UK historic sex claims: Inquiry head quits

2006 Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss has quit as head of the inquiry into historic sex claims at Wesminster. Photo / AFP
2006 Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss has quit as head of the inquiry into historic sex claims at Wesminster. Photo / AFP

The woman heading Britain's inquiry into historic claims of child sex abuse by politicians has resigned less than a week after her appointment following criticism over her establishment links.

Retired British judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss came under fire because of a potential conflict of interest, as the investigation will likely look at the handling of allegations by her brother, a former attorney-general.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said it was "entirely her decision" to step down as lead investigator into allegations of how police and prosecutors handled claims of sexual abuse in the highest levels of Britain's political establishment during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Long-running rumours about a pedophile ring involving senior politicians have taken on new significance in Britain following a string of scandals about abuse by celebrities including late BBC star Jimmy Savile.

In a statement explaining her decision, Butler-Sloss, 80, acknowledged that she "did not sufficiently consider" the impact of her family connections when she accepted the appointment last Tuesday.

"It has become apparent over the last few days... that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry," she said on Monday.

"It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been attorney-general would cause difficulties."

Her late brother Michael Havers, father of actor Nigel Havers, is alleged to have tried to prevent a former MP from airing claims about a diplomat in parliament in the 1980s, when he was attorney-general.

Another victim also alleged that Butler-Sloss kept claims against a bishop out of a 2011 review into how the Church of England dealt with two pedophile priests because she "cared about the Church".


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