Criticism of Woolf honour ‘unfair’

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Published: Wednesday 31st December 2014 by The News Editor

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Criticism of the honour awarded to the City lawyer who was forced to resign as chair of the Government’s child sexual abuse inquiry is unfair, her predecessor in the role has said.

Fiona Woolf, the then Lord Mayor of London who has been made a Dame in the New Year Honours list, was the second senior legal figure to quit as chair over her links to the Westminster political establishment.

Her resignation, just months after retired judge Baroness Butler-Sloss stepped down over similar concerns, has thrown the Government’s stalled inquiry into crisis.

Lady Butler-Sloss said criticism of the honour awarded to Dame Fiona was “very unfair” as the damehood was in recognition of her term as Lord Mayor of London.

She blamed the Home Office for failing to perform proper checks on Dame Fiona’s links to former home secretary Lord Brittan.

Lady Butler-Sloss, who stood down from her role on the troubled inquiry in July because her brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s, was speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme in her role as guest editor.

Defending the decision to award the honour, she said: “She was Lord Mayor of London, she is only the second woman ever to be Lord Mayor of London.

“The very least that the honours system could do would be to honour a woman who has got such a distinguished post.

“Unfortunately she had, like myself, a brief period where she had agreed – for goodness sake, she had agreed to do a very disagreeable job to become chairman.

“And because she happened to know Leon Brittan, she was unacceptable to the survivors and therefore she stood down.”

She criticised officials for failing to spot the potential difficulties the contacts with Lord Brittan could cause.

“I don’t know what happened. There was discussion between her and, presumably, the Home Office.

“I think they made a mistake in not doing sufficient due diligence, actually.

“But the fact is she is a very distinguished woman, she did a wonderful year’s job as Lord Mayor and of course she gets an honour for it, that’s why she gets it.

“To put if off to another time would be a reflection on the City of London.”

Edinburgh-born Woolf, a City of London lawyer already honoured with a CBE in 2001, was made a Dame for services to the legal profession, diversity and the City of London in the New Year Honours.

But Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale and a leading figure campaigning against child abuse cover-ups, was scathing about the honour.

He said: “Fiona Woolf misled the Home Secretary over her links with Leon Brittan, caused unnecessary distress to victims of child abuse and caused a lengthy and avoidable delay to a very serious inquiry that urgently needs to get started.

“It seems inappropriate that she’s now being invited to Buckingham Palace to pick up one of the highest honours.

“I can think of many more worthy recipients of this honour, but once again it looks like the Establishment is looking after their own.”

Dame Fiona’s links to Lord Brittan prompted the calls for her resignation.

Lord Brittan is likely to be called to give evidence to the inquiry over a dossier he received from MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1983, documenting the alleged involvement of VIP figures in a child sex ring.

Published: Wednesday 31st December 2014 by The News Editor

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