Head of UK inquiry into claims of child abuse cover-up quits over social links to politician

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LONDON — The head of an inquiry into alleged sex abuse by powerful figures in British society resigned Friday after victims' groups said she was too close to a politician under scrutiny.

Fiona Woolf is the second chief to quit the problem-plagued inquiry since it was set up in July.

Woolf, the lord mayor of London, said she had decided "to get out of the way" because she didn't have the confidence of victims.

The inquiry was set up to investigate how public agencies handled child-abuse allegations from the 1970s on, and whether they covered up crimes to protect politicians and other powerful people.

Victims' groups had objected to Woolf's social ties to Leon Brittan, an interior minister in the 1980. He is likely to be called to give evidence to the inquiry about his handling of child abuse allegations at the time.

Alison Millar of law firm Leigh Day, which represents some abuse victims, said she was pleased Woolf had stepped down. She said that "now the work begins for a proper inquiry which listens to the survivors."

Woolf's predecessor as chairwoman, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, resigned in July just days after she was appointed because her late brother had been the government's top legal adviser for part of the period under scrutiny.

Britain has been wrestling with its collective conscience after revelations that several well-known figures, including television host Jimmy Savile, used their positions to get away with abuse for years.

Several recent cases in which gangs of men have been convicted of sexually exploiting girls in the care of local authorities also exposed failures by police and social services.

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