POLITICS

Fiona Woolf Made Dame Despite Resigning As Child Abuse Inquiry Chair

31/12/2014 15:51 GMT | Updated 31/12/2014 15:59 GMT

The City lawyer who was forced to resign as chair of the government's child sexual abuse inquiry, has been made a Dame, prompting condemnation from a campaigning MP on the issue.

Fiona Woolf was the second senior legal figure to quit as chair over her links to the Westminster political establishment.

She resigned over links to former home secretary Lord Brittan, who is likely to be called to give evidence to the inquiry over a dossier he received from MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1983, documenting the alleged involvement of VIP figures in a child sex ring.

Her resignation, just months after retired judge Baroness Butler-Sloss stepped down over similar concerns, has thrown the government's stalled inquiry into crisis.

fiona woolf

Fiona Woolf was made a Dame despite having to resign as inquiry head over her links to the political establishment she would have had to investigate

Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale and a leading figure campaigning against child abuse cover-ups, was scathing about the honour.

He said: "Fiona Woolf misled the Home Secretary over her links with Leon Brittan, caused unnecessary distress to victims of child abuse and caused a lengthy and avoidable delay to a very serious inquiry that urgently needs to get started.

"It seems inappropriate that she's now being invited to Buckingham Palace to pick up one of the highest honours.

"I can think of many more worthy recipients of this honour, but once again it looks like the Establishment is looking after their own."

But Lady Butler-Sloss said criticism of the honour was "very unfair" as the damehood was in recognition of her term as Lord Mayor of London.

She blamed the Home Office for failing to perform proper checks on Dame Fiona's links to Lord Brittan.

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Lady Butler-Sloss, who stood down from her role on the troubled inquiry in July because her brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s, was speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme in her role as guest editor.

She said: "She was Lord Mayor of London, she is only the second woman ever to be Lord Mayor of London.

"The very least that the honours system could do would be to honour a woman who has got such a distinguished post.

"Unfortunately she had, like myself, a brief period where she had agreed - for goodness sake, she had agreed to do a very disagreeable job to become chairman.

"And because she happened to know Leon Brittan, she was unacceptable to the survivors and therefore she stood down."

She criticised officials for failing to spot the potential difficulties the contacts with Lord Brittan could cause.

"I don't know what happened. There was discussion between her and, presumably, the Home Office.

"I think they made a mistake in not doing sufficient due diligence, actually.

"But the fact is she is a very distinguished woman, she did a wonderful year's job as Lord Mayor and of course she gets an honour for it, that's why she gets it.

"To put if off to another time would be a reflection on the City of London."

Dame Fiona, a City of London lawyer already honoured with a CBE in 2001, was made a Dame for services to the legal profession, diversity and the City of London.