The Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, has replaced Lady Butler-Sloss as chair of the child abuse inquiry panel. The panel, to examine the extent to which public institutions failed to investigation allegations of child abuse was appointed in July 2014.
Lady Butler-Sloss resignation came after she faced tremendous pressure from victims’ groups because of a conflict of interest due to the fact that her brother, the late Sir Michael Havers was Attorney General during the 1980’s which was the period due to be examined by the panel.
Announcing Ms Woolf’s appointment, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “In recent years, we have seen appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse which have exposed serious failings by public bodies and important institutions. These failings have sent shockwaves throughout he country and shaken public confidence in the pillars of society in which we should have total trust. We are absolutely clear that we must learn the lessons of past failures and the panel will be instrumental in helping us to do this.”
Talking about the wide-ranging, Hillsborough-style inquiry into historic child sex abuse claims, President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers Peter Garsden said: “In my view, in order to arrive at an ideal format for the inquiry, perhaps they should look at the institutional abuse inquiries in Northern and Souther Ireland. They should select the best parts of each of these, both of which heard from survivors, who after all are at the core of the matter.
Fiona Woolf will be assisted by Graham Wilmer MBE, a child sexual abuse victim and founder of the Lantern Project and Barbara Hearn OBE, the former Deputy CEO of the National Children’s Bureau. Ben Emmerson QC will serve as counsel to the inquiry. Their first tasks are to finalise membership of the panel and agree terms of reference for the inquiry.
Commenting on her appointment Ms Woolf said: “Ensuring lessons are learned from the mistakes which have been made in the past and resulted in children being subjected to the most horrific crimes is a vital and solemn undertaking. I was honoured to be approached to lead such an important inquiry and look forward to working with the panel to ensure these mistakes are identified and never repeated.”