Lowell Goddard attacked for 'disgraceful' refusal to appear before MPs

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A senior MP has hit out at the "disgraceful" refusal of the former chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse to appear before a Commons committee.

Yvette Cooper, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said they would be considering what action they could take to force Dame Lowell Goddard to appear before them if she ever returned to the UK.

The New Zealand high court judge has now returned to her native country following her resignation as head of the child sex abuse inquiry in August after less than 18 months in the position.

In a letter to Ms Cooper - reportedly released to the New Zealand media by her husband - Dame Lowell insisted there were no "unanswered" issues relating to her time with the inquiry.

And she hit out at the Government for failing to defend her from what she said were "malicious defamatory attacks" in the British media.

Ms Cooper, who has yet to receive her letter, said Dame Lowell's response was "astonishing" given the circumstances of her resignation.

"Dame Lowell Goddard's refusal to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee about her resignation from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is disgraceful," she said.

"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.

"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.

"The committee has always believed it is vital that Dame Lowell Goddard gives oral evidence to us and we will explore what options are available to us to require her to come before the committee should she enter the UK again at any time in the future."

In her letter, Dame Lowell - who last week provided an eight-page written submission to the committee - said she had dealt with all the issues relating to her time with the inquiry.

"As a high court judge in New Zealand for many years before I resigned to take up the chair of the IICSA, I have a duty to maintain judicial independence," she wrote.

"That is why I have volunteered detailed written reports (in preference to oral communication) so that no dispute on powers or damage to IICSA's independence could arise. I am not aware of any matter which remains unanswered."

In the letter - which was subsequently published on the committee's website - Dame Lowell also referred to media reports about her conduct as head of the inquiry.

"I have been the subject of malicious defamatory attacks in some UK media. I have drawn the HASC's attention to the falsity of these and their apparent purpose," she wrote.

"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."