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Goddard Inquiry: Churches and “People of Public Prominence” to be Investigated

The Anglican and Catholic churches as well as "people of public prominence" are to be investigated as part of the Goddard child abuse inquiry.

It was announced today that as part of 12 individual investigations in England and Wales, councils in Lambeth, Nottinghamshire and Rochdale will be examined as well as English Benedictine congregations, and the Anglican Diocese of Chichester in West Sussex.

The independent inquiry into non-recent child sex abuse in England and Wales was launched in 2014 by Home Secretary Theresa May to look at how public bodies and other institutions such as the police, armed forces, schools and children’s homes, handled allegations of child sex abuse involving a number of public figures, including politicians.

Justice Lowell Goddard, a serving judge of the High Court of New Zealand, who is leading the inquiry and has experience of working with abuse victims, has described the task before her as “daunting.”

Justice Goddard said: "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 intelligence and security agencies.

“It will consider allegations of cover up and conspiracy and review the adequacy of law enforcement responses to these allegations."

The “unprecedented” scale of the UK’s largest-ever public inquiry means Justice Goddard will have to examine the extent to which state and non-state institutions failed in their responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation as far back in history as required. Set to cost tens of millions of pounds, the inquiry is due to complete in five years but many believe it could potentially take double that time.

Hearings that are part of a pilot phase of the Truth Project have been taking place this week to enable survivors of child abuse across the UK to give evidence in private. Although not part of a legal process, the hearings will refer any allegations of on-going sexual abuse to the police. Separate public hearings will be held at a later date where witnesses will be required to give evidence under oath.

Last week, Justice Goddard called upon survivors to get in touch with The Truth Project, saying: "If you have suffered, because any organisation within England or Wales has failed in its duty to protect you as a child from sexual abuse, we want to hear from you."

Speaking after today’s announcement that as part of phase one of its investigation, the inquiry will focus on abuse scandals in the Church of England, Catholic Church, Westminster and Rochdale, the abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “We represent many of the victims whose abuse was committed by people within the institutions and organisations to be examined in phase one.

“Victims want to give their testimony and assist the investigation to ensure that no stone is left unturned in establishing what was known, for how long, how these events were covered up and, most importantly, what reforms can be made to prevent this ever happening again.

“We have met with the Goddard Inquiry and have confidence they are committed to conducting a thorough independent investigation.”

At Slater and Gordon, our specialist abuse lawyers are currently representing more than 800 survivors of child sex abuse, many of whom have suffered abuse in institutions and by people in positions of trust. We are committed to helping the inquiry as much as we can, both in the interests of the survivors we currently represent and those whom we have represented in the past.

For free, completely confidential legal advice call us 24/7 on 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and let us know when and where to call you.

We understand the courage it takes to speak out about abuse and we give you our assurance that all communication with us will be dealt with in strict confidence.

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