Wednesday, 4 February 2015

I expect Justice Lowell Goddard to have to resign as Chair of the Child Abuse Inquiry

Yesterday, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced that the Chair-designate of the Child Abuse Inquiry is to be a New Zealand High Court Judge, Lowell Patricia Goddard.

Mrs. May's statement to the House of Commons made no mention of any concern regarding Justice Goddard's conduct.

Following Mrs. May's seemingly impressive statement to the House of Commons, the following exchange took place between Sir Paul Beresford, a Conservative MP, and Mrs. May:

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): Mr Speaker will not be surprised to hear that my position as an ethnic minority immigrant from New Zealand adds to my support for the statement. One thing that I have noticed in New Zealand is that it suffers from “tall poppy syndrome”. That came through at the last election in New Zealand, when very unpleasant, anonymous accusations were made. I suspect that someone with the standing and career of Justice Goddard will have been the subject of such false and probably anonymous accusations. If my right hon. Friend is aware of any such accusations, can she kill them dead now?

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for his support for the appointment of a New Zealand judge. It became apparent during the due diligence process that there is a blog with an accusation against Justice Lowell Goddard relating to a potential cover-up. I have spoken to her and to New Zealand’s Attorney-General about it, and I have been assured that there is absolutely no truth to the allegation. That information was shared with a number of survivors and they were comfortable with the explanation that was given. I am clear not only that Justice Goddard has the necessary experience in this area, but, crucially, that her track record shows—for example, in the work that she did to look at police conduct in these matters—that she is willing to go where the evidence takes her, without fear or favour.
My initial Internet researches reveal two areas of potential concern about the past conduct of Justice Goddard.

One relates to an allegation that Justice Goddard covered-up seemingly criminal misconduct by a fellow judge, Michael Lance. It is that allegation which I take the Home Secretary to refer to in her answer to Sir Paul Beresford's question.

The second issue relates to a judicial decision by Justice Goddard which confirmed that the identity of a convicted paedophile should remain secret.

With regard to the allegation that Justice Goddard covered-up seemingly criminal misconduct by a fellow judge it seems to me that a denial by Justice Goddard is a wholly insufficient technique of "due diligence" by Mrs. May.

Something much more rigorous is required including a full statement of the (alleged) facts so that UK survivors and the UK Public may take an informed view on whether there is sufficient basis to trust Justice Goddard to chair the UK Child Abuse Inquiry.

There is an opportunity next week for the Home Affairs Select Committee to inquire diligently into the background to the allegations regarding Justice Goddard's conduct in relation to Michael Lance.

Without a full and credible explanation it seems to me that Justice Goddard has no credibility to act as Chair to an inquiry which will explore potential criminal misconduct by members of the UK Legal Establishment.

The second issue will, I suspect, prove fatal to Justice Goddard's role as Chair of the Inquiry.

The allegation is that Justice Goddard, in her judicial capacity, confirmed a ruling that the identity of a convicted paedophile be kept secret.

It seems to me that the inevitable effect of the alleged ruling is that, presumably somewhere in New Zealand, a convicted paeophile is free to function in society as if he (I assume it is a male) were an honest member of society.

In other words it seems to me that by concealing the identity of a convicted paedophile Judge Goddard's ruling is potentially putting at risk young people. 

If, as is alleged, Justice Goddard has, in effect, covered-up for one convicted paedophile then I can see no rational basis for the UK Public having faith in Justice Goddard as Chair of the Child Abuse Inquiry.

I expect Justice Goddard to have to resign.

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