May Apologizes as Search for Head of U.K. Abuse Probe Continues

U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May apologized to victims as the search for someone to head an inquiry into historical child sex-abuse continued after both her previous nominees resigned.

“It is obviously very disappointing that we do not yet have a panel chairman and for that I want to tell survivors that I am sorry,” May told Parliament in London today.

London’s Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf quit as the chairman of the probe three days ago after lawmakers and victims of abuse said she lacked experience. They also criticized her for her acquaintance with Leon Brittan, who was home secretary in the 1980s when activists say abuse involving public figures was covered up. Her predecessor, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, a former judge, stepped down in July, after her impartiality was questioned because her brother, Michael Havers, was attorney general in the 1980s.

May said the panel will start weekly meetings without a head next week and pledged to hold meetings with the victims of abuse. She’ll also continue discussions with lawmakers who’ve campaigned on the issue and hold talks with the opposition Labour Party’s home-affairs spokeswoman, Yvette Cooper.

“It will not be straightforward to find a chairman who has both the expertise to do this hugely important work and has had no contact at all with an institution or an individual about whom people have concerns,” May said. “I still believe, however, it is possible to find someone who is suitably qualified and can win the confidence of survivors.”

The probe, set up four months ago, is designed to look at whether public bodies and other institutions fulfilled their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

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