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Child sex abuse inquiry: No reduction in scope, says Alexis Jay

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Media captionProf Alexis Jay: "We are still very interested in the past"

The new chairwoman of the child sex abuse inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay, has said she will not seek "any reduction or restriction" in its scope.

The independent inquiry has been beset by controversies, including the resignation of three of its chairwomen.

Prof Jay said that - although some measures would be taken to speed up the inquiry - it was "still very interested in the past".

She said she expects "significant progress" by the end of 2020.

Prof Jay - who led the inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham in 2014 - was appointed in August.

On her second day, she ordered an internal review into the inquiry. But today she rejected calls to tighten its terms of reference.

"I treat with some scepticism calls for us to forget the past," she said.

"Only by understanding the lessons we can learn from that and the possible failings and cover-ups that might have taken place in certain institutions will we go forward with confidence."

Prime Minister Theresa May, who set up the inquiry as home secretary in 2014, said it was important to remember why it was established.

"This is about people who suffered abuse as children, who for years - for some, for decades - have never found justice," she said.

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Media captionPrime Minister Theresa May says "we owe this inquiry to the victims and survivors of child abuse"

Prof Jay said the inquiry would not hold public hearings into every institution it was investigating, as it would take too long.

"If we were to pursue the traditional public hearing model - which people associate with inquiries of this kind - to the thousands and thousands of institutions in England and Wales, we would fail," she said.

"There is no possibility we would do that."

Instead, she said the inquiry "intends to use different models and ways of working".

Dame Lowell Goddard, the inquiry's third chairwoman, resigned in August.

In her resignation letter, she said the inquiry had a "legacy of failure which has been very hard to shake off".

She has since been accused of using racist language, something she has strongly denied.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dame Lowell Goddard was a New Zealand High Court judge

Home Secretary Amber Rudd told MPs on Monday that the inquiry's secretary reported concerns about Dame Lowell's "competence and professionalism" on 29 July.

Ms Rudd said "less than a week elapsed" before Dame Lowell resigned.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said "no inquiry in modern times has been mired in such chaos".

"At the very least it suggests a certain incompetence both in setting the terms and selecting the personnel to lead it," she said.

But Ms Rudd said there was "no paralysis" - insisting that the inquiry was working "at full speed".

Earlier this month, the most senior lawyer on the inquiry, Ben Emmerson QC, also stepped down.

In response, a survivors' group said it had concerns about the inquiry's "everlasting remit".

The inquiry is examining how state and non-state institutions in England and Wales protected children from abuse.


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

11 August 2016 - Prof Alexis Jay announced as new head of the inquiry

30 September - Ben Emmerson QC, the most senior lawyer working for the inquiry, steps down


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