UK

Child sex abuse inquiry: Former chairwoman blames media 'attacks'

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

Dame Lowell Goddard, the former head of the inquiry into child sexual abuse, has blamed "relentless" media pressure for undermining confidence in her.

In a letter to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, the New Zealand judge outlined her reasons for resigning from the role - the third person to do so.

She said campaigners had published articles aimed at forcing her out and dealing a "fatal" blow to the inquiry.

She was succeeded by one of the panel members, Prof Alexis Jay, in August.

Dame Lowell acknowledged in her written submission that there had been tensions within the inquiry team, but said concerns about her leadership qualities had never been raised with her.

She wrote that a "real and increasing strain, particularly for me but in fact for everyone, was the intensifying media criticism of the inquiry" which had begun in March and "developed into widening personal attacks on me and my competence".

She said this had been one of the reasons the team "lost their nerve about my ability to continue leading the inquiry".

Other factors had been criticism of her performance at a preliminary hearing, and a Times front page about her being "on holiday abroad" for three months, she added.

'False' media comment

She said it was only after three members of the inquiry's panel came to see her on 4 August and made clear she no longer had the support of senior colleagues that she decided to resign.

The decision, she said, was hers alone, adding she had had no contact with or pressure from the home secretary or the Home Office.

Since quitting, she said she has been the victim of "extensive, false and defamatory" media comment, including remarks attributed to anonymous members of the home affairs select committee.

She urged Yvette Cooper, the new chair of the committee, to investigate the "leak of false information".

Ms Cooper has called for Dame Lowell to give evidence in person to allow MPs to put "precise and specific" questions to her.

Image caption Ivor Frank, Alexis Jay and Drusilla Sharpling, left to right, give evidence

Last month, MPs on the committee were told that Dame Lowell had kept panel members at a distance and had wanted to work alone.

Her successor, Prof Jay, told MPs that had Dame Lowell not resigned, things would have been "very difficult".

The inquiry into historical child sex abuse in England and Wales, which was set up in 2014, has been beset by controversy.

Two other chairwomen, Baroness Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf, have resigned over alleged conflicts of interest.

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