Goddard Resigns From Abuse Inquiry – Why?


The Law Of... following through on abuse inquiries

In the wake of the shock resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard from her position as Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), our Peter Garsden – Head of Abuse Claims – questions why the Inquiry has lost 3 Chairpersons in its short lifespan.

The Law Of... following through on abuse inquiries

Goddard's Changes

Serving as Chair of the IICSA for 15 months, Dame Goddard lasted considerably longer than her predecessors, with Baroness Butler Sloss lasting just a matter of weeks and Dame Fiona Woolf resigning a month after her appointment.

Initially respected as the Chairperson who changed the Inquiry's entire structure and ensured that the investigation proceeded on a statutory footing, Dame Goddard had started to show survivors of alleged abuse that they may soon receive the justice they crave.

Dispelling previous criticisms that the leader of the IICSA was too close to establishment figures – which was an allegation afforded to both of Dame Goddard's predecessors – it seemed as though Dame Goddard was truly independent of the situation and would subsequently organise a fair and just investigation into historic sexual abuse.

Some of the key changes introduced to the Inquiry by Dame Goddard include:

  • Putting the Inquiry onto a statutory footing
  • Dismissing the survivor-based panel, and replacing them with individuals who had not experienced the alleged abuse
  • Arranging representation for the survivors in a consultative capacity
  • Setting up the "Truth Project", at which survivors could give evidence anonymously

Initially it appeared that the Chair, Judge Goddard was respected by the survivor community, as well as their legal representatives. She appeared to have integrity, empathy, planning ability, patience, and determination.

There has, however, been some criticism of Goddard from some sections of the media, which have questioned the Dame's salary and released reports claiming that the Chair was unsure of local laws.

Further Delays For Alleged Victims

With this resignation there will be yet another delay to the work of the IICSA, which is yet to hear a single piece of evidence.

There are concerns that the IICSA could become another Chilcot Report, which investigated the conditions of the UK's involvement in the Iraq War and took almost 7 years from its start date for its findings to be published to the public.

Explaining the reason that the IICSA has faced so many delays, Peter said:

"The Inquiry has descended into a poisoned chalice, as it was set up to uncover any possible corruption at the heart of Government."

"The Inquiries' express purpose is to hear evidence that people in positions of power knew, and chose to ignore, signs of abuse – with some of those compromised in the Inquiry's investigations even being accused of abusing vulnerable children themselves."

"Those of an overly suspicious – or perhaps perceptive – nature may argue that the Inquiry has been set up to fail. Indeed, if we draw comparisons with the Chilcot Report, we saw during that investigation that the political implications of the report caused a number of delays to its publication."

Supporting a group action against the late Lord Janner, which is one of the biggest cases being handled by the Inquiry, Peter explains the recent atmosphere in the investigation:

"At the publicly broadcast directions hearing for the Janner Inquiry last week, it was announced that an evidential investigation was being undertaken against those involved in government."

"There was also a hint of tension following an unannounced application by the police for restrictions on press broadcasting."

"The investigation into allegations of child abuse by Lord Janner has caused some controversy, as the ex-MP's friends and family are arguing that a dead man should not be subject to investigation. Of course, this goes against the feelings of 30 alleged victims, half of whom I am representing at this difficult time."

Reasons For Resignation

While the press release that announced the Chair's resignation gave no reason for the decision, there have been a number of rumours and allegations made since the announcement.

Of the resignation, Peter said:

"There has been a lot of criticism of Judge Goddard from the media, with questions over her salary and how much time she spent outside of the country – with the vast majority of these spent in her home country of New Zealand."

"It is unlikely that these criticisms caused Goddard's resignation and I suspect that the Judge's external commitments in Australia and New Zealand have caused her to question whether she can lead this crucial Inquiry to the best of her abilities."

"Despite this, there have been other suggestions for the reasons behind the resignations, with a report in the Daily Mail claiming she was forced to resign after losing the confidence of senior staff."

"Meanwhile, some commentators on social media channels have alleged that Goddard was dismissed for probing too deeply into the government; however, this is a claim that would be difficult to substantiate."

"The most important thing to consider in this instance is the victims, who have already waited decades to gain justice for their alleged abuse."

"Moving forward, a quick replacement is required so that the momentum started by Judge Goddard is not lost. However, making an appointment too hastily could cause the Inquiry to face a 4th resignation in quick succession."

"For the survivors, they will feel let down and will perceive yet another resignation as a failure by the authorities to investigate those in positions of power and I hope for their sake that the next Chair of the IICSA is able to push forward with a strong and confident approach."

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