The head of an inquiry looking into sexual abuse by the former bishop of Lewes Peter Ball has made a shock resignation.
New Zealand judge Dame Lowell Goddard announced her immediate departure as chairwoman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, in a brief letter to home secretary Amber Rudd yesterday evening (Thursday).
She later released a statement saying the inquiry is suffering from a “legacy of failure” .
Goddard was the third chairwoman of the public inquiry, which is investigating safeguarding failures in the Diocese of Chichester as well as abuse by the disgraced former bishop Peter Ball.
Ball, now 84, was jailed last year for sex offences against 18 vulnerable young men between 1977 and 1992.
The inquiry is also investigating abuse at a number of other British institutions including the UK's Roman Catholic Church and several local authorities such as Rochdale Borough Council..
Following the resignation, Ms Rudd - who is also MP for Hastings - said the public inquiry remains a priority for the Government and would continue 'without delay'.
In a public letter to Dame Goddard, the home secretary said: "I know how personally committed you have been to ensuring that the Inquiry is a success for those at its heart; the survivors and the victims.
"You have consistently demonstrated your desire to leave no stone unturned in order that the voices of those victims might be heard. It is a testament to your commitment that you have taken the difficult decision to stand down now, having set the Inquiry firmly on course, and allow someone else to lead it through to the end. With regret, I agree that this is the right decision.
"I know you will want to be reassured that work continues without delay, and most importantly that victims and survivors know that the Government's commitment to this Inquiry is undiminished.
"I want to be absolutely clear. The success of this Inquiry remains an absolute priority for this Government. I am determined to keep the process on track and am taking immediate steps to appoint a new Chair as soon as possible. I will, of course, consult with victims and survivors groups before making a public announcement about the appointment."
Dame Goddard's resignation has caused concern amongst abuse survivors groups, who fear the process of appointing a new chairperson for the inquiry will cause disruption.
Lawyer David Greenwood, who is representing abuse survivors in the inquiry, said: "Lowell Goddard’s resignation is a shame. I felt that she was committed and determined to carry out her work thoroughly and she took a real interest in listening to all parties. Nevertheless we must remember that the inquiry is bigger than just one person. Staff at the inquiry have been gathering evidence carefully. The inquiry processes are good, the staff on the inquiry have selected the case studies carefully and I have been impressed with how they are consulting interested parties and requesting information.
"I still have real confidence that the Inquiry’s procedures are sound and that any recommendations will be based on rigorously tested evidence so when it eventually makes recommendations the Government will have confidence in implementing them.
"Survivors of child sexual abuse deserve to have the issues considered thoroughly and the inquiry is undoubtedly doing this in my view. The job has to be done well. The inquiry is and will continue to uncover bad practice and make recommendations for system change."
Don't miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you'll be amongst the first to know what's going on.
1) Make our website your homepage
2) Like our Facebook page
3) Follow us on Twitter
4) Register with us by clicking on 'sign in' (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don't miss out!
Always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.