The former Goddard inquiry: Is it time for victims to trust the system again?
The Goddard inquiry into institutional child abuse, as we must get used to not calling it any more, has been beset by problems since it first started. It was a commendably ambitious plan to get to the bottom of what has been done to children in different kinds of institutions – including Churches. But it struggled to find direction and leadership after two eminently well-qualified chairs, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf, resigned in succession because of allegations of conflicts of interest levelled at them by victims and survivors groups.
Lowell Goddard’s departure came days after an update on progress which revealed a mixed picture. In spite of Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s bullish declaration that the work would go on under a new chair, Goddard’s deeply disappointing decision has given Rudd, new to her job, a huge challenge. She may, under her breath, be quietly cursing her predecessor, Theresa May, whose decision it was to set up the inquiry in the first place.
Now that Goddard has laid the groundwork, though, the picture for victims and survivors of child abuse ought to look very different. They were understandably and rightly suspicious of the ‘establishment’. The big institutions, including government, were the ones responsible for the harm that was done to them. They had no reason on earth to trust them. But the time has surely come for that to change, in the interests of truth and justice…
The idea that unpalatable findings could be covered up by a Machiavellian chair looks increasingly unlikely. There are simply too many people in the know, and there has been too much of a culture change, in the Churches as much as anywhere else: no one, now, could ever take an allegation of child abuse with anything other than the utmost seriousness.