UK – Child sex abuse inquiry: Dame Lowell Goddard must explain resignation, say MPs
MPs have called for the former head of the child sexual abuse inquiry to appear before them to explain her sudden departure. Dame Lowell Goddard quit on 4 August but on Friday denied a report claiming misconduct and racism against her.
The Home Office said it had received no formal complaint about Dame Lowell. But the most senior civil servant in the Home Office has also been asked to explain to MPs what the government knew about her resignation.
On Friday, the Times said senior Home Office staff and advisers knew about alleged derogatory comments and other complaints. Dame Lowell is alleged to have said Britain had so many paedophiles “because it has so many Asian men”, according to the paper.
The senior New Zealand judge has hit back at the claims, calling them “false” and “malicious”.
She said: “I confirm my absolute rejection of this attack. I am confident that in New Zealand my known reputation from my work over many years will provide its own refutation of these falsities.”
Meanwhile, MP Tim Loughton, the committee’s acting chair, said Mr Sedwill would be giving evidence “on the basis that he was sitting alongside the new Home Secretary [Amber Rudd] when the committee questioned her about the Lowell Goddard situation.”
Ms Rudd told the committee at the time: “I think she [Dame Lowell] went because she felt it too much for her and although she could contribute to it… ultimately she found it too lonely, she was a long way from home and she decided to step down.”
However, on Friday the Home Office said it had been “made aware of concerns about the professionalism and competence of Justice Goddard” on 29 July, six days before she was to resign.
Diane Abbott MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “We must be given an assurance that there was no attempt to cover the accusations made about Judge Goddard.
“Because if true, it would mean that the home secretary knowingly put at risk the integrity of the entire inquiry.”
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is investigating the extent to which institutions in England and Wales have failed to protect children from sexual abuse. Dame Lowell, the third inquiry head to quit, resigned in August after 18 months in the role.
Although the child abuse inquiry is independent of the government, the Home Office would have had the power to remove the judge from her post, but a Home Office statement said it had received no formal complaint.
The Home Affairs Select Committee has asked Dame Lowell to provide further details of her departure in person or by video link from her home in New Zealand.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who is a member of the committee, said: “Not only would this help with the smooth running of the inquiry going forward, but I believe she owes it to the survivors and their families.”
A source on the committee said it did not have the power to compel Dame Lowell to appear but suggested it could announce a formal censure if she failed to give further evidence.
The committee is to question the new chair, Prof Alexis Jay, on Tuesday.