Dame Lowell would have preferred to work alone as head of sex abuse inquiry: Committee

Dame Lowell Goddard was appointed in early 2015 and resigned in August.

Dame Lowell Goddard was appointed in early 2015 and resigned in August.

The Kiwi judge who was the head of the United Kingdom's controversial inquiry into historical sex abuse cases would have preferred to work alone, British MPs have been told.

Dame Lowell Goddard's time as the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse and the circumstances of her resignation were discussed at a home affairs select committee hearing in London on Tuesday.

The new chair of the inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay, denied the inquiry was "an unhappy ship".

Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse panel member Ivor Frank, new chair Professor Alexis Jay, and panellist Drusilla ...

Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse panel member Ivor Frank, new chair Professor Alexis Jay, and panellist Drusilla Sharpling at the home affairs select committee.

Goddard has strenuously denied allegations of using derogatory language and mistreating staff while she was the head of the wide-ranging inquiry, described as "mired in chaos" by one British opposition MP.

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Several allegations were made in The Times of London in a series of articles, which Goddard said were "totally false".

UK home secretary Amber Rudd, who was asked urgent questions in the House of Commons on Monday about the abuse inquiry.
Dan Kitwood

UK home secretary Amber Rudd, who was asked urgent questions in the House of Commons on Monday about the abuse inquiry.

Jay, a former member of the inquiry advisory panel, told MPs that every effort was made to make the arrangements work.

She was asked to describe the relationship with the New Zealander and said it was clear from the beginning that Goddard would have preferred to work on her own without the assistance of the panel set up to work with the head of the inquiry.

In reply to questions from the select committee, she said:

The new chair of the inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay.

The new chair of the inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay.

"We were not redundant and there are specific legal requirements that the chair and panel make certain decisions but many are for the chair on her own.

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"The panel felt like they were kept at a distance from a lot of the activities of the inquiry."

Goddard's tenure as the head of the inquiry into cases of institutional abuse in hospital, schools, and care homes has been the subject of intense scrutiny. She was the third inquiry chair to resign.

The Times published articles containing claims of mistreating staff and using derogatory language, claims Dame Lowell denies.

The Times published articles containing claims of mistreating staff and using derogatory language, claims Dame Lowell denies.

The inquiry's most senior lawyer also resigned recently.

Inquiry panel member Ivor Frank, asked whether Goddard was a "nightmare to work with", said he would prefer not to use such language and there were different working methods involved.

Frank said the inquiry sought assistance in an effort to establish a better rapport between the panel and Goddard.

"I would prefer to say there were challenges.

"There were times when things were perfectly amicable and perfectly professional, there were other times when it was less the case.

"The chair was not always present within the UK throughout that entire 16 month period."

Panellist Drusilla Sharpling told MPs she reported concerns about the inquiry to the Home Office in April and no permission was given to spread the concerns, which were not referred to as a complaint, or take any action.

Responding to a question about The Times' allegation of mistreating staff - which Goddard denies - she said it was entirely inappropriate to comment.

"I am not going to engage in the sort of character issues that have been published across the press...The panel had concerns about the qualities of leadership that were being evidenced throughout the course of the inquiry.

"I did not give anyone permission to spread those concerns among anybody else. I did not require any action to be taken."

Goddard did not give evidence to the committee directly but in a letter to the select committee dated Monday, she said she all matters regarding resignation were finalised by August 11. 

She had produced evidence for the committee, in which she said the job was not an easy one.

"It was never easy operating in an environment in which I had no familiar networks and there were times when it seemed a very lonely mission. However, I am pleased I was able to set it on its way. Ultimately however I had to face a situation which I could not solve and which would continue unless challenged. I resigned to make that challenge occur."

She also said she was concerned about articles in The Times which "appeared to derive from a member of your committee which alleged I have wilfully refused to cooperate with the House of Commons investigation."

"I hope you will agree from the sequence of events I have outlined that this allegation is totally untrue."

Before the select committee convened, a statement to Stuff from Goddard and her husband Christopher Hodson QC said Dame Lowell had not been asked to participate in the select committee hearing, or declined to appear.

"To avoid any misunderstanding Dame Lowell notes that [since August 31] she has not received any communication from the UK Home Secretary; nor from any other person on behalf of her or the [Home Affairs Select Committee] seeking information or her attendance at any meeting.

"On October 6 the UK Permanent Secretary advised her that members of the [committee] had expressed to him a wish to meet with her, and that this was a matter for the [committee] to deal with, as it has now done in its October 14 letter."

 - Stuff

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