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Woolf to replace Butler-Sloss in child-sex-abuse inquiry

12 September 2014

THE Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Fiona Woolf, has been appointed to chair the national independent inquiry into historical child-sexual abuse.

Alderman Woolf (above), a former President of the Law Society of England and Wales, replaces Baroness Butler-Sloss, who stood down in July after it was publicised more widely that she was the sister of the late Lord Havers, who was Attorney General in the 1980s when many of the allegations of abuse took place (News, 11 July).

Last Friday, after her appointment was announced, Alderman Woolf said: "Ensuring lessons are learned from the mistakes which have been made in the past and resulted in children being subjected to the most horrific crimes is a vital and solemn undertaking.

"I was honoured to be approached to lead such an important inquiry, and look forward to working with the panel to ensure these mistakes are identified and never repeated."

On Sunday, the Mail on Sunday  publicised links between Alderman Woolf and the former Home Secretary Lord Brittan, who is likely to be called as a witness during the inquiry. Both sit on the advisory council of the lobbying group TheCityUK.

On Friday, the MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, said: "She's not someone known for working in the area of child abuse. When this role needs absolute credibility, I find it quite a curious appointment."

Anne Lawrence, speaking on behalf of The Stop Church Child Abuse (SCCA) alliance, said: "If she is not caught up in what has happened at all then she may be one of the few high-profile lawyers . . . not compromised and who could head such an inquiry panel. I don't think her lack of specific knowledge is a disaster, as she should really be determining if there needs to be a full public inquiry, which would require someone with considerably more experience to lead and of course be a senior judge. The resources that need to be made available are not just a helpline number, but also counselling services. . ."

Alderman Woolf is a JP and a member of the PCC of St Clement Eastcheap with St Martin Orgar, in the City of London. She will be joined on the inquiry panel by Graham Wilmer, a child-sexual abuse survivor and founder of the Lantern Project, and Barbara Hearn, a former deputy CEO of the National Children's Bureau. Ben Emmerson QC will serve as counsel to the inquiry. Their first tasks are to finalise membership of the panel and agree terms of reference for the inquiry. Professor Alexis Jay, the author of the recent report into abuse in Rotherham (News, 29 August), will act as an expert adviser.


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