Opening the long-awaited inquiry into child sexual abuse, Judge Lowell Goddard pledges that “no matter how powerful”, no-one will be allowed to obstruct inquiries.
Admitting that the task ahead was “daunting”, Justice Goddard pledged that the inquiry panel would travel “from the corridors of Westminster to the poorest children’s homes in the country” to investigate historic abuse.
Promising to bring forward recommendations for future best practise, Justice Goddard said the inquiry would report “as soon as possible”, but acknowledged that its broad scope meant the inquiry would take time.
The inquiry will also investigate local authorities, the police, the crown prosecution service, the NHS, the media and the armed forces, and Justice Goddard vowed that “no-one, no matter how powerful, will be allowed to obstruct our inquiries into institutional failings” adding that “no-one will have immunity from scrutiny by virtue of their position.”
As Justice Goddard was giving her statement, Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC confirmed that individuals providing certain evidence to the inquiry can do so without fear of prosecution.
Immunity from prosecution under the official secrets act will be offered to current or former public servants who are prepared to testify about allegations of child sex abuse to the independent public inquiry, his office said.
It would also protect individuals who are in possession of evidence relating to the inquiry which they may be holding unlawfully, but will not protect anyone who admits taking part in child sexual abuse.
It has previously been suggested that one child in 20 in England and Wales has been sexually abused. Justice Goddard warned that “the true figures may be worse than the official figures estimate” as many crimes had gone unrecorded or ignored.