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UK appoints new head of sex abuse inquiry

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/08/2016

Britain has appointed a new head to lead a national inquiry into decades of child sex abuse, just a week after New Zealand High Court judge, Dame Lowell Goddard, quit.

Social care expert Professor Alexis Jay has been named to lead the investigation that has been dogged by leadership problems.

The inquiry was set up in July 2014 after a series of child sex abuse scandals dating back to the 1970s, some involving celebrities and politicians.

Prof Jay, who led a separate 2014 investigation into child sexual abuse in the northern English town of Rotherham, becomes the fourth person to lead the wide-ranging inquiry after its former chair, Dame Lowell, quit last week without explanation.

Her role hit the headlines when British media revealed she spent more 70 days of her first year in the job either outside the UK or on holiday.

There were also reports she was actually sacked following a stumbling performance in a preliminary hearing.

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.

Two other chairwomen previously quit the inquiry amid criticism over conflicts of interest relating to their ties to the political establishment.

"Let there be no doubt; our commitment to this inquiry is undiminished," interior minister Amber Rudd said, announcing Prof Jay's appointment.

"We owe it to victims and survivors to confront the appalling reality of how children were let down by the very people who were charged to protect them and to learn from the mistakes of the past."

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