May admits next child abuse inquiry chairman could come from abroad: Home Secretary issues grovelling apology to victims over botched handling of probe

  • Home Secretary tells survivors of child abuse: ‘I am sorry’
  • Comes after abuse inquiry left leaderless after second chair quit
  • Fiona Woolf resigned over links to former Home Secretary Leon Brittan
  • Follows Lady Butler Sloss’s resignation because her brother was a minister
  • Mrs May urged abuse victims to work with her to get inquiry back on track
  • She told MPs it would begin work while a new chairman was found

Theresa May yesterday said sorry over the child sex abuse inquiry debacle and admitted the Government may have to look abroad for its third chairman.
The Home Secretary insisted the resignation of Fiona Woolf last week would not derail the inquiry, which will meet for the first time a week tomorrow without a chair – four months after it was announced.
Mrs May conceded that the Home Office may now be forced to look overseas for a new chairman. 
Theresa May today apologised for her failure to appoint a chairman to oversee the Government's inquiry into historic allegations of child abuse

Theresa May today apologised for her failure to appoint a chairman to oversee the Government’s inquiry into historic allegations of child abuse
A number of potential candidates, including a senior female judge, are understood to have turned it down.
The Home Secretary told MPs: ‘It is obviously very disappointing that we do not yet have a panel chairman and for that I want to tell survivors that I am sorry.
‘To put it bluntly, it will not be straightforward to find a chairman who has both the expertise to do this hugely important work and has had no contact at all with an institution or individual about whom people have concerns.
‘I still believe, however, it is possible to find somebody who is suitably qualified and can win the confidence of survivors.
‘We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something that is hugely important. Together we can expose what has gone wrong in the past, we can prevent it.’ 
William Hague said the child abuse inquiry could begin without a chairman following Fiona Woolf's resignation

William Hague said the child abuse inquiry could begin without a chairman following Fiona Woolf’s resignation

Fiona Woolf stood down as chairman of the child sexual abuse inquiry over her connections to Leon Brittan


 Home Secretary Theresa May finally agreed to to order an inquiry into historic child abuse in July following months of allegations that there had been an Establishment ‘cover up’ of sexual assaults on children in the 1980s.
She said the Government would establish an independent probe under an expert panel to examine the handling of allegations of paedophilia.
State institutions as well as bodies such as the BBC, churches and political parties would be investigated she said.
Mrs May told MPs that it would be chaired by ‘an appropriately senior and experienced figure’.
Mrs Woolf finally stepped down on Friday amid revelations of her social links to former Home Secretary Lord Brittan, whose handling of abuse claims in the 1980s has been called into question by victim groups.
The pressure on her became overwhelming after it emerged that Home Office officials had helped her redraft a letter to Mrs May about her links to Lord Brittan and his wife seven times.
But Labour’s Simon Danczuk said the Home Office’s role in redrafting it displayed the ‘kind of self-preservation instincts’ held by the department that ‘got us into this mess in the first place’.
Mrs May’s first choice for the job – Baroness Butler-Sloss – resigned four months ago, also over her strong links with the Establishment. 
Mrs May promised safeguards yesterday, including consulting a new ‘survivors’ liaison group’ over who should lead the panel.
The Commons Home Affairs Committee will also get the chance to grill the chosen candidate in advance.
Labour’s David Winnick said Mrs May had restricted her choice to a ‘small part of Westminster’ and asked why she had not consulted survivors in the first place.
But Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz rejected suggestions the job had become a ‘poisoned chalice’. 
He added: ‘We’re an island of 64million people, and I’m certain we have someone with the skills, the leadership qualities, the integrity, and the ability to have a hands-on approach for what will be a very long inquiry.’
Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan is accused of failing to act on a dossier of child abuse allegations 

Former Home Secretary Leon Brittan is accused of failing to act on a dossier of child abuse allegations 
Mrs May rejected calls to make the inquiry statutory with formal powers to compel witnesses to give evidence, but said it could be converted if the panel chairman decided the extra measures were necessary. Lawyer Alison Millar, head of the team at Leigh Day that is representing some of the victims of alleged abuse, said the decision was ‘disappointing’.
Evidence from survivors will also be taken remotely over a video link so that they can testify from their homes.
Mrs May told the Commons the Wanless Report into the Home Office’s handling of child abuse allegations in the 1980s made by Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens will be published next week. The MP, who died in 1995, said he gave details of Establishment paedophiles – known as ‘Dickens dossier’ – to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan in 1983.
However, seven victims of abuse who have been prominent in the campaign for justice told Mrs May in a joint letter yesterday: ‘Your department has made too many errors already undermining the confidence in your sincerity regarding the inquiry.
‘Your organisation should convene a full conference open to survivors and their groups, which should be tasked with selecting representatives to advise the inquiry. We are resolute that no survivors will be denied justice. Justice is those who either harmed us or failed us being held to account.’  


Fiona Woolf resigned from her position as chairman of the child sex abuse inquiry on Friday 

Fiona Woolf resigned from her position as chairman of the child sex abuse inquiry on Friday 
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.
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.

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