Baroness Butler-Sloss: Sex abuse inquiry latest test in a high-profile - and often controversial - career

Baroness Butler-Sloss was the first woman appointed to the Court of Appeal. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Baroness Butler-Sloss, one of the country's most eminent family law experts, is to come out of retirement after being given the task of leading a wide-ranging inquiry into alleged child abuse, the Home Office announced today.

It is the latest high-profile role in a long and distinguished career - one that has seen its fair share of controversies.

For around a year, Lady Butler-Sloss led an inquest into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed, but resigned in June 2007 after a successful legal challenge by Dodi's father, Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, who objected to her holding the inquest without a jury.

The peer was also responsible for granting life-long anonymity to John Venables and Robert Thompson - the young killers of toddler James Bulger - upon their release in 2001.

And she was the focus of newspaper headlines once more when she blocked a mother's attempt to have her 29-year-old mentally disabled daughter sterilised.

Mohamed Al Fayed's judicial review led to Lady Butler-Sloss stand down as coroner in the Diana inquest. Credit: Cathal McNaughton/PA Archive

An experienced family lawyer, Lady Butler-Sloss, has also heard many "right to die" cases in which doctors, usually with the consent of relatives, have sought permission to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from adult patients in a "permanent vegetative state".

Perhaps most crucial to the upcoming inquiry, the peer chaired the 1987 Cleveland child abuse inquiry. Her findings contributed greatly to the Children's Act of 1989, which states that the welfare of children should be the paramount concern to the courts.

She now faces a similarly harrowing task: investigating allegations of "disgusting" child abuse in Britain's organisations and in its political system.

Read: Baroness Butler-Sloss to lead sex abuse inquiry