Officials, lack of kit to blame for 'critical delays' in sex abuse inquiry

Judge slams bureaucrats, lousy evidence database for 'hampering' crucial investigation

Criticism ... Lowell Goddard hits out at inadequate software (Credit: Parliament TV)

Dame Lowell Goddard, the former chairwoman of the UK's high-profile inquiry into historic child sexual abuse, has blamed "bureaucratic" officials and a lack of adequate systems for "critical delays" in the investigation.

In written evidence to Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee, which was published this week, Goddard said it became evident in July that the inquiry was not able to deliver on its commitment to hold public hearings in 2016.

Goddard, a New Zealand high court judge, became the third chair to step down from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) last month. The inquiry was set up in 2014, and was officially under way last year.

"The delays in proceeding to hold any substantive public hearings have regrettably resulted from the inquiry's inability to obtain in any timely way the vital infrastructure necessary to prepare for and conduct public hearings," wrote Goddard.

"The lack of an evidence management system (EMS) fit for purpose has severely hampered the Inquiry's ability to manage the thousands (if not millions) of documents the Inquiry has been receiving, and the Solicitor to the Inquiry has consequently been unable to prepare the documentation for public hearings."

Goddard's remarks echo revelations by The Register last month regarding major delays in the procurement of an EMS. Northgate Public Services have been appointed preferred bidder but both parties agreed not to proceed to contract, with Northgate receiving £275,000 for the work it had done before.

In her evidence she said there had been a lack of skills and qualifications for many recruits, which meant they "did not fit the tasks which they were called upon to perform, as none of the secretariat or senior management team had previous experience of running an inquiry of this nature."

Goddard added: "Therefore they did not fully understand or appreciate its organisational and operational needs. Their approach has been bureaucratic and the Inquiry's progress has been impeded by a lack of adequate systems and personnel, leading to critical delays."

She said that at the date of her resignation, the EMS had at last been procured but was still not in place. She said: "I trust that it now is."

In her concluding remarks, Goddard said that despite the "boundless" nature of the inquiry and the operational difficulties, "there have been very positive achievements and I am satisfied there is now a very solid platform of work upon which to take the Inquiry forward." ®

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