UK police watchdog to probe child-sex claim against ex-PM

2015-08-03 18:44
Edward Heath. (<a>Shutterstock</a>)

Edward Heath. (Shutterstock)

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London - Britain's police watchdog on Monday said it would investigate officers' handling of a case involving alleged child sexual abuse by former prime minister Edward Heath.

The investigation would cover "allegations concerning Wiltshire police's handling of an alleged claim of child sexual abuse made in the 1990s", the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said.

"It is alleged that a criminal prosecution was not pursued, when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children," the IPCC said.

"In addition to this allegation, the IPCC will examine whether Wiltshire police subsequently took any steps to investigate these claims," it said.

It said Wiltshire police referred the case to the watchdog, "following allegations made by a retired senior officer".

"This is about pulling forward witnesses and victims," Wiltshire police Superintendent Sean Memory told broadcaster ITV.

"We'll deal with it effectively, with absolute privacy for those that come forward," Memory said.

In a statement, Wiltshire police said they planned to work closely with counsellors from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children "to ensure that any victims are appropriately supported".

Wilf Weeks, the acting chairperson of the Sir Ed Heath Charitable Foundation, told ITV he was "gobsmacked" by news of the investigation.

"We wholeheartedly hope, or believe, that this will clear Sir Edward's name," Weeks said.

After reading an IPCC report, Wiltshire police Chief Constable Mike Veale said he had decided to hold disciplinary hearings for two officers who "have a potential case to answer for misconduct".

Heath's 50-year political career peaked when he served as Conservative prime minister from 1970 to 1974. He was succeeded as party leader by Margaret Thatcher.

Heath is believed to have lived most of his life alone. He spent much of his time outside politics in the Wiltshire town of Salisbury, where he died in 2005, aged 89.

Read more on:    uk  |  child abuse

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