Historical child sexual abuse inquiry to open

BBC News
July 8, 2015

Justice Lowell Goddard will set out the guiding principles of the inquiry

The independent inquiry into historical child sexual abuse in England and Wales will open later, nearly a year after it was first announced.

It will examine how public bodies handled their duty of care to protect children from abuse.

Justice Lowell Goddard, who chairs the inquiry, will summarise how it will be run, including timescales and the areas of public life that will be examined.

The inquiry was first announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in July 2014.

It followed claims of a high-level cover-up of child sex abuse involving public figures, including politicians.

Justice Goddard, a New Zealand High Court judge, is the third person named to chair the inquiry; her two predecessors resigned over concerns about their links with the establishment.

Baroness Butler-Sloss, the first inquiry chairwoman, resigned a week after it was set up.

This followed calls for her to quit because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, had been attorney general in the 1980s.

Her replacement, the then Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf, stood down on 31 October amid concerns over her links to former Home Secretary Lord Brittan.

What are the allegations?

In July last year, Labour MP Simon Danczuk called on Leon Brittan to say what he knew about paedophile allegations passed to him when he was home secretary in the 1980s.

The files were given to Lord Brittan, who died in January, by the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens, a long-standing campaigner against child abuse.

Mr Dickens's son has said the files - now missing - contained "explosive" paedophile allegations about powerful and famous figures, including politicians.

Since Mr Danczuk's comments brought the so-called "Dickens dossier" to the fore, the focus has moved to the wider issue of how historical child sex abuse allegations were dealt with by public bodies and other institutions across the country.

Previously there had been calls for an overarching investigation into historical abuse claims in the wake of revelations that TV entertainer Jimmy Savile abused hundreds of victims at hospitals, children's homes and schools.

In February, it was announced Justice Goddard had been chosen to lead the inquiry because she was "as removed as possible from the organisations and institutions that might become the focus of the inquiry", Mrs May said.

The inquiry, which was given statutory powers and a new panel, will investigate whether "public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales".

Justice Goddard has decided abuse victims will not sit on her advisory panel, but there will be a separate Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel and the names of its members will also be made public in her opening announcement.

Some of those who have been abused are waiting to find out how and when they will be able to give their testimonies, BBC home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds says.

"The inquiry has been criticised for not making clear what support they will be given," our correspondent added.

However, the NSPCC said a team of trained counsellors would operate a free dedicated helpline to offer support on its behalf.

Peter Wanless, the charity's chief executive, said many victims had "harrowing stories to tell", adding that the charity wanted to make "what could be a tortuous journey as easy as possible".

The panel comprises Prof Alexis Jay of Strathclyde University, Drusilla Sharpling of the police inspectorate, Prof Malcolm Evans of Bristol University, and child protection barrister Ivor Frank.

Justice Goddard, who has previously led an inquiry into police handling of child abuse cases in her own country, hopes to complete the job within five years.


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