- Judge Lowell Goddard has announced 12 areas probed by her new inquiry
- It will look at Westminster figures, church abuse and council cover-ups
- Royals will even be considered for questioning in independent inquiry
- The £18million-a-year probe has been beset by delays and mistakes
Announcement: New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard today set out 12 different areas which will come under scrutiny by Britain’s biggest ever child abuse inquiry.
MPs and royals could be ordered to give evidence over claims they had connections to paedophile gangs, it has been revealed.
Justice Lowell Goddard, the chairman of the landmark inquiry into historical child sex abuse, said politicians still serving at Parliament could be made to testify.
Child abuse allegations against VIPs, the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, schools, local councils and ‘certain people of public prominence associated with Westminster’ will be among 12 areas for initial scrutiny, she announced.
The probe, set to cost up to £100million, will even look at claims the Royal Household was embroiled in the scandal. Members of the Royal Family could be called to give evidence.
Last month, Prince Charles was forced to deny he interfered in the case against paedophile priest Peter Ball, who was eventually jailed for sexual abuse.
Justice Goddard, a New Zeland High Court judge, said the investigation – to begin immediately – would look at allegations involving current and former MPs, plus government officials.
The inquiry will look at whether public bodies failed to protect vulnerable youngsters, with councils in Lambeth, Nottinghamshire and Rochdale all set to be probed.
The Anglican and Catholic churches and ‘certain people of public prominence associated with Westminster’ are facing investigation in the independent child abuse inquiry, Judge Goddard said.
The New Zealand judge did not name any individuals. The royal family has not been specifically identified as an institution being examined but it is understood it has not been excluded from potentially falling under the scope of the inquiry.
It came as the £18 million-a-year probe, which has been beset by delays following the resignation of two previous chairwomen, formally entered its investigative phase.
One of 12 separate strands set out by Justice Goddard on Friday was an ‘objective fact-finding’ inquiry into allegations of abuse by ‘people of public prominence associated with Westminster’.
She added: ‘The investigation will focus on high profile allegations of child sexual abuse involving current or former members of parliament, senior civil servants, government advisers, and members of the intelligence and security agencies.
‘It will consider allegations of cover–up and conspiracy and will review the adequacy of law enforcement responses to these allegations.’
The inquiry – set up last July following claims of a high-level cover-up of abuse – can compel witnesses to give evidence but is not able to determine criminal or civil liability.
There are two main categories for the investigations.
In an ‘institution specific’ strand failings to protect children in the care or supervision of Lambeth Council in London, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Councils, and Rochdale Council will be examined, along with abuse in the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.
Address: Justice Goddard set out the 12 separate strands her inquiry will consider and will involve MPs, clergymen and the royal household
The inquiry into Rochdale will focus in part on claims that boys were subject to sexual abuse by individuals including former MP Cyril Smith.
Custodial institutions and residential schools in both the private and state sector also face scrutiny.
The other section concerns a series of ‘thematic’ investigations into: abuse facilitated by the internet; sexual exploitation of children by organised networks; the protection of children outside the UK; allegations linked to Westminster, and the legal remedies available to victims through the civil justice system.
Justice Goddard said the investigations will begin immediately, with all likely to lead to public hearings, with the first preliminary sessions expected to take place in February.
She said: ‘I am confident that this broad range of investigations will give a voice to victims and survivors who have experienced abuse in a variety of institutional settings or where there may have been institutional failings; and will combine consideration of non-recent allegations of abuse with urgent, contemporary issues of child protection.’
The judge said running 12 investigations in parallel is ‘an organisational challenge that is unprecedented in a public inquiry in the United Kingdom’, but added: ‘We are determined to succeed and expect the full co-operation of all institutions and individuals who can assist us in our work.
‘The scale of child sexual abuse in this country requires urgent and careful attention.’
The investigations are expected to take between 18 months and several years to complete. Justice Goddard said her aim of the inquiry’s work being finished within five years is ‘achievable’.