Child abuse inquiry MUST carry on for sake of Rotherham's victims, Sarah Champion MP says

MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion.
MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion.
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THE inquiry into child sexual abuse must continue despite another high profile resignation so victims do not have to repeat their evidence, MP Sarah Champion has said.

The representative for Rotherham, who is Labour’s shadow minister for preventing abuse, said she was deeply disappointed Dame Lowell Goddard had decided to resign from the post.

Ms Champion said: “The people I have spoken to feel let down and feel confused and I personally feel very disappointed that we are in this position.

“For people in Rotherham this is a real live issue, and while some might not have taken part in the inquiry I’m certain they will be watching it to see if there is a any hope of justice.

“I don’t know Justice Goddard’s reasons for stepping down so quickly but I think that it would have been a better process if there had been a hand over time and to give confidence to the survivors.”

The New Zealand High Court Judge was the third woman to lead the high profile inquiry, which may be the biggest of its kind in British legal history and she wrote to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd to say she was standing down.

Ms Champion has actively campaigned on behalf of victims in Rotherham after 1400 girls were found to have been sexually abused between 1997 and 2013.

While some say the disruption and failure to secure a long-term chairperson risks discrediting the inquiry and it should be reformed, Ms Champion says there must be continuity.

She said: “That is because for over a year we have had survivors coming forward often for the first time and sharing their experiences because they believed in this process and my biggest fear is if we start again and people don’t come forward because they are disillusioned.

“Justice Goddard did a good job at refining the inquiry down to 13 areas and that makes sense. The worst thing for me is if we start from scratch again.”

Dame Lowell Goddard, 67, is the third person to resign as head of the wide-ranging inquiry in just two years. It was set up amid claims of an establishment cover-up following allegations a paedophile ring operated in Westminster in the 1980s.

Baroness Butler-Sloss stood down in July 2014 amid questions over the role played by her late brother, Lord Havers, who was attorney general in the 1980s. Her replacement Dame Fiona

Woolf resigned following a barrage of criticism over her “establishment links”, most notably in relation to former home secretary Leon Brittan, who died in 2015.

MPs are now asking for Justice Goddard to explain her reasons for standing down and Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, wants her to go before members and to justify her departure.

Mr Vaz told Sky News: “She is someone with impeccable credentials, so this is a big shock that she chooses to resign now.”

It was revealed on Thursday night she had spent a considerable amount of time working on the inquiry from New Zealand.

As speculation mounts over who could be her successor in what will become an even more intensely scrutinised appointment, Ms Champion said it is now time to look to someone from a non-legal background.

She said: “I personally think it should be someone who has a background in child protection. I understand why they have gone for judges in the past but I think you can get legal suppport and someone who can add a holistic perspective is needed.”

Professor Alexis Jay, who carried out the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, is among those more than qualified to take over this important position, Ms Champion said.