Christopher Digby-Bell’s tribute to Fiona Woolf is a touching example of loyalty, but I would respectfully suggest that he has completely missed the point.
I have never met Ms Woolf, nor have I dealt with her in her professional capacity. All I know, therefore, is what I have gleaned from various articles in the Gazette and other publications, which is that she seems to be a perfectly nice woman. Also, from the plethora of comments about her in the press, I do not think that doubt was ever cast on her ability as a lawyer.
Indeed, I do not agree with some commentators that Ms Woolf’s ‘day job’ as a corporate lawyer rendered her incapable of dealing with an inquiry involving children and the crime of sexual abuse. The legal skills we solicitors develop over years of assimilating and disseminating fact are, in the right hands, easily transferable to other areas in which we have no previous or particular expertise.
We are all aware of the maxim that not only must justice be done, but that it must be seen to be done. In my view, it was the latter part of that statement that caused the problem with Ms Woolf’s appointment.
Even allowing for the media’s hyperbolic tendencies, there seems little doubt that thousands of vulnerable children and adults were on the receiving end of inexcusable treatment from those in positions of trust. As if that were not bad enough, the complaints of those who were able to report such behaviour appear to have been routinely dismissed, or the complainants classed as liars.
Whether all or any of these allegations are upheld can only be as a consequence of a rigorous, binding investigation, which has to be headed by someone who has the complete trust of those affected. Had she remained as chair of the inquiry, how did Ms Woolf honestly think any questioning of the government minister with whom she is on the same dinner party circuit and Christmas card list would be perceived?
On the lesser point of committing the huge amount of time that would be required to do the job properly, how did Ms Woolf think she would incorporate it into the presumably substantial demands of her day job?
Those who allege these dreadful acts have a right to believe that their voices will be heard by someone they can be sure will not be influenced by ‘the old pals act’. I do not believe that Ms Woolf’s personal integrity would allow this, but this is not about me and it certainly isn’t about her. It never has been. It is about those who are owed the assurance of seeing that justice has been done, and in his well-meaning panegyric this basic point seems to have eluded Mr Digby-Bell.
Elainne M Lawrie, The Law Office Of Paul D’Ambrogio, Chester