The woman who revealed at least 1,400 children in Rotherham had been sexually exploited has been appointed as the new chair of a national inquiry into child abuse.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced Professor Alexis Jay will become the fourth person to lead the probe after the resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard last week.
Ms Rudd said: “The independent inquiry has a vital role to play in exposing the failure of public bodies and other major organisations to prevent systematic child sexual abuse.
“I’m delighted Professor Alexis Jay has agreed to chair the inquiry. She has a strong track record in uncovering the truth and I have no doubt she will run this independent inquiry with vigour, compassion and courage.
“Let there be no doubt; our commitment to this inquiry is undiminished.
“We owe it to victims and survivors to confront the appalling reality of how children were let down by the very people who were charged to protect them and to learn from the mistakes of the past.”
Prof Jay will take over as head of the inquiry having already served as a member of a four-person panel to assist the chair.
She said: “I am committed to ensuring this Inquiry does everything it has set out to do and does so with pace, with confidence and with clarity.
“Be in no doubt - the Inquiry is open for business and people are busier than ever working hard to increase momentum.
“The panel and I are determined to make progress on all parts of the Inquiry’s work, including speaking to victims and survivors.
“I am determined to overcome the challenges along the way.
“I will lead the largest public inquiry of its kind and together with my fellow panel members we will fearlessly examine institutional failures, past and present and make recommendations so that the children of England and Wales are better protected now and in the future.”
Prof Jay, who worked for more than 30 years in local government, came to prominence in 2014 when her report revealing that hundreds of children were raped, trafficked and abused in Rotherham sparked national outrage.
Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, said: “Professor Jay is clearly a suitable candidate with vast experience in these matters, is already a panel member, and has been commended for her inquiry in Rotherham.
“I am sure the Home Secretary will have noted that Professor Jay will be the first chair of the inquiry without legal or judicial qualifications.
“I hope it will be fourth time lucky, as we must not let the victims and survivors down.”
He added: “I understand perfectly the Home Secretary’s desire to proceed with the appointment of the new chair in a speedy manner. However, the public need to be given a full explanation as to why Justice Lowell Goddard resigned.”
Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “Alexis Jay has a great track record of investigating abuse and is determined to get to the truth.
“She will command huge respect and this is a fantastic appointment for the inquiry. I know that many survivors will welcome this and will be pleased that the Home Secretary has acted quickly to ensure momentum is not lost.”
The inquiry, which has been beset by problems since it was launched in 2014 amid claims of an establishment cover-up of historical paedophile allegations, was rocked by Dame Lowell’s departure last week.
The New Zealand high court judge took on the role after Baroness Butler-Sloss and Dame Fiona Woolf both stood down.
It emerged that Dame Lowell, who was appointed in April 2015, had spent more than 70 days working abroad or on holiday during her time in charge.
Last week an inquiry spokesman said the 67-year-old had spent 44 days in New Zealand and Australia on inquiry business and was entitled to 30 days of annual leave.
Dame Lowell did not give full reasons for leaving but said accepting the job had been “an incredibly difficult step to take, as it meant relinquishing my career in New Zealand and leaving behind my beloved family”.
The wide-ranging inquiry was given a budget of £17.9 million for 2015/16 and has been described as the most ambitious public inquiry ever established in England and Wales.
It is estimated to take five years but there have been suggestions it could take as long as a decade.