THE former chairwoman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), Justice Lowell Goddard, has set out in detail the reasons for her sudden resignation (News,12 August).
In written evidence submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Justice Goddard said that the inquiry was too large in its scope, and that its civil service staff were too inexperienced. She also said that the failure to identify a room where the inquiry could conduct hearings had meant that she would not have been able to meet her commitment to begin substantial hearings this year.
The Home Affairs Select Committee had invited Justice Goddard to appear in person to give evidence on Wednesday this week, when it was also scheduled to hear from the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. A committee spokeswoman said that Justice Goddard’s written evidence had been published because she was unable to appear in person, having returned to her home in New Zealand.
The Church of England and the Church in Wales together form one of 13 separate investigations that the inquiry is undertaking. In her evidence, Justice Goddard criticises legal restrictions that prevented her from delegating responsibility for chairing different strands of the Inquiry to other members of its team.
Justice Goddard criticised the Home Office’s involvement in the recruitment of staff as the inquiry’s sponsor. “I have had little or no input into either the composition of the senior management team or the recruitment of secretariat staff during the lifetime of the current Inquiry,” she said.
“In the recruitment of staff, priority was given to civil servants and any non-civil service staff had to become civil servants unless they were employed on contract through the Solicitor to the Inquiry.
“In practical terms this meant that the skills and qualifications of many recruits did not fit the tasks which they were called upon to perform, as none of the secretariat or senior management team had previous experience of running an inquiry of this nature.”
She explained that the inquiry had failed to secure a hearing centre; and that the room it had been using at the Royal Courts of Justice “was never going to be available for more than occasional preliminary hearings”.
She also criticised the absence of an evidence-management system for collating “the thousands (if not millions) of documents the Inquiry has been receiving”, and said that this meant that the Solicitor to the Inquiry “has consequently been unable to prepare the documentation for public hearings”.
Despite what she termed “operational difficulties”, Justice Goddard said that “there have been very positive achievements and I am satisfied there is now a very solid platform of work upon which to take the Inquiry forward.”
The IICSA’s new chairwoman, Professor Alexis Jay, resisted calls to restrict the scope of the inquiry. On Tuesday, she said in a statement: “The Panel intends to ensure that the Inquiry undertakes its work with pace, confidence and clarity. I want to reassure victims and survivors that the panel will not be seeking any revision of the Inquiry’s terms of reference or introducing any new restrictions on its scope.”