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Inquiry into child abuse is 'letting down North East victims' Campaigners raise new questions after another judge steps down.

Byline: Laura Hill Reporter Laura.Hill@trinitymirror.com

AN inquiry into child sex abuse is letting victims in the North East down, campaigners said, after the third chairman stepped down.

Victims of Stanhope Castle School in County Durham have been told that they will not be included as a case study in the Goddard Inquiry, while victims of abuse at Medomsley Detention Centre who were older teenagers are also unable to be included.

It comes after the probe fell into disarray when Dame Lowell Goddard resigned last week - the third chairman to do so since the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was announced in July 2014.

When announcing the decision to stand down on Friday, she said taking the role had been difficult as it had meant "relinquishing her career in New Zealand and leaving behind her beloved family".

Dame Lowell had been criticised in recent days after it emerged she worked on the inquiry from overseas 44 days in the past year, while taking home PS110,000 a year rental allowance and free flights home on top of her PS360,000 annual salary.

Meanwhile, reports from an IICSA hearing on July 29 show that solicitor David Enright, of Howe & Co, told the inquiry that "the human cost of excluding the Stanhope Castle survivors would be incalculable".

He said: "The abuse the children suffered, which included repeated rapes, was of the most severe nature. The physical abuse, which this inquiry is not considering, could only be described as pervasive and sadistic.

"It is not surprising, therefore, that these survivors are both emotionally and physically scarred."

The inquiry claims to be as open and transparent as possible, but refused to comment when asked about why Stanhope Castle School was not included as a case study. It is also not required to release information under the Freedom of Information Act.

We have also learned that staff from the inquiry got in touch with victims' solicitors about their contact with the media after we requested statements from its press office.

It led to many fearing that contacting the press had jeopardised their opportunity to be part of the inquiry.

But when quizzed on this, a spokesperson for the inquiry said: "Correspondence between the inquiry and third parties remains confidential.

"We can therefore not comment on communications between victims and survivors and their legal representatives or their correspondence with the inquiry.

"Victims and survivors are of course welcome to speak to any press or journalists they wish to. Where the inquiry provides information on a confidential basis to third parties, the expectation is that this material will not be disclosed further.

"In this particular instance, the chair's provisional decision was to remain confidential until being formally announced at the preliminary hearing.

"The inquiry does endeavour wherever possible to be open and transparent in our decisions and hearings."

Operation Seabrook, which is investigating the large scale abuse of children and young men at Medomsley Detention Centre in County Durham, is part of the IICSA within the children in custodial institutions investigations, it was announced in November 2015.

The inquiry has been plagued with delays and solicitors close to the IICSA have raised concerns that it could take up to 10 years for the inquiry to come to any conclusions.

Home secretary Amber Rudd has moved to assure people that the work of the inquiry will continue without delay and a new chair will be appointed.

She said the Government will consult with victims' groups before appointing a new chair.

Ms Rudd said in a statement: "I want to assure everyone with an interest in the inquiry, particularly victims and survivors, that the work of the inquiry will continue without delay.

"I would like to thank Dame Lowell Goddard for the contribution she has made in setting up the inquiry so that it may continue to go about its vital work."

The abuse the children suffered, which included repeated rapes, was of the most severe nature

CAPTION(S):

Stanhope Castle, where the school was sited

The resignation of Dame Lowell Goddard was another blow to the troubled inquiry into child sex abuse
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 8, 2016
Words:688
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