31 December 2014
Last updated at 12:10
Baroness Butler-Sloss has cautioned against giving victims too much influence over who runs the planned inquiry into historical child abuse.
The retired judge, who stepped down as head of the public inquiry, said there could be “real problems” if they were to decide who is its eventual chair.
She also told BBC Radio 4 she has “enormous sympathy” for the victims.
The panel has started work but has no one to lead it after its first two nominations resigned.
Home Secretary Theresa May has told inquiry members their panel might be disbanded.
Dozens of the child abuse survivors have called for the government to scrap the current inquiry and replace it with a more powerful body.
Lady Butler-Sloss stood down earlier this year amid claims she faced a conflict of interest because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general at the time of some of the alleged abuse.
Speaking to the Today programme, of which she was guest editor on Wednesday, Lady Butler-Sloss said “there has to be a victim voice on the panel” but the survivors should not be able to chair it themselves or choose who fills the position.
“I worry that the victims, for whom I have the most enormous sympathy [....], for them to be deciding who should become the person chairing it creates real problems,” she said.
“Because if you do not have, in the past, a position of authority, how are you going to be able to run the inquiry?
“You need someone who knows how to run things and if you get someone from an obscure background, with no background of establishment, they’ll find it very difficult and may not be able actually to produce the goods.”
She said it was right for victims to be “at the centre” of the inquiry, but that if they were to run it, there could be “difficulties”.
But a spokeswoman for a group of sexual abuse victims said Lady Butler-Sloss’s comments were “shockingly naive” and “patronising to victims”.
Lucy Duckworth, the chair of Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, said: “Not to make victims at the centre of their own inquiry displays a shockingly naive attitude.”
Former Lord Mayor of London Dame Fiona Woolf has also resigned as inquiry chairwoman
When asked if the troubled inquiry would ever “get off the ground”, Lady Butler-Sloss replied: “I don’t know.”
She said she had no regrets about accepting the role as the first chair of the inquiry and she thought it was her “duty” to do so.
While she believes she could have done the job, she said she is “so glad” she no longer had to.
Lady Butler-Sloss said establishment figures had covered up abuse in the past.
She said: “I do believe the establishment has in the past looked after itself, partly because people did not really recognise the seriousness of child abuse and they did not think it was so important, and it was important to protect members of the establishment.
“So I would want to go in with a knife and cut the whole thing open and expose it, as to what happened, bearing in mind, of course, that the views of those people are not the views of people today and that is a difficulty.”
Fiona Woolf, who has been made a dame in the New Year Honours list, also stood down amid questions over her links to former Home Secretary Lord Brittan.
Lady Butler-Sloss said criticism of the honour awarded to Dame Fiona was “very unfair”.
“She was Lord Mayor of London, she is only the second woman ever to be Lord Mayor of London,” she said. “The very least that the honours system could do would be to honour a woman who has got such a distinguished post.
“Unfortunately she had, like myself, a brief period where she had agreed – for goodness sake, she had agreed to do a very disagreeable job – to become chairman.
“And because she happened to know Leon Brittan, she was unacceptable to the survivors and therefore she stood down,” she said.
Lord Brittan could be called to give evidence to the inquiry about a dossier on alleged high-profile paedophiles that was handed to ministers in 1984.
The inquiry, sparked by claims of paedophiles operating in Westminster in the 1980s, is set to investigate whether “public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales”.