UK child sex abuse stuns judge

2015-07-09 17:07
Justice Lowell Goddard opened a public inquiry into decades of abuse vowing that "no one, no matter how apparently powerful, will be allowed to obstruct our inquiries." (Home Office/PA via AP)

Justice Lowell Goddard opened a public inquiry into decades of abuse vowing that "no one, no matter how apparently powerful, will be allowed to obstruct our inquiries." (Home Office/PA via AP)

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London - Britain has been stunned by revelations about child sexual abuse, a judge said on Thursday, warning that the true scale of the crime may be worse than an official estimate that one in 20 children has been a victim.

Justice Lowell Goddard opened a wide-ranging public inquiry into decades of abuse in Britain's schools, hospitals and other institutions, vowing that "no one, no matter how apparently powerful, will be allowed to obstruct our inquiries."

A dam of official silence around child abuse in Britain began to break after the 2011 death of entertainer Jimmy Savile, when dozens came forward to say he had abused them over decades. Subsequent revelations have implicated everyone from taxi drivers to entertainers, clergy and senior politicians. There have also been claims that police failed to investigate allegations of abuse for decades.

Earlier this year Goddard, a judge from New Zealand, was appointed to investigate how public agencies - including government bodies, police, hospitals, churches and the BBC - handled child-abuse allegations.

Goddard said estimates suggest one child in every 20 in the United Kingdom has been sexually abused but "the true picture may be even worse."

"The sexual abuse of children over successive generations has left permanent scars, not only on the victims, but on society," she said.

The inquiry plans to release its final report in 2020 but Goddard said there will be annual updates starting next year. Victims will be able to testify anonymously and former civil servants will be granted immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act if they disclose official wrongdoing.

While the inquiry doesn't have the power to find people guilty of crimes, Goddard said it will not hesitate to name abusers.

"No one will be immune from scrutiny by virtue of their position," she said.

Read more on:    lowell goddard  |  uk  |  child abuse

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