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Pressure growing on abuse inquiry chief Fiona Woolf over new links to Leon Brittan

Fiona Woolf urged to step down from abuse inquiry over Leon Brittan links

Report by the Mail Online : “The controversial new head of the Government’s inquiry into historic sex abuse is under growing pressure as more evidence emerged of her links to a key figure in the scandal

Fiona Woolf has connections going back at least a decade with Leon Brittan, who is accused of involvement in a cover-up when he was Home Secretary.

Today we can reveal that the top commercial lawyer sat in the same magistrates’ court as Lord Brittan’s wife Diana for three years.

Mrs Woolf was also a senior figure at the Law Society when it hosted a conference addressed by Lord Brittan.

She missed the first meeting of the inquiry into alleged VIP paedophile rings on Friday because she was on a business trip to Africa, in her role as Lord Mayor of London.

She will also escape a Commons debate on her role after a decision by Lord Brittan’s protege William Hague.

Last night campaigners accused Mrs Woolf of treating the investigation with contempt, and called on both her and the Home Office to explain how well she knows Lord Brittan.

She has refused to say if she declared her potential conflicts of interest in advance, despite calls in Parliament.

The new links come after The Mail on Sunday revealed that Mrs Woolf, 66, has lived in the same upmarket street as the Brittans since 2005; sits on the board of a City conference with the former Minister; gave a £50 donation to his wife for a fun run last year; and judges a business award with her.

Lord Brittan is a key figure in the inquiry because of his involvement in the scandal of hundreds of files on child abuse that the Home Office admitted had been lost or shredded. Lord Brittan was handed a now-lost dossier in 1983, which he insists he passed on to officials.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP who exposed Cyril Smith as a child abuser, said: ‘Both the Home Office and Fiona Woolf need to explain exactly what her relationship is with the Brittans.

‘The more they stonewall, the more suspicious people, particularly victims, will be.’

Mr Danczuk told the Commons he was ‘disturbed’ by the links but his call for a debate was slapped down by William Hague. Now Leader of the House, Mr Hague succeeded Lord Brittan as MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire in 1989 and previously wrote speeches for him. Last night Mr Danczuk said ‘people will draw their own conclusions’ about Mr Hague’s decision.

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(Under fire: Mrs Woolf, left, with Lady Brittan and journalist Martyn Lewis at an awards event)

Peter Saunders, of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, added: ‘The links between Mrs Woolf and the Brittans will totally undermine the credibility of the inquiry.’

The Judicial Office confirmed Mrs Woolf had sat on cases at City of London Magistrates’ Court when the chairman of the bench was Lady Brittan. Mrs Woolf became a Justice of the Peace in 2007, while Lady Brittan was chair of the bench until 2010. Officials said it would take too long to check if they ever sat on the same cases.

Meanwhile, records show that in October 2005, Leon Brittan gave the opening speech at a conference at the Law Society where Mrs Woolf was vice-president.

Mrs Woolf was questioned about her links to the Brittans last week, but refused to answer. She remained in Uganda on Friday when the inquiry she is due to lead met for the first time. The Home Office called it an ‘informal discussion… in accordance with her directions’.

A spokesman refused to say if Mrs Woolf had declared her links to the Brittans or not, but said: ‘She is an exceptional and highly qualified candidate for this demanding role.’ “