Fiona Woolf quits as head of national inquiry into historic child sex abuse cases

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The chairwoman of a national inquiry into historic child sex abuse has resigned.

Fiona Woolf stepped down after doubts were raised about her suitability to head the inquiry because of her social links to former Lord Brittan, whose actions while he was home secretary are expected to come under scrutiny in the investigation

Mrs Woolf, who is Lord Mayor of London, made the choice to resign following repeated calls for her resignation from victims’ representatives, who said the inquiry in child abuse would be a ‘dead duck in the water’ if she were to remain in charge.

She said: “I did not think it was going to be possible for me to chair it without everybody’s support.”

Mrs Woolf was only named as chair after original choice Lady Butler-Sloss stepped down because her brother was attorney general at the time some of the alleged abuse occurred.

She revealed she had been to five dinner parties with Lord and Lady Brittan and had also met the peer’s wife for coffee.

Mrs Woolf had previously said the inquiry will examine the theft of key files from a Rotherham Council worker’s office.

She told the Home Affairs Select Committee that she ‘absolutely’ wanted more information about what happened to the files and the details they contained.

She said the inquiry may even visit Rotherham as part of its investigations - and could ask for additional powers to compel witnesses to give evidence.

It comes after the select committee called for an urgent investigation into the theft of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation files. Documents were taken from the locked office of a Rotherham Council worker in 2002 as the woman worked on a Home Office funded project to investigate ways of stopping grooming gangs.

Professor Alexis Jay, who published the Rotherham abuse report, has previously agreed to be an expert adviser to the panel.

The new inquiry will look at abuse issues dating from 1970 to the present day and consider whether public bodies - and other, non-state, institutions - have done enough to protect children from sexual abuse.