Dame Lowell Goddard refuses to appear before UK MPs

  • 09/11/2016
The NZ high court judge said she does not need to return to the UK to give evidence (Reuters)
The NZ high court judge said she does not need to return to the UK to give evidence (Reuters)

Dame Lowell Goddard, the former head of the United Kingdom's inquiry into child sexual abuse, has been accused of "disgraceful" conduct after refusing to appear before a committee of MPs.

The New Zealand high court judge has said she does not need to return to the UK to give evidence in person as there are no unanswered questions relating to her time at the head of the inquiry.

Her comments were described as "astonishing" by Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee which had called Dame Lowell to appear before them.

Ms Cooper said they would see what they could do to compel her to give evidence if she ever set foot again in the UK.

Dame Lowell returned to New Zealand following her resignation in August as chair of the troubled inquiry after just 18 months in the post.

In a letter to Ms Cooper, Dame Lowell said she had not been required to remain in England once she had stepped down.

The judge - who provided an eight-page written submission last week - said she had been advised by senior counsel in New Zealand that she should not give oral evidence.

As a judge she had a duty to maintain judicial independence, which was why she had written detailed report so the inquiry's independence could not be damaged.

Dame Lowell also hit out at that the failure of the UK government to defend her from "defamatory" media attacks, following reports she made racially derogatory comments and was difficult to work with.

"I am disappointed that there has been no government defence of me in England, despite the fact that information refuting some of the more serious allegations has been held by the Home Office and your committee since the time of my initial recruitment."

Ms Cooper said the refusal by Dame Lowell - who received almost STG500,000 ($NZ840,500)-a-year in pay and allowances while she was the inquiry chair - to give evidence in person about her resignation was "disgraceful".

"Dame Goddard has been paid significant amounts of public money to do an extremely important job which she suddenly resigned from, leaving a series of questions about what has been happening over the last 18 months and why the inquiry got into difficulties," she said.

"Yet rather than give oral evidence to answer these questions she is relying on the fact that she is out of the UK to avoid the requirement to give evidence to parliament."