Victims of ‘paedophile network at Westminster’ want inquiry head to address concerns
By Mark Conrad, Tim Wood and David Hencke | 24 September 2014
“I would like to see a full and transparent statement from Fiona Woolf as to her links mentioned in the media” – Survivor of child sex abuse
Victims of child sex abuse who allege a paedophile network at Westminster are calling on Fiona Woolf to declare her links with Lord Brittan.
Woolf was appointed by Theresa May, home secretary, to chair the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse, after Baroness Butler-Sloss was forced to step down.
But survivors of abuse are disturbed by links between Woolf, Lord Mayor of London, and Leon (now Lord) Brittan, who is at the centre of a storm over what happened to a dossier on VIP paedophiles that was handed to the Home Office in 1984 when he was home secretary. They want her to make a frank declaration of her links.
Exaro revealed just over a week ago that Woolf was preparing to make a statement to reject “robustly” claims that her links with Lord Brittan and his wife, Diana, make her position as head of the inquiry untenable.
Whitehall sources later told Exaro that Woolf was even planning to hold a press conference to answer her critics.
But the inquiry has been thrown into disarray after a source close to Woolf told Exaro last Thursday that there would be no statement and no press conference. The issue would instead be mentioned as part of the inquiry process, the source said.
The next day, however, Woolf was challenged about whether she had declared her friendship with the Brittans to the Home Office, and she said: “I shall be making a statement.” She was taking part in an abseiling event at Lloyd’s of London, having returned from a trip in her role as Lord Mayor to Africa the day before.
A spokesman for Woolf, who is due to return to the UK today from another overseas trip, was unable to say when she would be making a statement or holding a press conference to address the concerns over her links to the Brittans.
Two witnesses who gave accounts to Exaro of how MPs and other VIPs sexually abused them and other children at a series of parties at Dolphin Square, a residential block close to Parliament, expressed deep unease about Woolf’s appointment.
One said: “I would like to see a full and transparent statement from Fiona Woolf as to her links, and why survivors should have confidence in her ability to chair this inquiry.”
He also wanted a “full and transparent statement” from May on “the reasoning behind the appointment and what background checks were carried out beforehand.”
Woolf and May should meet a group of survivors of child sex abuse before issuing the statements, he said.
“Do I want her [Woolf] to step down? I really do not know, and I do not have enough information because they have been silent.”
Another witness who has told Exaro of how he was abused by a paedophile network at Westminster said: “Initially, I supported the appointment of Fiona Woolf. Despite having a few reservations, I put these aside. I was keen to see the inquiry get underway.”
But he continued: “To appoint someone who has such close links to Leon Brittan is at best crass stupidity, or it is a sign that the government has no intention of allowing a truly independent inquiry.”
Opinion about Woolf’s appointment has been divided among the initial cross-party group of seven MPs who called for the inquiry.
Zac Goldsmith told Exaro: “I have confidence in the home secretary, and have seen first-hand that she is completely committed to making this inquiry work. The final composition of the inquiry panel will also make that clear.
“But I understand why people are suspicious of the process, not least because survivors have been ignored for so long, and because there have indeed been establishment cover-ups.
“The new chairwoman seems right for the job. From what I have seen, I do not believe that her links to people such as Leon Brittan are meaningful or compromising. But, for the sake of making this process work, I think that it is essential she makes that case robustly herself.”
Tom Watson believes that delaying the inquiry poses greater risks than keeping Woolf as its chairwoman.
But Simon Danczuk described Woolf’s position as “untenable” after initially expressing tentative support for her appointment.
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