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