Fiona Woolf

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Fiona Woolf
Woolf in 2014
686th Lord Mayor of London
In office
8 November 2013 – 7 November 2014
Preceded bySir Roger Gifford
Succeeded bySir Alan Yarrow
Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
In office
5 September 2014 – 31 October 2014
Appointed byTheresa May
(as Home Secretary)
Preceded byBaroness Butler-Sloss
Succeeded byDame Lowell Goddard
Personal details
Catherine Fiona Swain

(1948-05-11) 11 May 1948 (age 75)
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
SpouseNicholas Woolf OBE FCA

Dame Catherine Fiona Woolf, DBE, DStJ, DL[1] (née Swain; born 11 May 1948) is a British corporate lawyer. She served as the Lord Mayor of London (2013–14), acting as global ambassador for UK-based financial and business services. She has held and still holds many other significant positions in the City of London.

Early life[edit]

Catherine Fiona Swain was born in Edinburgh, the daughter of Dr R. H. A. Swain and his wife, Margaret Helen Hart.[2]

She was educated there at St Denis School (subsequently part of St Margaret's School),[3] before going up to Keele University where she graduated in Law and Psychology (BA).[4] She studied comparative law at the University of Strasbourg.


Woolf qualified as a solicitor in 1973 and worked as an assistant at Clifford Chance until 1978. She then moved to CMS Cameron McKenna where she became the firm's first female partner[5] in 1981; she remained a partner until 2004.

A specialist legal advisor on major infrastructure developments, particularly with regard to infrastructure legislation and energy markets, Woolf played a role in the 1985 treaty agreements between the British and French governments concerning the Channel Tunnel. She subsequently went on to work with almost 30 governments around the world.[5] She was a consultant to CMS Cameron McKenna[6] and is a Senior Adviser to London Economics International LLC.[citation needed]

In 2001–02 Woolf was awarded a Senior Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Business and Government.[7] While at Harvard, she wrote a book on attracting investment in electricity transmission systems: Global Transmission Expansion: Recipes for Success (2003).[8]

Woolf is an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple, a life position which recognises contributions to the legal profession.[citation needed]

Livery companies[edit]

Woolf is associated with several livery companies. She is a Court Assistant and past Master of the Solicitors', the Master of the Plumbers' and Court Assistant of the Wax Chandlers' companies, and an Honorary Court Assistant of the Worshipful Company of Builders Merchants. She is also a liveryman of the Arbitrators' company. She is an Honorary Liveryman of The Turners, the Fuellers, Lightmongers, Security Professionals, Tax Advisers and Paviors companies.

Presidency of the Law Society[edit]

Woolf served as president of the Law Society of England and Wales for 2006–07. In her valedictory speech on stepping down, she said that in her year as President she had met with "98 of the top 100 firms and another 25 or so beyond that". She was "delighted to have met with so many top firms...they had a huge number of ideas about what we should be doing for them".[9]

Lord Mayor of London[edit]

On 29 September 2013, she was elected as Lord Mayor of London, only the second time in its 800-year history that a woman has held this office.[10] She succeeded Sir Roger Gifford as Lord Mayor on 8 November 2013 during the annual "Silent Ceremony" at the Guildhall.[11] The City's second female Lord Mayor, following Dame Mary Donaldson (Lord Mayor 1983–84),[12]

Woolf was interviewed by Cathy Newman for a Daily Telegraph profile article, taking the opportunity to promote one of her mayoral campaigning themes, namely the furtherance of women in executive careers and the correction of the traditional imbalance between the sexes in senior City positions.[10] She sponsored a Long Finance initiative during her year as Lord Mayor, "Financing Tomorrow's Cities",[13] which examined new mechanisms for funding sustainability.

She made regular media appearances about the Lord Mayor's role in welcoming the world to London,[14][15] and ventured onto a catwalk at the Old Bailey during London Fashion Week.[16]


She was the Chancellor of the University of Law 2014–2018.[17][18][19] She was a member of the Competition Commission (UK) 2005–2013, Alderman for the Ward of Candlewick in the City of London 2007–2018, and was Sheriff of London for 2010 – 2011.[citation needed] Woolf was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, in March 2016.[20] She is a Trustee of the Science Museum[21] and Honorary President of the Aldersgate Group[22]

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse[edit]

On 5 September 2014 it was announced that Woolf would chair the independent panel inquiry that would examine how the UK's institutions have handled their duties to protect children from sexual abuse.[23]

On 21 October 2014, Woolf disclosed that she lived in the same London street as Lord Brittan and had invited the Conservative peer and his wife, Diana Brittan, to dinner on three occasions. Lord Brittan had been Home Secretary in 1984 when ministers were handed a dossier on alleged high-profile paedophiles; he has insisted that the proper procedures were followed. In total, she had dined with Lord Brittan and his family five times since 2008, and also had joined Lady Brittan for coffee on a "small number of occasions".[citation needed]

Woolf further disclosed that she had been involved in the past with bodies with which the Brittans had also had involvement. The BBC reported that survivors of child abuse were increasingly concerned about her apparent links to Lord Brittan, and Labour MP Simon Danczuk, who campaigned for the inquiry, said he thought Woolf should resign. Woolf made the disclosures to MPs ahead of her appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee, saying she was aware of "speculation gaining traction on social media" about her links with the Brittans and she wanted to:

go the extra distance to make sure I have dug out every possible connection with someone who is essentially one of thousands of people I know in the City. […] Do I have a close association with them (the Brittans)? the answer is no. Let us remind ourselves that this is not an inquiry about Lord Brittan but about hundreds of institutions and frankly thousands of systemic failures.[24]

On 22 October, the BBC reported that it had seen a judicial review application launched by a victim of historical child sexual abuse which challenged the choice of Woolf as the chair of this inquiry on the basis that she was not impartial, had no relevant expertise and might not have time to discharge her duties. The judicial review hearing could have been held before the end of 2014.[25]

On 31 October 2014, she resigned her chairmanship of the panel.[26]


  • DBE (2015) - CBE, 2002
  • DStJ (2013) - SSStJ, 2010;

Woolf was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for "services to the U.K. Knowledge Economy and Invisible Earnings"[1] in 2002 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for "services to the legal profession, diversity, and the City of London", in recognition of her longstanding commitments in public life.[27][28]

Charitable work and other interests[edit]

Woolf is involved in supporting the work of a number of charitable and other organisations. She was a trustee of Raleigh International 2010–2016,[29] and a governor of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama,.[30] She is also President of the Chelsea Opera Group Trust,[31] and is actively involved in the operation, fundraising and co-ordination of its volunteers, as well as being a member of its choir and a Trustee of the Wexford Festival Opera Trust [32]


  1. ^ a b "No. 56595". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 2002. p. 9.
  2. ^ "Fiona Woolf aka Catherine Fiona Swain her Toffs background". JUSTICE DENIED. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  3. ^ "City of London's Scottish Lord Mayor listens to oil and gas sector plea for North Sea tax stability". Scottish Energy News. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  4. ^ "Keele supports London Lord Mayor Alumna in annual pageant". Keele University. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b Sagar-Fenton, Beth (31 October 2014). "Profile: Fiona Woolf, second head of child abuse inquiry". BBC News. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  6. ^ Rayner, Jonathan (27 January 2014). "Fiona Woolf Profile". Law Gazette. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  7. ^ "The Center for Business and Government Announces Global Crop of Fellows for Fall". John F. Kennedy School of Government. Autumn 2001. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  8. ^ Fiona Woolf (2003). Global Transmission Expansion: Recipes for Success. PennWell Books. ISBN 978-0-87814-862-2.
  9. ^ "In vibrant health". Law Society Gazette. 20 July 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  10. ^ a b Newman, Cathy (15 November 2013). "Hear ye! A woman's in charge of the City: meet Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  11. ^ Jamie, Dunkley (8 November 2013). "Woolf Takes Over As The Second Woman To Be Lord Mayor Of City". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  12. ^ Pickford, James (1 October 2013). "Fiona Woolf second woman in 800 years to be Lord Mayor of London". The Financial Times. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  13. ^ "Financing Tomorrow's Cities – New Long Finance Project Launched With Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  14. ^ "New Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf on promoting UK business". 8 November 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  15. ^ "Interview: Welcoming the world to London, Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf is". Evening Standard. 2 May 2014.
  16. ^ "A Fashion Show in The Old Bailey – Blue Sky Development". Blue Sky Development. 30 April 2014. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  17. ^ "Fiona Woolf CBE announced chancellor of the University of Law". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  18. ^ "International Students". The University of Law.
  19. ^ "ULaw appoints ex-Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger as chancellor". Legal Cheek. 4 September 2018. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  20. ^ "No. 61543". The London Gazette. 1 April 2016. p. 7586.
  21. ^ "Board of Trustees". Science Museum Group. 30 May 2017. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  22. ^ "Governance". Aldersgate Group. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Fiona Woolf to lead abuse inquiry". BBC News Online. 5 September 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Abuse inquiry head Fiona Woolf defends Lord Brittan links". BBC News. 21 October 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  25. ^ "Legal challenge launched over abuse inquiry chair". BBC News. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  26. ^ "Woolf resigns from child abuse inquiry". BBC News. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  27. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N8.
  28. ^ "New Years Honours 2015 Queens List" (PDF). Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  29. ^ "Trustees and governance". Raleigh International. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  30. ^ "Board of Governors". Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  31. ^ "Chelsea Opera Group". Chelsea Opera Group.
  32. ^ "Charity Details". Retrieved 12 August 2019.

External links[edit]

Civic offices
Preceded by
Lord Mayor of London

Succeeded by