Child Abuse Survivors Deserve The Truth From Theresa May
As home secretary, Theresa May established an inquiry into child sexual abuse to shine a spotlight on institutions characterised by a culture of secrecy, denial and cover-up in which child abusers were able to operate in plain sight without challenge or consequence. It is a tragedy that the inquiry itself has become dogged by allegations about those very same characteristics.
A campaigner who exposed child abuse scandals in the Church of England said: “These are supposed to be the people who investigate cover-ups but they are behaving as if there’s some sort of cover-up going on regarding the inquiry itself.”
The probe has had four chairs in just two years following the departures of Lady Butler-Sloss, her successor lord mayor Fiona Woolf, and most recently Lowell Goddard, May’s third appointment. In the past month the two most senior lawyers for the inquiry have also both resigned without explanation, along with two more junior lawyers. The fiasco has prompted some victims and survivors’ groups to say publicly that they are losing faith in the process.
An inquiry on this scale cannot proceed without confidence. It is crucial that Amber Rudd, the home secretary, and her predecessor answer key questions to reassure us that the inquiry will now do its job. This must start with the truth surrounding the departure of Dame Lowell.
Instead on Monday in the House of Commons Rudd struggled to answer basic questions about the inquiry, referring repeatedly to its independence. Yet, as the chair of the home affairs select committee highlighted, the inquiry had a budget of £17.9m in its first year alone and raises profound questions of public importance. It must be accountable.
Back in September, when Rudd was asked by MPs about Goddard’s departure, she said “all the information” she had was that Goddard decided to quit in August and returned to New Zealand because she was “lonely” and “a long way from home”. But on Monday, in response to my urgent question, she admitted that in fact she had known more than a month earlier about serious accusations of misconduct, including racism, facing Goddard. Goddard has denied the allegations, saying the accusations were false and malicious.
Instead of dismissal, Rudd – the only person with the power to terminate the contract – accepted her resignation, decided not to reveal these concerns to the select committee, and personally authorised an £80k taxpayer-funded pay-off.