Child abuse inquiry judge: I will not give evidence

Sky News
November 8, 2016

Dame Lowell has returned to New Zealand

Labour's Yvette Cooper has called on Dame Lowell to give evidence

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Dame Lowell was homesick

[with video]

Dame Lowell Goddard has refused to give evidence about her resignation from the child abuse inquiry and rounded on the Government for failing to defend her.

The New Zealand judge has refused to speak in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee because it would be "unacceptable" for allegations against her to be aired in public, where those who make them are protected from prosecution.

In a letter to the committee, Dame Lowell said she had been the "subject of malicious defamatory attacks" in the UK media and had informed the committee of "the falsity of these and their apparent purpose".

She added that were she to give evidence via video link from New Zealand she would not be afforded freedom from prosecution in any allegations she might need to make in her defence.

She also heavily criticised the Government for failing to robustly defend her against the allegations of racism and poor treatment of colleagues. Dame Lowell has always denied all the claims made against her.

She wrote: "I am disappointed that there has been no Government defence of me in England, despite the fact that information refuting some of the more serious allegations has been held by the Home Office and your Committee since the time of my initial recruitment."

Dame Lowell's response triggered a furious reaction from the committee chairwoman, Yvette Cooper, who said that it was "essential" for Dame Lowell to give evidence either in person or via video link.

Ms Cooper said it was "disgraceful" from someone "paid significant amounts of public money to do an extremely important job which she suddenly resigned from, leaving a serious of questions about what has been happening over the last 18 months and why the Inquiry got into difficulties."

She added: "This is an astonishing response from a paid public servant who should know how important transparency is in an inquiry as sensitive and crucial as this one.

"Child abuse survivors have been let down by the extremely rocky start to this inquiry and we do need answers as to why it went wrong in order to be confident it is back on track now."

Last month Dame Lowell disclosed in a letter that she had become the third chairwoman to quit after members of the £100m inquiry panel turned against her in an apparent power struggle.

She told of a crunch meeting on 4 August when three of the four members of the panel had confronted her over allegations about her behaviour in the media.

Dame Lowell said it was then it became clear she did not have the support of her team and she resigned from her £360,000-a-year position.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Dame Lowell, who has returned home to New Zealand, left because she was lonely and homesick.

The Government has come under fire over what they knew and when about the allegations against Dame Lowell.

Ms Rudd insists the Home Office was not officially made aware of concerns until 29 July - six days before Theresa May became Prime Minister.

However, Mrs May admitted during Prime Minister's Questions last month that there were "stories" around about the chairwoman before that.

However, she said that as Home Secretary she could not intervene on the basis of "suspicion" or "hearsay".

Drusilla Sharpling, a member of the panel, has told the Home Affairs Select Committee she raised concerns with a Home Office official in the spring, although had asked for it not to be escalated.


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