The shock resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard as chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) last week, offered in a perfunctory two-line letter without explanation, followed by a statement that likewise gave little away, initially brought howls of outrage against the New Zealand-based lawyer, claiming victims would see it as a betrayal; but this was soon followed by hints that she had actually been sacked.

My guess is that she was indeed pushed, because her incompetence after 18 months in the job was becoming an unsustainable public embarrassment. She had shown herself to be confused by “local law” i.e. English law, and even fell down on the basic role of a judge during a hearing, failing to invite opposing arguments in the normal way. But there is also reason to believe she was set up to fail. So, was this an Establishment plot, as was immediately alleged by the “survivor” lobby in line with their long-standing devotion to conspiracy theory?

Not exactly. What I have in mind is a conspiracy of just one person, and if you think that is a contradiction in terms you are technically correct, although I was once the sole convicted conspirator in a case of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, so do not underestimate life’s capacity for turning up impossible things!

As for the prime and only suspect in this “plot”, or Machiavellian manoeuvring, we do not need to look far: Theresa May, now Prime Minister, was the Home Secretary responsible for installing Goddard, after the first two incumbents in the job, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Dame Fionna Woolf had both fallen victim to the victim lobby. Both had been seen as Establishment stooges who would guarantee a cover-up of “Westminster VIP paedophilia”, then the obsession of the moment, as celebrity paedos had been immediately post-Savile.

So why would Theresa May want to set up Goddard to fail? Same reason she has given the Three Brexiteers jobs in her government. The referendum vote meant that May, a Remain supporter, has had Brexit foisted on her government. Very well then, let those who got the country into this mess be the ones given the impossible task – as she quite likely sees it – of making it work. When they fail, they will be the ones seen to have failed rather than the Prime Minister. Smart!

The Home Secretary, as she then was, also had a pretty shrewd idea the IICSA was in deep trouble too. As with the referendum result, which she could not defy because it had majority support, she could not simply drop the IICSA either: the powerful victim lobby would have been baying for her blood and would have swept her from office before you could say “lying compo seekers” or “attention-seeking fantasists”. Instead, in a move of stunning cunning, she gave the “survivors” exactly what they wanted, in the full knowledge that far from surviving, they would soon be shipwrecked again.

There is a wealth of evidence for this. Lauded for her careful attention to detail, Theresa May would most assuredly have done due diligence on Goddard. She would have known the New Zealander was not all she was cracked up to be. Superficially she seemed well qualified. You don’t get to be a QC for nothing, she had a long record of supposedly distinguished service on top public bodies, and as a judge her nickname in her home country was God, which suggests a certain level of esteem.

What May would also have known, though, is that Goddard’s high-flying reputation was “earned” not for genuine public service but the exact opposite. As Heretic TOC pointed out when she was given the IICSA gig, a survey of New Zealand judges gave her the lowest possible rating. She was ranked 63rd out of 63! Legal commentator Vince Siemer noted that many lawyers were “extremely critical” of Goddard’s “opportunistic public stances, liberties with the truth and contrarian judgments”. On his website Kiwis First, he said she was widely seen by lawyers as a political puppet – the sort of person who would do the Establishment’s bidding in order to advance her career.

But as Siemer hints, that is precisely what May might have found attractive. She would have understood that Goddard, rather than doing the right thing – which might mean opposing the survivor lobby’s injudicious “always believe the victim” dogma and their demands for an unfeasibly huge, unfocused inquiry – could be relied upon to just go with the flow, even if that inevitably meant eventual disaster. But that wouldn’t matter because by then May would probably have moved on to some other job, such as, oh, I don’t know, Prime Minister or whatever!

Goddard even had “form” with her excuses. In her departure statement, she referred to how hard it had been for her to leave her family behind, as if she had failed to realise, when offered the job, that Britain and New Zealand are on opposite sides of the planet. This was reminiscent of the over-privileged whinging she used in order to advance her earlier career, for Siemer tells us “She was appointed to the Independent Police Conduct Authority after she complained sitting on long cases in the High Court was too stressful on her back.” He continues, “Her days on the IPCA were mired in secrecy, political manoeuvring and tardy rulings.  She routinely sided with Crown immunity, suppression of information and against human rights.”

And, most pertinently, he asked:

So what did the Home Secretary mean when she assured MPs … that Goddard’s Inquiry will not be thwarted by the Official Secrets Act in an investigation which will delve into governmental department files in circumstances where there appears to be complicity by officials in the scandal?  A hint might lie in comments of the ‘fixer’ Home Secretary May has appointed.  “The inquiry will be long, challenging and complex,” forewarned Goddard J.

Experience tells us you can take Goddard J’s assessment to the bank.  Hopefully the British prefer an exhaustive and complex inquiry to an accurate and transparent outcome.

Exhaustive and complex it is certainly set up to be. The sheer immensity of the scale has necessitated the employment of 155 inquiry staff in dedicated offices around the country, dozens of lawyers have been expensively engaged, the projected cost has ballooned to £100 million, and – get this – hundreds of new allegations are arriving each month. The most recent report I have seen puts the figure even higher: the current rate of new allegations being forwarded to the inquiry team, according to the Mail on Sunday, is running at more than 100 a day.

It now looks entirely possible that the volume of allegations could outpace even this huge inquiry’s capacity to deal with them, so the endpoint, originally targeted at 2020, could keep getting further and further into the future. So instead of just one more successor, Goddard could be followed by a whole chain of them, linking from century to century like the kings and queens of England – an absurdity one might think would be terminated by the inevitable death of the victims, and hence their inability to give testimony or be cross-examined. But you never know these days: Jimmy Savile, Lord Janner and others have been pursued beyond the grave, so don’t underestimate the ingenuity of the victims’ descendents. It could all end up like Jarndyce and Jarndyce!

Actually, forget the cross-examination. In addition to the public hearings, the inquiry has set up a “Truth Project”, enabling anyone claiming to be “victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences with the Inquiry. Their accounts will not be tested, challenged, or contradicted.” In true Orwellian style, the inquiry will thus facilitate fantasy but call it truth!

The inquiry is supposed to be investigating a range of institutions, including local authorities, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Immigration Service, the BBC, the armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, churches, mosques and other religious organisations, charities and voluntary organisations, regulators and other public and private institutions. The inquiry’s website tells us “It will also examine allegations of child sexual abuse involving well known people, including people in the media, politics, and other aspects of public life.” It will consider historic allegations going back to 1945. Whew! Even just reading the list is exhausting, never mind investigating it.

The opening session of the IISCA, which has yet to hear any actual evidence after 18 months, involved preliminaries concerning alleged abuse within the Anglican Church. Those present heard that the Archbishops’ Council alone had handed over 7,000 “items of disclosure”. According to one press report, this would be “a mere drop in the ocean of paperwork”. Ben Emmerson QC, the Counsel to the Inquiry, warned that “There are 100,000 items in the archive, which mostly comprises individual children’s files, and some 26,000 boxes of material held in locations around the country.”

This is utter madness. What on earth is supposed to be the point? It has nothing to do with justice. The inquiry is passing new allegations to the police, but that course is always open to complainants anyway. As for institutions, rather than enabling them to learn lessons from past mistakes, probing ever deeper into their history will only reveal what is abundantly known already: the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. As Luke Gittos wrote in Spiked, the IICSA seems to be just an extremely expensive form of therapy for disturbed people – disturbed for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily past sexual abuse – who want someone to talk to and make them feel important.

That might be a valuable exercise were it not for its huge cost, not only in terms of its massive commandeering of resources but also because it is even more grievously expensive in another way. The inquiry’s work, like the black farce recently seen in the disastrous police investigations of alleged VIP paedophilia, is likely to come at the expense of innocent people. It is bad enough when the reputations of deceased individuals such as former Prime Minister Edward Heath and former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, are baselessly trashed; this dangerously undermines confidence in public life as well as causing needless distress to families and friends. And it is far worse when it wrecks the lives and careers of the living, such as the unfortunate former MP Harvey Proctor, who has called for the IICSA to be dismantled, saying the inquiry was “in thrall to every fantasist alive”.

Even the mainstream media are now beginning to take the point. As David Rose, writing in the Mail on Sunday, put it:

It is a truth that if publicity is given to allegations that a famous person once committed acts of sexual abuse, many others will pile in with similar claims. Some may be genuine, but the multi-million-pound industry run by lawyers seeking damages for abuse ‘survivors’ has established a strong financial motive for those prepared to lie. And where police, politicians, and, yes, public inquiries have made clear that their bias is towards ‘believing the victims’, there is little risk of such perjury being exposed.

Your Honour, I rest my case.

 

NOT JUST YOUR AVERAGE SURVEY

The plethora of investigations into “child sexual abuse” (CSA) is matched by a torrent of surveys on the subject. Here in the UK most of them seem to be published by the NSPCC in its annual report, which I swear comes out monthly.

But the latest survey, by the respected Office for National Statistics (ONS), is far more authoritative and will be worth studying carefully. So for that reason I will make no comment on the figures at present but simply say that they are being touted as “the first official estimates of their kind in the world”. They are based on asking adults to recall sexual encounters experienced during their childhood.

The ONS survey asked about all kinds of abuse, not just sexual. That is good, and there is no problem, in theory at least, with the definition of “abuse” that is used in relation to sexual encounters. The report quite properly defines abuse in terms of harm. It quotes approvingly a definition taken from a document called Working Together to Safeguard Children, which  defines abuse as: “A form of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm.” Turning specifically to sexual abuse, the survey includes “sexual assault by an adult”, which is further specified as “sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts)” and also “other sexual assault – this includes indecent exposure and unwanted touching/kissing of a sexual nature” [My emphasis].

Here is the problem: it seems no questions were asked about wanted or acceptable sexual contacts. Unless that possibility is spelled out, what is the respondent supposed to report? My guess is that most would feel they were meant to report any sexual contact with an adult, even if it was desired, based on the fact that below the age of consent their willing participation does not amount to legally valid consent. Thus I suspect that the figures would only be truly meaningful if accompanied by the respondent’s own personal rating of the contact, perhaps on a scale ranging from “Very negative” to “Very positive”.