Child Abuse Inquiry Faces "Daunting Task"

By Tom Parmenter
Sky News
July 9, 2015

A year and two days after it was announced, the inquiry into child sexual abuse in England and Wales has formally opened.

Inquiry chair Judge Lowell Goddard said the abuse has left "permanent scars" not only on the victims but society as a whole.

She said the inquiry "provides a unique opportunity to expose past failures of institutions to protect children".

But she warned: "The task ahead of us is daunting."

Justice Goddard told the inquiry there were suggestions that "one child in every 20 children in England and Wales has been sexually abused".

She said there may have been systematic "under-recording and misrecording" of child sex abuse by the police and other agencies.

"The true figures may be worse than the official figures estimate," she added.

Justice Goddard said the inquiry will require "complete objectivity" and a commitment to being open-minded "without any pre-judgement" of victims.

It will be the biggest public inquiry ever in England and Wales, she said, adding: "We have the tools we need to get at the truth and we will not hesitate to use them."

Justice Goddard also sought to allay fears the inquiry may be conducted behind closed doors or not fully release material.

"I am determined to put as much information into the public as I possibly can, as soon as I possibly can," she said.

The inquiry was set up by Home Secretary Theresa May following child abuse scandals that rocked various institutions including political parties, government departments in Westminster, the police, churches, schools, children's homes and the military.

Survivors groups and individual survivors have been consulted and will give evidence as part of the process but the early stages have been dogged by in-fighting and controversy.

The first two women appointed to lead the inquiry, Dame Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf, both had to step down because of their links to the British establishment which meant survivors could not trust them to be impartial.

The search for a suitable candidate eventually led to Judge Goddard, who comes from New Zealand. Earlier this year she insisted she had no links whatsoever to the establishment, telling MPs: "We don't have such a thing in my country."

Her inquiry will not examine individual abusers but instead look at the roles played by state and non-state institutions and assess what went so badly wrong and why so many children were exposed to sexual abuse.

The inquiry will also assess how child safeguarding has improved and what still needs to change.

The process is likely to run for years. No time limit has been set but the first interim report is due to be published in 2018.








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