David Hencke is always eminently readable with regard to the troubled investigation into historical child sex abuse.
Here, he discusses the possibility that Justice Lowell Goddard was removed by “plotters” as a result of Theresa May’s coronation as prime minister.
Mr Hencke seems to reckon that Ben Emmerson, QC to the inquiry, pushed for her to go – ironically, as he introduced Justice Goddard to the Home Office in the first place.
It appears May’s sudden elevation and departure from the Home Office was the catalyst that allowed some seasoned plotters unhappy for some time with Lowell Goddard’s performance as chair of the child sex abuse inquiry to act.
If Cameron had won the referendum and Theresa May was still home secretary it might well not have happened. For Theresa May could hardly accept the resignation of the third chair of a troubled inquiry within two years.
So what went wrong? According to different sources two things. Dame Lowell came into conflict with her own legal team about the scope and direction of the inquiry until the differences could not be resolved.
And the hard pressed secretariat became demoralised by the sheer scope and size of the different strands of the inquiry which promised to swamp their work and bury them in mounds of paper.. One source talked about absenteeism and low morale.
But he says the appointment of Alexis Jay, who was already a member of the inquiry’s panel, is a hugely positive move:
It was a breath of fresh air to decide that a non lawyer could take on the job. Amber Rudd used powers under the Inquiries Act to appoint an existing member of the inquiry to take over the job.The appointment shows ministers are thinking ”out of the box” after running into problems – two caused by perceived conflict of interest – over the three previous chairs, Dame Fiona Woolf, Baroness Butler-Sloss and Dame Lowell Goddard.
I fully expected politicians to try and get another lawyer to run the inquiry – because of the legal minefield surrounding child sex abuse claims – but I am glad they didn’t.
Indeed it is a shame they did not think of appointing Alexis Jay in the first place to counteract the legal dominance of the inquiry.
Alexis Jay will bring a more human face to the inquiry and will have empathy for the traumas facing child sex abuse survivors. As a former social worker she may at last take seriously the problems of support for survivors – which should be one of the mainstream concerns of the inquiry and has been sadly lacking until now.
But there are also other big advantages.
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