985.

She built up an international reputation, working with 28 governments across every continent on projects ranging from gas pipelines in Portugal to electricity industry regulation in South Africa.

In 2001 she spent a year as a senior fellow at Harvard University in the US, and was made a CBE the following year.

Known for her devotion to music, she sings with the Chelsea Opera Group and is a governor of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her husband Nicholas is a chartered accountant.

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