A New Zealand judge, Dame Lowell Goddard, has resigned under a cloud from the UK’s child abuse inquiry. There are suggestions that the judge wasn’t up to the task, or as they say in NZ “couldn’t do the hard yards.”
Professor Alexis Jay will now lead the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. Jay is a British social worker and academic. A visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde and the independent chair of the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland. Her devastating Rotherham report blew open the national debate on child sex abuse.
Goddard quit 24 hours after being criticised in reports for taking three months’ holiday since being appointed in April 2015 to a post that came with a £482,000 per annum salary package. In the year since the inquiry was set up no evidence has been taken, and an unprecedented project known as the Truth project, to catalogue thousands of individual testimonies of abuse, had only just begun.
“Window Dressing” and “Sidelining Survivors”
“She has been accused of sidelining survivors in the investigation. Their testimonies will have no direct legal consequences and will only be used as “ballast” to the final report, says Phil Frampton chair of the Care Leavers’ Association. “[It’s] a form of window dressing that may leave many survivors not only bound to secrecy about their testimony but also deeply distressed.” source
Goddard vowed that no individual or institution however powerful would be able to obstruct her investigations – a standard she either didn’t or couldn’t apply to herself, letting down thousands of abuse victims in the process…
Lawyers for nine men said to have been repeatedly sexually abused at school have accused Justice Lowell Goddard of treating their clients with contempt and costing them money by “walking off” from the troubled child abuse inquiry.
The men who attended Stanhope Castle approved school in Co Durham travelled to the high court in London, days before the judge from New Zealand resigned, to offer evidence as to why they should take part in the independent inquiry into child sex abuse…
Their lawyer, David Enright of Howe & Co solicitors, has written to Keith Vaz, chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, to complain about the treatment of his clients by the judge, who was on an annual pay package of £500,000. In a letter obtained by this newspaper, Enright says: “My clients were shocked that, subsequently and just days after they had made their renewed application for core participant status to Justice Goddard, she resigned with immediate effect.
“At no time, in the interim, did she consider it appropriate to determine my clients’ applications, which had been made before her and after a number of my clients had travelled to London to be present in the high court …My clients rightly consider it entirely unacceptable for a senior judge to, seemingly, simply walk off the job (or be asked to leave her job) before determining their applications for core participant status.” It is understood that Vaz, who has called on Goddard to explain her resignation to his select committee, will question the judge over her treatment of the men.
Goddard has not yet given full reasons for her resignation, but she has said that conducting such an inquiry was “not an easy task”.
It has been suggested that she was effectively pushed out over doubts over her knowledge of UK law. It was also reported that Goddard had spent more than 70 days working abroad or on holiday during her time in charge of the inquiry.
An inquiry spokesman said that the 67-year-old judge, who was appointed in April 2015, had spent 44 days in New Zealand and Australia on inquiry business and was entitled to 30 days’ annual leave…”
As a High Court Judge, Ms Goddard’s human and fair trial rights record has been sporadic and sometimes appalling. In Howse v R New Zealand  UKPC 31, the United Kingdom Privy Council leveled unprecedented and scathing criticism at Goddard, finding “It is impossible to imagine a clearer example of a trial that has gone off the rails” resulting in “an unfair trial”. The perennially-restrained Law Lords added, “We could use more robust language to describe it but, with difficulty restrain ourselves from doing so.” A November 2007 feature article on Goddard in Police News listed Goddard’s “minimum non-parole of 28 years” sentence of Howse as one of her career highlights….
Some voiced their concerns about Lowell long before she left her post, saying that Goddard was a Kiwi government “cover-up merchant”:
The Daily Mail had earlier published information that Goddard was ‘sacked’, saying she had lost confidence of senior staff and members of the inquiry panel and didn’t appear to understand British law. It would appear that Goddard’s biggest failing may have been to try to apply NZ’s way of ‘doing law’ to the more robust and mature British legal system. Evidently, a lack of preparation and inability to do the ‘hard yards’ became evident:
Dame Lowell Goddard, the New Zealand judge who resigned on Thursday as chair of the £100 million Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), did not leave her post voluntarily but was effectively fired, The Mail on Sunday has learned…[She] had already lost the confidence of senior staff and members of the inquiry panel, according to two well-placed legal sources.
After she gave a stumbling performance at a preliminary hearing on the case of former Labour politician Greville Janner, when she appeared not to understand her own legal powers, this was picked up by Mrs May’s successor as Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and her advisers…
Legal sources say there was widespread dismay among IICSA’s staff and advisers that Dame Lowell seemed unable to get to grips with the colossal amount of material the inquiry was generating, which left her ‘overwhelmed and drowning’, while handicapped by her ‘blurry’ knowledge of English law.
At the preliminary Janner hearing, she seemed to struggle with the very law under which IICSA was established, the Inquiries Act 2005, and unsure whether she could issue orders restricting media reporting. It was also noted that she appeared unfamiliar with the role of a judge during a hearing, failing to invite opposing arguments in the normal way.
‘There were a lot of bewildered barristers in court that day,’ one source said. She added: ‘This has been building up for months. It wasn’t what Dame Lowell wanted, but what the world saw in court has been evident behind the scenes for a long time. In the end, her resignation became inevitable.’ more here
Goddard has been chair of New Zealand’s Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) and sat on the UN subcommittee on the prevention of torture.
In February last year…
Ben Emmerson QC, who is a UN rapporteur on counter-terrorism and counsel to the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, praised the selection. He said: “The home secretary is extremely fortunate to have secured the services of Justice Lowell Goddard, one of the most respected and experienced judges in the Commonwealth, to act as chair of the new statutory inquiry that was announced in the House of Commons this afternoon.
“Justice Goddard has all the key qualities necessary to lead the inquiry’s work – absolute independence from the executive, a proven track record of holding state and non-state institutions to account and the forensic skills necessary to digest and analyse vast quantities of evidence. source
Also see: Ben Emmerson QC: The human rights lawyer who was expected to lead child abuse inquiry is accused of ‘bullying’ and ‘intimidation’ of child sex abuse inquiry panel member and abuse victim Sharon Evans