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Home secretary urged to appoint Lady Hale

 Theresa May, has been urged to appoint Britain’s most senior female judge to chair a full statutory inquiry into child abuse with links to the Westminster establishment.

May has conceded that the child abuse panel that has already been set up does not have satisfactory powers, and, with a decision expected soon about what form an inquiry will take, figures representing child abuse survivors are pressing for Hale, the deputy president of the supreme court, to take charge.

Anne Lawrence, a barrister who advises the survivors group Mandate Now, said she and others are backing Hale to be the new chair because she is a senior figure in the judiciary who appears to be untainted by links to figures who might come under scrutiny during the inquiry.

“We’re talking about someone who has looked at power and has changed law, in her supreme court role, and has consistently been courageous in her judgments,” Lawrence said.

May originally announced in the summer that the child abuse inquiry would take the form of a panel, based on the body that investigated the Hillsborough disaster, rather than a full statutory inquiry because she believed that giving the inquiry statutory powers would lead to lawyers unduly prolonging its proceedings.

But the first two women chosen by May to chair the panel – Lady Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf – resigned, and demands for the inquiry to have stronger powers have intensified.

Hale has been mentioned previously in connection with the vacant position – along with the senior barrister Michael Mansfield QC and appeals court judge Lady Justice Hallett – but has now been backed by those who have been consulted by May.

At the weekend it emerged that May had written to members of the panel saying that she was considering three options that would lead to the inquiry getting statutory powers. Two of them, the creation of a new inquiry, or a royal commission, would involve the panel being wound up. The third option would be for the home secretary to appoint a panel chair who would then request statutory powers, but she is not thought to favour this approach, and it is expected that the panel will be replaced in the new year.

Full story: http://www.theguardian.com/