£18million-a-year abuse inquiry is so big it 'could break justice system' warns one of Britain's most senior former judges
By Martin Beckford
March 20, 2016
|Lord Woolf said that the £18million-a-year probe was 'sucking huge amounts of resources' from the system|
|Dame Lowell Goddard faced a 'huge task' of chairing the inquiry, said Lord Woolf, former Lord Chief Justice|
The troubled historic child abuse inquiry is so wide-ranging and costly it risks ‘breaking the system’, one of Britain’s most senior ex-judges has warned.
Lord Woolf said he feared Dame Lowell Goddard faces a ‘huge task’ chairing the five-year investigation into Establishment sex abuse and cover-ups, and predicted that he would not live to see its final report.
The former Lord Chief Justice added that the £18million-a-year probe is ‘sucking huge amounts of resources’ out of the system and questioned the Government’s priorities at a time of austerity.
He told a solicitors’ conference last week: ‘She [Goddard] has more and more on her plate.
‘I don’t believe I will see the results of her work. There is a danger that the task is so great that it might break the system.’
Lord Woolf went on: ‘If we have got the money to conduct these inquiries then I can see that they perform a service.
‘My fear is that they are sucking huge amounts of resources from the justice system.
‘We should be looking after the justice system for the needs of commerce and the individuals.
‘Those inquiries can do a great deal but they are inevitably expensive if they are to be worthwhile. The question is, where are the priorities? Where does the Government find the resources? We still have the Iraq inquiry.
‘We should be thinking about priorities and expense, although I must stress that I am conscious of the needs of the victims.
‘We all have sympathy for victims of sexual misconduct of the grossest kind.’ He also queried the large number of investigations into alleged child abusers who are dead, asking: ‘When the main culprit is not alive, and not able to give evidence, how can you have a proper trial?’
The 82-year-old, who led a public inquiry into the Strangeways jail riot of 1990 before serving as Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice, is the most senior judicial figure to call into question the historic child abuse inquiry.
It was announced by David Cameron in July 2014 amid concerns the Home Office had lost a dossier on VIP paedophiles compiled by campaigning MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1984, and as allegations against high-profile figures mounted in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Yet the inquiry was hit by lengthy delays as its first two chairmen, Baroness Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf (who is not related to Lord Woolf), were forced to quit over conflicts of interest, forcing the Home Office to turn to Justice Goddard, from New Zealand, as she had no close links to the British establishment.
It has also struggled to win the trust of victims and campaigners, and concerns have been raised about its spiralling costs.
In the past month the inquiry has finally held its first public hearings into its planned investigations of the late Labour politician Lord Janner, the Church of England, and children’s homes where Cyril Smith is feared to have preyed on vulnerable boys.
The Goddard inquiry declined to respond to Lord Woolf’s comments, however sources pointed out that its cost is being borne by the Home Office rather than the Ministry of Justice, so it will not affect other court cases.