Minister claims 'lonely' Lowell Goddard found mammoth child abuse probe 'too much'

Posted On: 
7th September 2016

The judge who recently quit as chair of the inquiry into historic child sexual abuse was “lonely” and found the job “too much”, according to Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Former child abuse probe chair Justice Lowell Goddard
PA Images

Dame Lowell Goddard, who stepped down last month, said she quit because the scale of the investigation and a lack of funding was making it unmanageable.

The probe is expected to run up costs of £100m and seeks to investigate child abuse stretching back 60 years in numerous public institutions including in Westminster.

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Grilled by the committee today, new Home Secretary Ms Rudd said homesickness may have been a factor for the judge, who moved from New Zealand to take the job.

“She went because she found it too much for her, and although she could contribute to it and there was some good work done in the past year, ultimately she found it too lonely,” Ms Rudd said.

“She was a long way from home and she decided to step down,” she added.

The Home Secretary, who admitted she had never met Dame Goddard, insisted the judge “ cared about the issues” but “didn’t feel she could actually deliver on it.”

Ms Rudd agreed with interim committee chair Tim Loughton that it was “factually incorrect” and a “misrepresentation of the circumstances” for the former chair to claim the probe was underfunded.

The inquiry underspent last year, and former home secretary and current Prime Minister Theresa May was “always determined to ensure” it had sufficient resources, Ms Rudd explained.

Justice Goddard is the third panel chair to quit the inquiry, with social work specialist Prof Alexis Jay subsequently taking up the role.

Elsewhere in the session Ms Rudd rejected Dame Lowell's proposal that the scope of the probe should be limited to current events to make it more manageable.

She promised to reveal the amount of money spent on the inquiry while Dame Lowell was at its helm, and confirmed the judge received an annual package totalling £500,000.

Ms Rudd said any final settlement - as well as that to be negotiated with the new chair - would be “substantially less” than in the past.

And she pledged to encourage the judge to appear before the Home Affairs Committee to give evidence and produce video link evidence from New Zealand on the final package discussions.

Mr Loughton said: “We just ask that, without trying to compromise the job it is doing, there is some clear messaging that needs to go out to assure everybody that this is still the right body, under the right chair, getting on with the job it was tasked to do and is spending its money in the best interests for that task.”