It was revealed yesterday by the Goddard Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that it has only just got round to writing letters to the Cabinet Secretary, police, NHS, religious leaders and local government asking them not to destroy documents which could hinder their investigations.
The fine words from Lowell Goddard requesting this and lists of categories which must not be destroyed can be seen here. No one can complain about the scope of the letters. It is just that they should have been written months ago.
The home secretary,Theresa May made it clear months ago when questioned by MPs that she expected this to be done. But obviously those in charge preferred to take a more leisurely approach and spent the time trying to recruit at least 20 more lawyers instead.
Any sensible person would have made sure that the letters went out immediately the first panel was set up. It should have been the first act of the secretariat to safeguard documents to prevent them going into shredders to save Whitehall and town hall storage costs. And I am told that at least two members of the old panel requested this be done at early meetings.
In this inquiry this is particularly important. Investigations by Exaro have already discovered that vital documents in inquiries go missing. And the inquiry by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam failed to discover key documents including the dossier sent by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP on paedophiles to the late Leon Brittan, the home secretary. And that raised questions about the retention of documents as long ago as November last year.
So it is particularly galling to see how long it has taken the inquiry to act. There is a lot of stake here – VIP paedophiles will be desperate not to be found out and want to cover their tracks. By taking such a long time in such a high profile inquiry they have been given every opportunity to do that by this delay.