Tag Archives: Fiona Woolf

Two down: Woolf resigns from sex abuse inquiry

Beleaguered: At last, Fiona Woolf has done the decent thing, after acknowledging that she could never hold the trust of child sex abuse victims due to her relationship with Leon Brittan, who might have to give evidence to the inquiry she had been appointed to chair.

Beleaguered: At last, Fiona Woolf has done the decent thing, after acknowledging that she could never hold the trust of child sex abuse victims due to her relationship with Leon Brittan, who might have to give evidence to the inquiry she had been appointed to chair.

The second chair of the so-called independent inquiry into historic child sex abuse cases has resigned, according to the BBC.

Fiona Woolf said she wanted to “get out of the way” after it became clear that victims did not have any confidence in her.

To the Tories, you see, image is everything – and it had been made abundantly clear to Mrs Woolf that hers was tarnished by her freely-admitted association with Leon Brittan, a man who, as Home Secretary during the 1980s, managed to lose a dossier containing the names of more than 100 alleged child sex offenders, including some prominent Conservative Party members (if rumours are to be believed).

The association made her as suspicious to victims’ groups as her forerunner, Baroness Butler-Sloss, whose own name was unavoidably linked with that of the late Sir Michael Havers, attorney-general during the 1980s, whose behaviour has also been called into question by allegations that he tried to hush up child sex abuse allegations against prominent members of the Establishment.

And these were all Establishment figures in their own right. Mrs Woolf had tried to distance herself from these claims by making assurances that she herself was not a member of the Establishment – but her case was lost before she even made it. She is, you see, the Lord Mayor of London.

This second resignation from an inquiry that is supposed to be independent, by a chairperson who had clear ties to people she would have been investigating, has raised renewed claims that the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, has not carried out ‘due diligence’ when considering who to appoint.

Mrs May seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place. She has to appoint someone who is acceptable to the Conservative Party, but who is also acceptable to the general public – and the public has serious issues with her choices for the reason laid out in this very blog less than a month ago: Will a Conservative-led government ever find someone to chair this inquiry who is free of any alleged connections to its subject matter?

And the longer this drags on, the more suspicious the entire situation will seem. People will start asking more deeply disturbing questions. Logically, the first will be whether Mrs May has encountered so much difficulty in appointing a chairperson because the Conservatives want to influence the inquiry’s outcome, to ensure that nobody connected with them is ever implicated.

You see, image is everything to the Tories, especially with a general election taking place in the not-too-distant future.

David Cameron had given his backing to the choice of Mrs Woolf – as, if memory serves, he did to the choice of Baroness Butler-Sloss – so the resignation calls his judgement into question.

Then again, it seems that almost everything said about Cameron these days calls his judgement into question, whether it is his cavalier attitude to the NHS privatisation started by his former boss Andrew Lansley (that he didn’t understand), his keenness to award NHS contracts to Tory donors, his (alleged) failure to take an interest in the European Union’s re-evaluation of membership fees until he was presented with a bill for £1.7 billion this week, or any of the many other bombshells that seem to be bursting around him every day.

A report in Thursday’s Guardian has accused him of misleading the public over the total amount of his government’s planned austerity cuts that have been implemented during the current Parliament. Cameron said four-fifths of the process was complete, while the Institute for Fiscal Studies said more than half were still to come into force.

Now this.

Never mind Fiona Woolf’s resignation – isn’t it time we demanded Cameron’s?

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Is sex abuse inquiry one reason the government is trying to dismantle judicial review?

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Fiona Woolf: Unsuitable to chair historic sex abuse inquiry? [Image: BBC.]

The BBC is reporting that a legal challenge has been launched against Fiona Woolf’s appointment as chair of an inquiry into historic child sex abuse.

The judicial review has been launched by a victim of exactly the kind of abuse Mrs Woolf will be investigating. She is the second chair appointed to this inquiry after Baroness Butler-Sloss was forced to step down due to fears over a conflict of interest affecting her suitability – and the second to face allegations that she should resign due to her connections, in this case with Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary who apparently did nothing after a dossier containing allegations against more than 100 people was handed to him.

Will a Conservative-led government ever find someone to chair this inquiry who is free of any alleged connections to its subject matter?

Perhaps Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has found a way around this problem for them, since Mrs Woolf is being challenged by judicial review – and he has launched a bid to end the process.

According to politics.co.uk, his attack is particularly insidious. Rather than try to stop it altogether and face an outcry, Grayling set in motion a plan to price it out of the reach of “anyone but the most reckless and wealthy”.

The article states: “Part four of the criminal justice and courts bill tries to dismantle judicial review through a four-pronged attack. First, it restricts the use of protective costs. Second, it exposes friends, relatives and associates of a claimant to financial costs. Third, it makes charities and NGOs who get involved in a case liable for costs. And fourth, it shields public bodies which have acted unlawfully from public scrutiny.

“Protective costs limit how much of the other side’s legal costs you have to pay if you undertake the case. Without it, the financial costs of pursuing judicial review become very daunting. The bill prevent judges granting protective cost orders until permission is granted, a stage which already requires lots of expensive legal work to get to. It’s not even a problem – only a handful of these orders are granted a year anyway.

“Prong two of the attack makes claimant’s friends, colleagues, family and associates – anyone who might be able to help them financially, basically – liable to the legal costs. The emotional impact of this is severe. Someone may be willing to risk their own wellbeing and livelihood for something they believe in, but it feels entirely different if you’re risking the livelihood of those around you.

“The measure against charities and NGOs is basically an attack on expert commentary. You can see why. Officials at the Ministry of Justice always seem averse to hearing from experts, because experts so rarely agree with them. As things stand, they can only contribute expert advice and guidance with the permission of the court. Making them liable to costs just freezes out people who know what they’re talking about from participating in the legal process.

“Finally, a no-difference threshold will mean authorities can escape legal challenges even when they’re plainly acting improperly.”

It is too late for this legislation to affect the Fiona Woolf judicial review; it has already been launched and current rules will apply to it. But a government that has been embarrassed by this and many others will clearly want to rid itself of such interference – especially as it is interference by poor people.

You need to fight for this.

A good start will be getting in touch with your MP, or with the lords who have tabled amendments against the Grayling measures – Lord Pannick, Lord Woolf, Lord Carlile, and Lord Beecham. It seems they have not yet had a chance to debate those amendments.

The Tories are trying to take away your rights – again.

Are you going to let them?

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Poll for Today: Child sex allegations

Resigned: Baroness Butler-Sloss.

Resigned: Baroness Butler-Sloss.

Vox Political received a message yesterday (October 7) from a vociferous critic – especially of the Labour Party – as follows: “Do you have any comment on or condemnation of the child grooming and sexual expoitation gangs curently in operation in Labour-held Middlesbrough? If you can answer why it always seems to be Labour-held areas and councils, it would be much appreciated too.”

This blog receives many similar queries, and most are dismissed as attempts to use the suffering of young children in order to score political points.

That being said, it may be just as damaging to ignore such queries as it is to give them any credence, as people may then fall into an unjustified belief that the Labour Party tolerates paedophilia.

It seems far more likely to this observer that the Labour Party is showing honesty about what it is finding in parts of the country where it runs the local authorities. Vox Political‘s response to the question ran as follows:

“According to the BBC, many councils are now investigating whether their area has a problem. My first question would be, why aren’t they all doing it and which party holds the ones that aren’t?

“Second logical deduction is that Labour is being honest about what is happening in areas it holds. That’s actually good, because it’s a necessary step towards stopping it from happening.

“Third thought is to wonder whether the Tories will be covering up any wrongdoing in the areas they hold. We never found out what happened about Leon Brittan and the missing dossier, did we?

“Labour’s attitude seems far more productive here – get the issue out in the open and sort it out. The Conservative response – cover it up – seems far more likely to allow the problem to continue.”

Did we ever find out what happened to the dossier that was given to Leon Brittan when he was Home Secretary, back in the 1980s? Didn’t it include the names of several prominent – Conservative – cabinet ministers?

Lord Tebbit is on record as saying that the Conservative attitude has been not to “rock the boat”. This year, the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, appointed Baroness Butler-Sloss to head an inquiry into historical cases of child abuse – only for the lady she chose to resign under pressure from the social media that there was a clear conflict of interest. May’s latest choice, Fiona Woolf, is also facing ‘conflict of interest’ allegations over a connection with – surprise, surprise! – Leon Brittan. She said she would be “making a statement” but at the time of writing that has yet to see the light of day.

So it seems, to this observer, that a choice between the Labour approach and that of the Conservatives is a choice between on one hand, realising there is a problem and trying to do something about it, and on the other, denying that there is a problem and trying to hide any evidence in fear of where it might lead.

But what do you think? Here’s today’s poll:

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