Kiwi judge leads historic child sexual abuse inquiry in UK
New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard has formally opened an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in England and Wales.
“The sexual abuse of children has left scars on victims and society”, Goddard made the remarks while taking the charge of the probe, tipped to be the biggest ever in the UK
“This inquiry provides a unique opportunity to expose past failures of institutions to protect children, to confront those responsible, to uncover systemic failures, to provide support to victims and survivors, in sharing their experiences, and to make recommendations that will help prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the future,” she said.
“We have to wait and see, Justice Goddard, we believe is serious about the work and we believe she has been given serious backing [sic] by the Home Secretary. Still, it’s too early. There are concerns, as we have, because it hasn’t made clear how the people who give evidence to this inquiry going to be supported”, Dr. Jon Bird, Operations Manager from National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told Press TV.
Goddard is the third person named to chair the inquiry. Dame Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf were the first two women who were appointed to lead but they had to step down because of their links to the British establishment.
However, Goddard who has come all the way from New Zealand is believed to be impartial with apparently having no connections with any organization. She will be supported by a panel and a legal expert.
“My message to the survivors is that I have committed to undertake this inquiry that will be robust that will be independent and that I will work in timely ways I think that survivors are absolutely at the forefront of this inquiry, they are entitled to all of their feelings and sensitivities”, Goddard said in an interview with a British broadcast.
Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced an independent probe nearly a year before following scandals that rocked various institutions including political parties. The process led to in-fighting and controversy.
The United Kingdom has witnessed a surge in child molestation and sexual abuse cases, some of which go back to the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and involving churches, media personalities and politicians.
Recently, the Methodist Church issued a public apology after an independent probe found some 2,000 cases of abuse within the institution dating back to 1950s.
BBC was also at the center of controversy over the sex scandal involving its former presenter and Radio host, Jimmy Savile. A year after his death in 2001, hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse and rape of minors became public, leading the police to believe that Savile was one of Britain’s most predatory sex offenders.
The British police have also recently investigated claims of a Westminster pedophile ring. According to media reports, the police have a list of about 40 alleged child abusers including several current and former politicians.
There have been claims of a high-level cover-up of child sex abuse involving public figures, including politicians. And a recent report accused police of failing to properly investigate child abuse with data showing a neglect of about 38% such cases.
“We have different reports from police around the country. I think there had been some [neglect] and of course the police are still failing and they need to learn lessons from their mistakes in the past. We do know that police got huge number individual cases which still to come to the pipeline,” Bird told Press TV.
Meanwhile, the latest inquiry will not examine individual abusers rather its spotlight will be on state and non-state institutions such as public departments, police, armed forced, BBC, children’s homes and churches. It will assess how did so many children were exposed to sexual abuse and why.
A separate Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel is also expected once the investigation takes it course. Justice Goddard has said that the inquiry will also look into improving the child safeguarding.
No time limit has been set but the inquiry is likely to run for years and could see millions of dollars expenditure. Justice Goddard, who previously led an inquiry into police handling of child abuse cases in her own country, says she hopes to complete the job in the UK within five years.