Kiwi Judge's Refusal to Provide Evidence to UK Sex Abuse Inquiry Branded "Disgraceful"

By John Edens
November 24, 2016

Dame Lowell Goddard was chair of the Independent Child Sex Abuse Inquiry from early 2015 until August this year.

A scathing report by a powerful parliamentary committee in the United Kingdom has described Kiwi judge Lowell Goddard's refusal to answer questions in person as "shameful" and "disgraceful".

Dame Goddard quit in August as head of the UK inquiry (IICSA) into cases of historical child sex abuse and, in early November, she effectively ruled out appearing in person before British MPs.

She was the subject of intense scrutiny during her tenure, hit out at "malicious defamatory attacks" by some media and said she was disappointed there was "no government defence of me in England" when she resigned.

Justice Lowell Goddard was previously a High Court judge in New Zealand.

Goddard has previously said she did not decline to provide oral evidence and she has provided written correspondence to the committee and the inquiry, although the committee has said this is not an acceptable substitute for oral evidence.

She was the third head of the troubled inquiry to resign, after 18 months in the high-profile ?360,000 (NZ$612,000) job.

The Home Affairs Select Committee reviewed the work of the inquiry, which has been beset by resignations since it was launched, and in a new report the committee said the New Zealander could be summoned to appear before MPs if she returned to England.

Much of the criticism levelled by the committee and its chair, Yvette Cooper MP, in the report has been previously reported.

Confidence in the work of the inquiry was seriously diminished, the report said.

"We have made a number of requests for Dame Lowell Goddard to give oral evidence before us, the first of which was sent on the day that her resignation was announced.

"She has assisted us by providing two detailed written submissions. However, we have consistently made clear during our exchanges with her that we do not regard written evidence as a substitute for an oral hearing with her. We offered to facilitate the provision of oral evidence by video-link from New Zealand, but Dame Lowell has continued to decline to cooperate with our request.

"We are not able to invoke parliamentary procedures to summon Dame Lowell to appear before us, because she is currently located in New Zealand."

Goddard's refusal to engage in person with the inquiry fell well below the standards of a public servant, the report said.

"It is disgraceful that Dame Lowell has refused to provide oral evidence to this committee.

"She received significant sums of public money in salary and expenses during her period as chair, and on her departure from the post, and played a prominent role in shaping the inquiry for most of its lifespan until then.

"Should Dame Lowell travel to the UK in the future, we would invoke parliamentary procedures to seek to summon her to give oral evidence."

The chair of the select committee, Yvette Cooper MP, said the inquiry was far too important to be sunk by problems and urgent action was needed.

"The inquiry's independence is vital for its credibility, but that doesn't absolve it from public scrutiny.

"It is shameful that the former chair won't give oral evidence about what happened under her leadership.

"And the response from the current inquiry team to allegations of bullying or sexual assault within the Inquiry itself has been wholly inadequate.

"The inquiry needs to get things back on track."

Regarding allegations of sexual abuse and bullying within the inquiry, the report said the committee did not believe the inquiry took its responsibilities to pursue allegations seriously.

"Nor do we believe it has done enough to demonstrate publicly that it has a robust approach to such matters.

"One of the inquiry's key purposes is to assess other organisations' procedures for dealing with disclosures of sexual assault or abuses of power...We therefore believe that it is extremely important that the inquiry can show that it treats these issues with appropriate rigour when they affect IICSA itself."

Earlier this month, Goddard released a cache of letters and documents to media.

At the time her husband Christopher Hodson QC, in an email, said Dame Lowell would not be responding to any more requests for comment and her "role in the IICSA is now finally at an end".

In an email from Hodson, he said there was nothing in the new report that had not been said before and there would be no comment.?








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