Britain's child sex abuse inquiry: the facts

2014-07-09 17:24
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

London - Britain has ordered an inquiry into claims that politicians may have sexually abused children in the 1970s and 1980s in a conspiracy by members of the establishment who then used their power to cover up the crimes.

Following are details of the allegations, how they came to light and the government reaction.

The allegations:

In a newspaper interview in August 1983, the late lawmaker Geoffrey Dickens said he had a dossier that implicated senior public figures in a child abuse ring. "I've got eight names of big people, really important names, public figures," he said.

He threatened to use parliamentary privilege, which provides immunity from legal action, to name the figures but in the end only disclosed that a former diplomat was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, a group which campaigned from the 1970s to the 1980s to abolish the age of consent for sex.

Dickens did pass a dossier of allegations to the Home Office (interior ministry) to investigate and said the police also had compiled a report with the names of top people in public life and show business.

Why have the claims emerged again?

The 2012 national scandal over revelations that the late BBC TV presenter Jimmy Savile had been one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders led to a major police operation, named Operation Yewtree and a series of inquiries into how he was able to abuse his position.

It also led lawmaker Tom Watson to tell parliament that a senior aide to an unnamed former prime minister might have been involved in a suspected paedophile ring.

"I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it, and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and Number 10 (the prime minister's office)," Watson said on 24 October, 2012.

No evidence has yet been published to support claims that there was a paedophile conspiracy among Britain's elite.

The police operation:

After Watson's intervention, London Police set up an inquiry named Operation Fernbridge in January 2013 to examine allegations of child abuse at the Elm House Guest House in Barnes, south west London. According to a Freedom of Information request in April 2013, seven officers were working on the investigation.

Fresh call for inquiry

The issue became prominent again on 1 July, 2014, when lawmaker Simon Danczuk called for an inquiry, saying the authorities had failed to investigate high profile cases.

His call came the day after Rolf Harris, a mainstay of family entertainment in Britain for more than 50 years, was found guilty of indecently assaulting young girls as part of the Operation Yewtree investigations.

Danczuk has played a leading role in trying to expose the activities of the late Cyril Smith, his predecessor as member of parliament for Rochdale in northern England, who has been accused of abusing children.

Danczuk told a parliamentary committee Smith had been investigated by police for four decades but no action ever taken against him.

Lost files?

Danczuk also questioned what Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary when Dickens passed over his file of allegations, did about the dossier.

On 2 July, Brittan issued a statement saying he asked officials at the time to look at the material provided by Dickens but did not recall being contacted again either by Dickens or his officials.

A few hours later, Brittan issued a second statement saying he sent a letter to Dickens in March 1984 saying two letters he provided had been forwarded to police. He also pointed out that a Home Office review of organised child sex abuse between 1979 and 1999 concluded the information had been dealt with properly.

On 5 July, the most senior civil servant at the Home Office Mark Sedwill disclosed that 114 files out of 573 potentially relevant files relating to the Dickens' allegations had been lost, "presumed destroyed, missing or not found".

Inquiry announced

Prime Minister David Cameron promised the government will leave "no stone unturned" to find the truth and Home Secretary Theresa May said there would be an independent inquiry into child sex abuse and a separate review of the Home Office's handling of the allegations.

Called before a parliamentary committee on 8 July, Sedwill said he did not know who if anyone had authorised the removal of the 114 missing government files. May appointed former High Court judge Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss a inquiry chair.

An interim report is due before the May 2015 general election.

Read more on:    david cameron  |  jimmy savile  |  britain  |  child abuse

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


China's air pollution at doomsday levels

China has long been struggling with air pollution issues but just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse – it has.



Moving short film on ivory trade
10 Tips for Greener Shopping
How safe are your baby products?
5 maps that will change the way you see the world

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

The pace may be slow today and you may struggle to get things off the ground level, but it is important to focus on the more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.