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09.07.15

Child sex abuse has left ‘permanent’ scars

 The sexual abuse of children has left “permanent scars” not only on victims but on society as a whole, the chair of the Intendent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has said. 

Speaking during the opening of the Inquiry, Justice Lowell Goddard said the task ahead was “daunting” but provides a unique opportunity to expose past failures of institutions to protect children and uncover “systemic failures”. 

Justice Goddard, a New Zealand High Court judge who led an inquiry into police handling of child abuse cases in her own country, said an Inquiry of this kind requires a focused approach. 

The Inquiry, which was given statutory powers and a new panel in February, 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”. 

To support this, the panel has adopted three guiding principles that will shape the Inquiry’s work – “it must be comprehensive; it must be inclusive; and it must be thorough”. 

Those three principles are reflected in the division of the Inquiry’s work into three Core Projects: the Research Project, the Truth Project, and the Public Hearings Project. Together, the evidence received in all three projects will inform the Inquiry’s overall conclusions and recommendations. 

The inquiry - which was set up last year - has been beset by controversies and delays, including the resignation of two previous chairs

Goddard said: “We must travel from the corridors of power in Westminster to children’s homes in the poorest parts of the country, to hospitals, GP surgeries, schools, churches and charities. 

“We must investigate local authorities, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the NHS, the media and the armed forces.” 

Justice Goddard stated that “no one, no matter how apparently powerful”, will be allowed to obstruct our enquiries into institutional failings, and no one will have immunity from scrutiny by virtue of their position. 

She added that no time limit has been set for how far back the Inquiry will explore. However, it is her hope that it will be possible to conclude the Inquiry’s work before the end of 2020 and it will publish regular annual reports until then.

The NSPCC has also officially launched a new helpline to assist the wide-ranging Inquiry. 

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said:  “Many victims of abuse have been waiting too long for an opportunity to speak out and get justice. Many of them will have harrowing stories to tell so we want to make what could be a tortuous journey as easy as possible.” 

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