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Departing judge says child abuse inquiry has ‘inherent problem’

The inquiry into historic allegations of child sexual abuse suffers from an “inherent problem” because its scope is too large, its former chair has said.

Justice Lowell Goddard, who resigned in August, submitted a memo to the Home Affairs Select Committee setting out what she saw as the problems with the inquiry.

“It is clear there is an inherent problem in the sheer scale and size of the inquiry (which its budget does not match) and therefore in its manageability,” she said.

“Its boundless compass, including as it does, every state and non-state institution, as well as relevant institutional contexts, coupled with the absence of any built-in time parameters, does not fit comfortably or practically within the single inquiry model in which it currently resides. Nor is delivery on the limitless extent of all of the aspirations in its terms of reference possible in any cohesive or comprehensive manner.”

Justice Goddard said her departure should be an opportunity for a review of the inquiry. She added that after the inquiry was reconstituted under her leadership, it “proved in operational terms not to be a new inquiry with a completely fresh start, but rather a continuation and expansion of the previously existing inquiry in terms of its administration and management”.

The former chair said she was not consulted in the recruitment of additional staff for the new inquiry and some of the staff were unsuitable because they had no previous experience of running an inquiry of this kind. She also said that the inquiry’s public communications strategy needs to be “radically strengthened” in the future.

The inquiry suffered a further blow after victims’ groups threatened to boycott it. Raymond Stevenson, of the Shirley Oaks’ Survivors Association, said there was no guarantee that the inquiry’s investigation into the treatment of children in care in Lambeth was “truly independent” because the Home Office were heavily involved in both this inquiry and previous investigations.

John McCabe, a spokesperson for victims of alleged abuse at Medomsley detention centre, said he was urging victims and their lawyers to boycott the inquiry because it was not taking evidence from victims who were abused over the age of 18.

(Image c. PA Images)

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