Racist remarks claims 'false', says Dame Lowell Goddard

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Dame Lowell GoddardImage source, AP
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Dame Lowell Goddard was the third head of the inquiry into child sex abuse to quit

The former head of the child sexual abuse inquiry has strenuously denied a newspaper report of allegations of misconduct and racism made against her.

Dame Lowell Goddard is alleged to have said Britain had so many paedophiles "because it has so many Asian men", according to a report in the Times.

The senior New Zealand judge has hit back at the claims, calling them "false" and "malicious".

The Home Office said it had received no formal complaint about Dame Lowell.

She resigned as head of the inquiry on 4 August, after 18 months in the role.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is investigating the extent to which institutions in England and Wales have failed to protect children from sexual abuse.

The Times also reported allegations that Dame Lowell had expressed shock at the size of the UK's ethnic minority population and mentioned having to travel 50 miles from London to see a white face.

The paper said senior Home Office staff and advisers knew about the alleged derogatory comments and other complaints.

'Totally false'

Dame Lowell said: "I confirm my absolute rejection of this attack. I am confident that in New Zealand my known reputation from my work over many years will provide its own refutation of these falsities."

In a detailed statement issued later, she added: "The specific allegations of racially derogatory remarks are totally false. I categorically never said that 'Britain has so many paedophiles because it has so many Asian men'.

"I never expressed shock at the number of ethnic people in Britain. I have never held the views and opinions attributed to me, nor is the language in these allegations vocabulary which I either used or would consider using."

Dame Lowell said any suggestion that she "threatened at any time 'to take this inquiry down with me'" was "totally untrue". She also rejected claims of being rude and abusive to staff.

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Norfolk said senior figures at the Home Office knew about the complaints

'Frustration intensified'

Andrew Norfolk, chief investigative reporter at the Times, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the sources for the story were "several people who are at a senior level and have a detailed awareness of what has been going on within the headquarters of that inquiry".

"These people, over many months, were thinking 'what can we do about this? This judge is seriously impacting on the work of the inquiry,'" he said.

"They forwarded those concerns to a place they thought was a fit place for them, the Home Office, and Theresa May had the power to terminate her contract. The frustration intensified as nothing was done."

The Home Office said it had been "made aware of concerns about the professionalism and competence of Justice Goddard" on 29 July, six days before she was to resign.

"The permanent secretary advised the inquiry that as they were independent they should raise this directly with the chair," its statement said.

"It is understood that they did this. No formal complaint was made to the Home Office."

'Questions to answer'

Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Mrs May and her former department had "serious questions to answer" over "suggestions that Home Office officials turned a blind eye to allegations of impropriety".

"How can the victims expect this inquiry to uncover child abuse when it has faced multiple setbacks of its own?

"After years of waiting for justice, they deserve better. It is crucial that this inquiry gets on with its vital task."

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Diane Abbott said Mrs May and her former department had "serious questions to answer"

Labour MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna, some of whose constituents are among the abuse victims, said concerns about the scale of the inquiry could be addressed by giving it a "federal" structure, with a national body overseeing the work of several smaller investigations.

"That's the way to change the scale of the inquiry, but to change the scope would very much worry the survivors," he said.

'Too many setbacks'

Peter Saunders, a member of the Victims and Survivors' Consultative Panel, which forms part of the inquiry, said the accusations reported by the Times were not behaviour he "recognised" with Dame Lowell and he worried about the effect the claims would have.

"[The inquiry] has had far too many setbacks, far too many people sniping at it," he told Today. "There are people out there listening to this programme who most definitely want this inquiry to fail.

"It has evolved a lot in the last few weeks. It has turned a big corner and there is a determination."

Image source, AFP
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Mr Umunna has called for the inquiry to be restructured

Norfolk said: "I know for certain that the people who have been speaking to me and my colleague only have an interest in ending the deep frustration of people, men and women, who for years, for decades, have been waiting for the institutions that turned a blind eye to their abuse to be held to account.

"I think what really compounds all of this is the sense that an inquiry set up to oppose a culture of secrecy and cover-up has become itself an exemplar of the sins it was supposed to expose."

Abuse inquiry: How we got here

7 July 2014 - government announces independent inquiry into the way public bodies investigated and handled child sex abuse claims. Baroness Butler-Sloss chosen as head

9 July - Baroness Butler-Sloss faces calls to quit because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s

14 July - she stands down, saying she is "not the right person" for the job

5 September - Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf named the new head of the inquiry

11 October - Mrs Woolf discloses she had five dinners with Lord Brittan from 2008-12

22 October - abuse victim launches legal challenge against Mrs Woolf leading the inquiry, amid growing calls for her resignation

31 October - victims' groups tell government officials they are "unanimous" Mrs Woolf should quit. She steps down later that day

4 February 2015 - Justice Lowell Goddard, a serving judge of the High Court of New Zealand, announced as the new head of the inquiry

13 July - Dame Lowell's pay is revealed as more than £480,000 a year

November - inquiry begins hearing directly from victims and survivors

4 August 2016 - Dame Lowell writes to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to resign from her post

14 October The Times reports accusations of racist remarks being made by Dame Lowell when in the job. She denies the claims.