MPs call on Theresa May to set up inquiry into child sex abuse
Tim Loughton and Zac Goldsmith in cross-party group that highlights failures by police
We also know that countless questions remain unanswered, and they must be – in full
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP
Former children’s minister Tim Loughton and Conservative backbencher Zac Goldsmith are calling for a national inquiry into historical cases of child sex abuse.
Goldsmith has co-ordinated a high-powered, cross-party group of seven MPs to sign a joint letter to Theresa May, home secretary, urging her to set up an independent panel to investigate repeated failures by police and other authorities in a wide variety of cases.
The MPs also want the inquiry to investigate why crucial files, surveillance videos and other material has gone missing in relation to allegations against prominent people.
The MPs also include Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk, from Labour; Tessa Munt and John Hemming, Liberal Democrat; and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.
The seven want an investigation similar to the independent inquiry into Hillsborough, the football disaster of 1989. That inquiry was seen to have uncovered the truth about an episode that was mired in controversy and reflected especially badly on police.
Several inquiries have been set up in the wake of the exposure in 2012 of Jimmy Savile, the late BBC star, as a paedophile, but there has long been concern that these are too disparate.
The Department for Education in March asked local authorities to hold investigations into 21 children’s homes and schools in England. The National Health Service was already investigating allegations about Savile’s activities at several institutions, while the BBC holds a separate inquiry.
The MPs are calling for action following a series of disclosures from Exaro, including:
- how police failed to question a former cabinet minister about a rape claim from before he became an MP;
- how Customs officials seized video that allegedly shows child sex abuse in the presence of a former cabinet minister, but no action was taken;
- how the Crown Prosecution Service dropped key charges under Scotland Yard’s ‘Operation Fernbridge’ relating to one witness on the false basis that he was the only person to make historical claims of child sex abuse at Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London.
Goldsmith’s constituency of Richmond Park includes the location of the former guest house. The Metropolitan Police Service, with Exaro’s help, in 2012 launched an investigation into activities at Elm Guest House under what became ‘Operation Fernbridge’.
Goldsmith asked Exaro to provide a briefing for the group of MPs, to serve as the basis for the letter to the home secretary. He told Exaro: “We now know of many cases of child abuse that went uninvestigated for far too long, not least relating to Jimmy Savile.
“But we also know that countless questions remain unanswered, and they must be – in full. The government should establish – and properly resource – an independent inquiry so that a line can be drawn, once and for all.”
Hemming, of the Liberal Democrats, told Exaro that he was concerned about the number of children who are lost from the care system, saying: “The whole area is still not in any way properly accountable or subject to independent checks. The sagas with Kincora and Cyril Smith do seem to have a pattern of similarities that needs a proper independent investigation. Our system, however, is very tolerant of misconduct in public office.”
He also accused authorities in Jersey in particular of a “long track-record” of “covering up the abuse of children”.
Among the issues that should be covered by an inquiry, the MPs say, is what happened to the dossier on VIP paedophiles compiled by the late Conservative MP, Geoffrey Dickens, and submitted to the Home Office in 1984. The Home Office says that the dossier has since vanished.
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LIST OF PREVIOUS RELEVANT PIECES: Child sex abuse, ‘Fernbridge’ and ‘Fairbank’: Exaro story thread
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