Butler-Sloss resigns from leading child abuse inquiry

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Baroness Butler-Sloss has resigned from her role as head of a UK government inquiry into child sex abuse amidst mounting pressure from those who criticised her appointment.

The Times reported on Saturday that Butler-Sloss hid allegations about a Church of England bishop from a 2011 review into paedophile priests because she "cared about the Church" and "the press would love a bishop".

It added fuel to the fire for those who were already questioning her impartiality, given that Butler-Sloss' brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s and was allegedly involved in the cover up of abuse allegations levelled at a diplomat during that time.

In a statement released today, Butler-Sloss said: "It has become apparent....that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry. It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been attorney general would cause difficulties."

She added: "This is a victim-orientated inquiry and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns and give appropriate advice to government. Nor should media attention be allowed to be diverted from the extremely important issues at stake, namely whether enough has been done to protect children from sexual abuse and hold to account those who commit these appalling crimes.

"Having listened to the concerns of victim and survivor groups and the criticisms of MPs and the media, I have come to the conclusion that I should not chair this inquiry and have so informed the home secretary," the statement finishes, before wishing the inquiry "success in its important work".

Home-Secretary Theresa May, who has so far offered Butler-Sloss her full support, said she was "deeply saddened" by the withdrawal, adding that the former judge "is a woman of the highest integrity and compassion".

May also added, however, that "the work of this inquiry is more important than any individual" and assured that a new Chair will be appointed as soon as possible to lead the inquiry forward.

Though the government has come under increasing pressure to enforce Butler-Sloss' resignation, the Prime Minister's spokesman today insisted that the decision to step down was "entirely" her own, and "the government's view has not changed: that she would have done a first-class job as chair of the panel".

According to the BBC, Chairman of the Commons home affair select committee, Keith Vaz, has said today's announcement is the "right" decision.

"As I pointed out to Mr Sedwill [Home Office permanent secretary] the public would be concerned that a member of parliament, no matter how distinguished, had been appointed to head this important panel.

"The whole inquiry process is becoming shambolic: missing files, ministers refusing to read reports and now the chair resigning before the inquiry is has even commenced."