Baroness Butler Sloss made a dignified exit as chair of the new overarching child sexual abuse inquiry today because of a damaging conflict of interest caused by her dead brother, the former attorney general, Michael Havers.
Her decision was announced after it was publicly revealed on the Exaro website that her brother ,Lord Havers effectively skewed the terms of reference of a inquiry under the late judge William Hughes to concentrate only on staff abusing boys and not possible prominent visitors to the Kincora boys home who are alleged to have abused them.
As Zac Goldsmith MP said on the BBC’s World at One: |”These kind of things are really big and it’s inevitable that a proper, all-encompassing inquiry would find its way all the way to Kincora. It would look at who set the terms of reference. It would look at who was excluded, who was protected by the terms of reference. And that would lead to Havers himself, who was responsible for that.”
Those who study publicly available documents can see both from the terms of the inquiry and an intriguing Cabinet minute already published on this website which hoped this inquiry would end “rumour and unfounded accusations”. about sexual abuse at the home.
The judge himself made pointed remarks:.
He wrote: “The conduct of the police, or elected representatives, or clergymen, or military intelligence or any other persons who may have been in receipt of allegations, information or rumours relating to Kincora or any other home, was not under scrutiny in this inquiry.”
What was missing was finding a source who could connect the setting of the terms of reference directly to the then attorney general, Sir Michael Havers.
Both me and my ex Guardian colleague David Pallister were able to do precisely that over the weekend. A top level source whose name we agreed to protect said : “Havers briefed him, and it was Havers who gave the terms of reference to him.”
From entirely separate sources I have been aware that Theresa May has known that this could surface over the weekend and that it could cause immense problems for Baroness Butler-Sloss if she started to probe into the Kincora inquiry and the current inquiry going on in Northern ireland about historic child sexual abuse. But no action was taken.
To put in context Baroness Butler-Sloss is not to blame for this. She is literally in this case not her brother’s keeper. Nor is Theresa May who I have on good authority i\s committed to tackling this problem and was always more sympathetic to an overarching inquiry than David Cameron.
From yet another source the indecent rush to appoint someone to head the inquiry lies at the door of Downing street which shocked by the slur of child abuse stories making headlines on Sunday made a rushed decision to set up an inquiry after ignoring the views of 145 MPs.
The real lesson from this latest incompetent and botched up initiative is that people need to reflect on who they want and take into account the views of victims and child experts before rushing to fix a problem. The lesson is stay calm and sort it out properly. Otherwise it is just another episode for Yes, Prime Minister.