The British government has appointed the Lord Mayor of
London, Fiona Woolf, to head an inquiry that plans to examine
claims of historical child sex abuse and whether powerful
political figures tried to cover it up.
It will also examine allegations that police and other
authorities did not properly investigate prominent offenders
such as BBC presenter Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith, the
former Member of Parliament (MP) for Rochdale in northwest
England, both of whom are now dead.
"In recent years, we have seen appalling cases of organised
and persistent child sex abuse which have exposed serious
failings by public bodies and important institutions," said
Home Secretary Theresa May in a statement announcing the
"These failings have sent shockwaves through the country and
shaken public confidence in the pillars of society in which
we should have total trust."
Woolf, 66, a lawyer and energy market expert, has advised
several governments and the World Bank on privatisation and
As Lord Mayor of London, she acts as an ambassador for the
city's financial district, a job apart from that of London
Mayor Boris Johnson.
She will replace retired judge Baroness Elizabeth
Butler-Sloss, who stood down from the position in July.
Critics said she was unsuitable because she is the sister of
the late Michael Havers, the government's Attorney-General --
chief legal adviser -- in the 1980s when some of the abuse
cases are alleged to have taken place.
Woolf said she was honoured to have been appointed.
"Ensuring lessons are learned from the mistakes which have
been made in the past and resulted in children being
subjected to the most horrific crimes is a vital and solemn
undertaking," she said in a statement.
The precise terms of reference for the inquiry and membership
of its panel are yet to be finalised.