Butler-Sloss steps down from child abuse inquiry

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By Joe Mellor Deputy Editor

Widespread doubts about the appointment of Butler-Sloss have forced her to step down from the inquiry, into allegations of historical child abuse.

Seen as an establishment figure, the suspicious was she is too close to senior politicians, police and civil servants, who could be implicated in her findings. Her own brother was Sir Michael Havers was Attorney General in the 1980s.

There were also concerns about her age (she will be 81 next month) and she might not have had the drive to push the inquiry into the heart of Government, potentially uncovering some very serious crimes.

Lady Butler-Sloss said she had been honoured to be invited to chair the inquiry. But she added: “It has become apparent over the last few days, however, that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry. It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been attorney general would cause difficulties.”

There were suggestions that the Home Office overlooked Butler-Sloss’s family links.

Labour MP Tom Watson said: “She would know that any controversy surrounding her, would adversely affect the inquiry. The key thing is we will now look for a new chair that will be acceptable to the victims. We need get the survivors to be heard for the first time in many many years.”

David Cameron’s spokesman said there had been no change in the view of the prime minister or Home Secretary Theresa May about Lady Butler-Sloss’s integrity or suitability for the job.

“She has taken the decision to step down as chair of the panel inquiry,” he said. “It is entirely her decision.

“The government’s view hasn’t changed, that she would have done a first-class job as chair. The reasons for her appointment still absolutely stand in terms of her professional expertise and her integrity, which I don’t think has been questioned from any quarter whatsoever, and rightly so.”

Theresa May said: “I am deeply saddened by Baroness Butler-Sloss’s decision to withdraw but understand and respect her reasons. Baroness Butler-Sloss is a woman of the highest integrity and compassion and continues to have an enormous contribution to make to public life.”

A new appointment is expected in the next few days. However, there are concerns it may be difficult to find someone as experienced as Butler-Sloss,  and if there are, they could also be considered establishment figures.

 

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