Fiona Woolf resigns as chair of government’s child abuse inquiry

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Fiona Woolf resigns as chair of government’s child abuse inquiry

Embarrassment for No 10 after senior legal figure, Fiona Woolf quits over links to Westminster political establishment.

The Guardian reports: The government’s child sex abuse inquiry was thrown into crisis after Fiona Woolf became the second senior legal figure to quit as chair over her links to the Westminster political establishment.

Woolf’s departure is a major embarrassment for the government and raises questions about the judgment of the home secretary, Theresa May, just months after retired judge Lady Butler-Sloss stepped down over similar concerns.

Woolf’s exit has left the inquiry without a chair and exposed concerns about the whole process overseen by the Home Office. Victims’ groups who pressed for Woolf to step down are now also calling for a much tougher judge-led inquiry. Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at law firm Leigh Day, which represents victims, said her clients were pleased that Woolf had stepped down.

“Now the work begins for a proper inquiry which listens to the survivors and supports them in giving their evidence to an experienced panel,” she said.

“The terms of reference must be based on the needs of survivors and must cover the scale of abuse which is slowly coming to light across the UK.”

Woolf lost the support of victims’ groups after it emerged that she was a friend and neighbour of the former home secretary Leon Brittan, whose role in dealing with allegations of child abuse in the 1980s is likely to come under scrutiny.

One claim at the heart of the inquiry is that a dossier containing accusations about Westminster paedophile activity went missing from his department during the 1980s. He denies any failure to act and there is a letter suggesting it should have been passed on to police.

Calls for Woolf to resign intensified after it emerged that the Home Office had helped her rewrite a letter detailing her contacts with Lord Brittan seven times in a way that played down their relationship.

In interviews, Woolf said she realised she needed to “get out of the way” after losing the confidence of victims. “I am obviously sad that people are not confident in my ability to chair what is a hugely important inquiry impartially,” she said. “I don’t think that it was going to be possible for me to chair it without everybody’s support.”

May said she accepted the resignation with regret, given that she believed Woolf “would have carried out her duties with integrity, impartiality and to the highest standard”.

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