UK Parliament slams Kiwi judge Dame Lowell Goddard as 'disgraceful'

Dame Lowell Goddard has refused to answer questions in person about her role as chair of the UK's Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (Reuters)
Dame Lowell Goddard has refused to answer questions in person about her role as chair of the UK's Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (Reuters)

If Dame Lowell Goddard ever returns to the United Kingdom she will be forced in front of Parliament for a grilling by angry MPs. 

The Kiwi judge's refusal to answer questions in person about her role as chair of the dysfunctional child sex abuse inquiry has been described as "disgraceful" and "shameful" by Britain's Home Affairs Select Committee.

In a scathing report into the Inquiry, MPs say Dame Lowell received significant sums of public money and that her refusal to give oral evidence falls well below the standards expected of public servants. 

"It is shameful that the former chair won't give evidence about what happened under her leadership," said Yvette Cooper, the Select Committee chair. 

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse is investigating sexual abuse in institutions such churches, schools and councils in England and Wales. 

Dame Lowell chaired the inquiry for a year-and-a-half until her resignation in August 2016. In that time she received nearly $1 million from the taxpayer for salary and expenses, including $140,000 after her resignation.

Despite Dame Lowell sending two long and detailed submissions to the British Parliament about her role and reasons for her resignation, the Select Committee continues to insist that she appear either in person or via video link from New Zealand.

It does not have the power to summon people outside of the UK. 

Dame Lowell declined to respond to the report but in her last statement to the Select Committee, she said she had never declined to provide oral evidence but that to do so could compromise the independence of the Inquiry and could rehash false allegations against her.

The British press have accused the former judge of bullying and making racist remarks which Dame Lowell described as a campaign of "malicious defamatory attacks".

Her lawyers say it would unacceptable to give oral evidence while she's pursuing legal action, especially given some of the claims against Dame Lowell were made by MPs on the Select Committee. 

The Inquiry has been beset by problems and scandal since it was set up in March 2015. It is now onto its fourth chair, Alexis Jay, who is also facing criticism in the media and by Parliament about her ability to lead the Inquiry. 

Friday's report condemns the Inquiry's handling of allegations of sexual assault within its own ranks after its most senior lawyer, Ben Emmerson QC, quit amid reports of sexual misconduct, which he has categorically denied. 

The report says the Inquiry's response was "wholly inadequate" and that it did not take seriously enough its responsibilities given one of its key functions is to investigate and assess organisations' handling of sexual assault and abuses of power.

"Given that the Inquiry was set up to challenge institutions for covering up internal problems or ignoring abuses of power, it is crucial that the Inquiry shows it has a robust and transparent approach to dealing with problems of its own," Ms Cooper said.

The report highlights tensions between the Inquiry panel and MPs, with MPs accused of overstepping the Inquiry's independence and the Inquiry accused of a lack of transparency and loss of public confidence.