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UK abuse inquiry hit by Kiwi quitting

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/08/2016 Helen William

Britain's troubled inquiry into child sex abuse has been thrown into doubt as New Zealand high court judge Dame Lowell Goddard became its third chair to resign.

Dame Lowell says the investigation has struggled to shake off its "legacy of failure" and her shock resignation has left abuse victims fearing there may be delays to the long-awaited inquiry.

Dame Lowell, 67, who was appointed in April 2015, spent more than 70 days working abroad or on holiday during her time in charge. An inquiry spokesman says she spent 44 days in New Zealand and Australia on inquiry business and was entitled to 30 days' annual leave.

The job's basic salary of around STG360,000 ($NZ670,450) plus a STG110,000 rental allowance and other perks made her the UK's highest paid public servant.

The inquiry has been beset by setbacks since it was set up in 2014 amid claims of an establishment cover-up following allegations that a paedophile ring operated in Westminster in the 1980s.

Dame Lowell did not give full reasons for her sudden departure but in a statement said compounding the inquiry's many difficulties was its legacy of failure, which had been very hard to shake off.

"With hindsight, it would have been better to have started completely afresh."

However, she was confident there had been some very real gains for victims in getting their voices heard.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd says the inquiry - "the most ambitious public inquiry ever established in England and Wales - will continue without delay and a new chair found.

Baroness Butler-Sloss stood down from the inquiry in July 2014 amid questions over the role played by her late brother, Lord Havers, who was attorney general in the 1980s.

Her replacement Dame Fiona Woolf resigned following a barrage of criticism over her "establishment links", most notably in relation to the late former home secretary Leon Brittan.

The inquiry's terms of reference say that its purpose includes considering "the extent to which state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation".

Lord Greville Janner, who died aged 87 in December, is alleged to have abused children over a period of 30 years in children's homes and hotels.

Some of Lord Janner's accusers have started civil proceedings to sue his estate, according to his son Daniel Janner QC.

"I was about to demand Justice Goddard's resignation tomorrow as she had refused my application last week to adjourn the inquiry pending the civil proceedings," Mr Janner said.

"The obscenity of a proxy prosecution against a dead and innocent man who cannot defend himself must stop.

"This is a manifestation of a national frenzy. My late father is not an institution and Goddard was set up to look at institutional failings.

"We are not even given the right to cross-exam in the Goddard inquiry which is why we refused to participate.

"We now seek justice in the civil proceedings."

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