Child sex abuse inquiry 'must not drag on', says new head

Judge Lowell Goddard Image copyright Home Office
Image caption Justice Lowell Goddard has previously led an inquiry into police handling of child abuse cases in New Zealand

The historical child sex abuse inquiry in England and Wales must not "drag on" and will have achievable goals, its new chairwoman has said.

New Zealand High Court judge Lowell Goddard said she would run a "very effective" investigation so that it could protect children in the future.

The inquiry would have sex abuse victims at its "centre", she said.

The independent inquiry into how public bodies dealt with allegations of child sex abuse may last until 2018.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that her first step on reaching the UK would be to set "clear objectives".

"It is a very broad landscape, and the inquiry is very complex and multi-faceted, but it needs to be achievable as well," she said.

"It must be managed, because an inquiry that drags on and does not have achievable goals, that cannot deliver, is not an effective inquiry. And I'm interested in conducting a very effective inquiry."

She said victims of abuse would play a key role in the establishing the scope of the inquiry - something she said was of "vital importance".

"Their views will inform the inquiry throughout and at the outside will be hugely beneficial in formulating the composition of the panel, and setting the terms of reference and scope in the inquiry," she said.

'Terrible abuses'

Justice Goddard said as part of the "scoping exercise", she would look at whether the inquiry should investigate claims going further back than 1978.

She said the inquiry would look at what lessons could be learnt to make sure "these terrible abuses do not happen again".

Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons the inquiry will have statutory powers and a new panel.

Auckland-born judge Justice Goddard was announced as the new head of the inquiry on Wednesday.

Since the original child abuse inquiry was set up last July, two chairwomen have resigned amid concerns over their links with the establishment.

Mrs May's first choice as inquiry chairwoman, Baroness Butler-Sloss, resigned after a week following calls to quit because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s.

Her replacement, Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf, stood down on 31 October amid concerns over her links to former Home Secretary Lord Brittan.

Abuse inquiry: How we got here

1 July 2014 - MP Simon Danczuk calls on former Home Secretary Leon Brittan to say what he knew about paedophile allegations passed to him in the 1980s

7 July - Government announces independent inquiry into the way public bodies investigated and handled child sex abuse claims. Baroness Butler-Sloss chosen as head

9 July - Baroness Butler-Sloss faces calls to quit because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s

14 July - She stands down, saying she is "not the right person" for the job

5 September - Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf named the new head of the inquiry

11 October - Mrs Woolf discloses she had five dinners with Lord Brittan from 2008-12

22 October - Abuse victim launches legal challenge against Mrs Woolf leading the inquiry, amid growing calls for her resignation

31 October - Victims' groups tell government officials they are "unanimous" Mrs Woolf should quit. She steps down later that day

4 February 2015 - Justice Lowell Goddard, a serving judge of the High Court of New Zealand, announced as the new head of the inquiry

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