Monday July 7: Home Secretary Theresa May announces she will establish an independent inquiry under an expert panel to examine the handling of allegations of paedophilia by state institutions as well as bodies such as the BBC, churches and political parties. It will be chaired by ‘an appropriately senior and experienced figure’, she tells the House of Commons.
Tuesday July 8: Baroness Butler-Sloss is named as the chairwoman.
Eyebrows are immediately raised by the choice. Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz questions the choice of a member of the House of Lords, ‘no matter how distinguished’, to investigate the establishment – pointing out that her brother was lord chancellor during the era being probed.
Wednesday July 9: Calls for the appointment to be abandoned intensify over reports that Baroness Butler-Sloss’s brother, Sir Michael – later Lord – Havers, tried to prevent ex-MP Geoffrey Dickens airing claims about a diplomat in Parliament in the 1980s. Baroness Butler-Sloss insists she knew ”absolutely nothing about it” and adds: ‘If people think I am not suitable, then that’s up to them.’
The Home Office says it stands ‘unreservedly’ by its choice, saying the former judge’s integrity is ‘beyond reproach’.
Saturday July 12: Claims are published by The Times that Baroness Butler-Sloss refused to go public about a bishop implicated in a scandal.
She is reported to have told a victim of alleged abuse she did not want to include their claims in a review of how the Church of England dealt with two paedophile priests because she ‘cared about the Church’ and ‘the press would love a bishop’.
‘I have never put the reputation of any institution, including the Church of England, above the pursuit of justice for victims,’ she insists.
The Home Office once again declares its ‘unreserved’ approval of her taking a role for which she is ‘perfect’.
Monday July 14: Downing Street announces Baroness Butler-Sloss is stepping aside by her own choice. In a statement, she says she was ‘honoured’ to have been asked but acknowledges that her family links would ’cause difficulties’ for the process.
Mrs May says she is ‘deeply saddened’ but has embarked on the search for a replacement. Mr Vaz says the whole inquiry process is becoming ‘shambolic’.
The process of selecting a replacement begins.
Friday September 5: The lord mayor of the City of London, Fiona Woolf, a former president of the Law Society of England and Wales, is named as the new chairwoman of the inquiry.
Mrs May says she is ‘confident’ the leading tax lawyer has the right skills and experience to run the inquiry.
Sunday September 7: The Mail on Sunday reveals links between Mrs Woolf and Lord Brittan, who is likely to be called to give evidence to the inquiry over a dossier he received from Mr Dickens in 1983, documenting the alleged involvement of VIP figures in a child sex ring.
Labour MP Simon Danczuk, who has led the campaign for an inquiry, says Mrs Woolf’s position would be ‘untenable’ if she was close to the Brittans.
Monday September 8: Downing Street says the Prime Minister continues to have ‘strong support’ for the appointment.
Tuesday October 21: Mrs May insists she has confidence in the inquiry chairwoman after Mrs Woolf gives details of her links to Lord Brittan.
Mrs Woolf confirms that she lives in the same London street as the former cabinet minister and says she invited Lord and Lady Brittan to dinner parties three times over the last decade, and dined at their house twice. In the letter she also says she met the peer’s wife for coffee, sat on a prize-giving panel with her, and sponsored her £50 for a fun run.
Mrs Woolf insists there is nothing in the encounters that would stop her chairing the wide-ranging probe. ‘Over the last few weeks, I have carefully checked through my records to ensure that there is nothing which should prevent me fulfilling that role,’ she writes.
Mr Danczuk says Mrs Woolf and Lord Brittan were ‘clearly good friends’ and she should stand down as chairwoman.
Giving evidence later to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Mrs Woolf insists she has ”gone the extra distance” to declare every possible issue to reassure victims and does not have a ”close association” with the former cabinet minister.
Wednesday October 22: Pressure mounts on Mrs Woolf to stand down after solicitor Alison Millar, who represents a number of abuse victims, says the chairwoman ”really does not have the necessary credibility to lead what is such an important inquiry’ and calls for her to quit.
It emerges that Mrs Woolf’s list of meetings with the Brittans may be incomplete after a photograph surfaces showing her chatting to Lady Brittan at a prize-giving last October – Mrs Woolf had previously stated that she had had ‘no social contact with Lord and Lady Brittan since April 23 2013’.
Senior Labour and Liberal Democrat figures voice doubts about whether Mrs Woolf could have the confidence of victims.
Fiona Woolf resigned from her position as chairman of the child sex abuse inquiry on Friday
Family lawyer David Burrows lodges an application for judicial review of the entire inquiry set-up, saying it should be a judge-led statutory public inquiry, and complaining of its ”seriously limp” terms of reference.
Thursday October 30: Mr Vaz says Mrs Woolf’s attempt to detail contact with Lord Brittan tried to play down her links with the former cabinet minister and his wife.
The committee chairman says there were seven drafts of the letter and the final version ”gave a sense of greater detachment” between Lord and Lady Brittan and Mrs Woolf than her previous attempts.
Friday October 31:
11am – Downing Street says the Prime Minister remains ‘absolutely clear that he thinks she can do this job with integrity and impartiality’.
‘What matters is that we’ve got an able person getting on with the inquiry,’ a spokeswoman says.
2pm – Victims’ representatives emerge from talks with the inquiry panel unanimously calling for Fiona Woolf to be replaced and for it to be made a statutory public inquiry.
5pm – Mrs Woolf says she has accepted it is time to ‘get out of the way’ and has stepped aside.
Home Secretary Theresa May says she has accepted the resignation ‘with regret’ and will make a Commons statement on Monday.
Labour leader Ed Miliband says Mrs May has ‘some explaining to do’ over the handling of the appointment fiasco.