New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard named as child abuse inquiry chief

Troubled inquiry lost two previous chairmen over Establishment links, but new head wins backing despite earlier marriage to British baronet

Justice Lowell Goddard  

David Barrett

By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent

04 Feb 2015

The new chairman of the Government's troubled child sex abuse inquiry has won the backing of victims' groups despite the disclosure that she was once married to a British aristocrat.

Justice Lowell Goddard, a new Zealand High Court judge, was named by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, as the new head of the inquiry, which will examine allegations of an establishment cover-up of abuse spanning decades.

The appointment of Justice Goddard, 65, followed the loss of two former chairmen who stood down over perceived conflicts of interest due to their personal connections with establishment figures.

Within hours of the House of Commons being told of the new appointment it emerged that Justice Goddard's first marriage was to a hereditary baronet, Sir Walter John Scott, in 1969.

Sir John, a sheep farmer and major figure in field sports, is better known as “Johnnie” the co-presenter of the BBC's Clarissa and the Countryman alongside the late Clarissa Dickson-Wright .

Organisations representing victims of child sex abuse said Justice Goddard's connections with the British gentry was not a bar to her performing an unbiased review of how institutions may have failed to deal with abuse.

Peter Saunders, of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood, said: “The fact she was married to a baronet is neither here nor there for us.

“I think she is highly credible and hugely welcome choice.”

It came as Mrs May confirmed that a number of official files have been located which should have been disclosed to a previous inquiry – by Peter Wanless, the NSPCC chief executive, and Richard Whittam QC - into the way the Home Office handled abuse allegations.

Last week a previously top-secret file containing allegations of "unnatural sexual behaviour" by a senior diplomat was finally made public after it was uncovered in National Archives records by an academic.

Mrs May told MPs that after the National Archives file concerning the activities of Sir Peter Hayman emerged a number of other documents had also come to light.

“The Cabinet Office have undertaken additional searches of their papers and files,” said the Home Secretary .

"As a result, Cabinet Office officials have identified a small number of additional files which should also have been identified and passed to Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam last summer.”

Mrs May said the file on Hayman was similar to a Home Office file looked at by the review, but it contained additional information.

However, Mr Wanless has since said that it would not have changed the conclusions of the review, she said.

In her statement, Mrs May also said she will "re-set" the existing inquiry by dissolving a panel of advisors appointed last year.

It will be re-established as an inquiry with statutory powers, meaning it will be able to force witnesses to give evidence and demand access to documents.

The Home Secretary also said she had listened closely to survivors of child abuse who wanted the inquiry to go further back than the 1970 cut-off date originally set by the Home Office.

Source : Daily Telegraph

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