By Simon Basketter
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Tories hope child abuse inquiry will divert gaze from top

This article is over 7 years, 6 months old
Issue 2411
Theresa May

Theresa May (Pic: UK Home Office)

The Tories hope that the announcement of a panel of inquiry into how allegations of child abuse were handled will get them past the election.  

Public bodies will be subject to a sweeping investigation into how they dealt with child abuse allegations.

These include the police, schools, churches, BBC and parliament.

The announcement came as the accusations of abuse and cover-ups circled closer round the government. 

Police are investigating former senior Tories and other prominent figures over allegations of sexually abusing children.

The Home Office sat on evidence of child abuse involving political figures for up to 35 years. Details of four undisclosed cases were handed to police last year after languishing in the department since 1979. 

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the child protection charity NSPCC, is also to conduct a review into a previous review which discovered that 114 files were missing.


Theresa May said the main investigation, which will have the same legal status as the Hillsborough inquiry, would cover public bodies with a responsibility for children.

The spooks’ MI5 and special branch may have to hand over files on claims of a paedophile ring of public figures. 

Special Branch and the security services thought it would cause more trouble to have abuse made public—so they stole or lost files. 

In some cases, such as at Kincora and Elm House, getting evidence for blackmail meant not just ignoring the abuse but probably facilitating it. 

Political parties are part of the inquiry. And with good reason. Tim Fortescue, a whip in Edward Heath’s government, boasted in 1995 that he could cover up a “scandal involving small boys”.

The vagueness of and scale of the inquiry means it is far from guaranteed that the truth will emerge. Inquiries can bring evidence to light but they can also divert attention.

From Wales to Northern Ireland, from Rochdale to Richmond a similar tale emerges. Abuse was known about but the abused didn’t matter and the abuser did.

In the case of a home in south London police were taken off an investigation and social workers ignored. 

As far as it is possible to tell this was because a cabinet minister in the last Labour government was involved in abuse.

There have been repeated allegations, including in Socialist Worker, that boys were supplied to politicians at the then Elm Guest House from a care home run by the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. 

The Met raided the guest house in 1982. But that investigation was cut short. There are serious questions about what happened on the raid and after it—and what happened to the evidence.

A former care home resident has told his story. He was 13 and his brother was 12 when they were sent to the Elm Guest House for “a treat”.

He said boys were plied with alcohol before being told to pose for photos. The men at the guest house—including MPs—would then abuse them. The younger brother killed himself six days after his 28th birthday.

The inquiry is not expected to report before the general election.

What’s the extent of the cover-up by Westminster?

Former Tory cabinet minister Lord Tebbit admitted last week that there “may well have been” a cover-up of abuse by Westminster figures in the 1980s.For once, he had a point.

  • Sir Peter Morrison 
    Morrison was an MP and Tory leader Margaret Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary. Edwina Currie, who was a Tory MP and former minister for health, wrote in her diaries published in 2002, “Peter Morrison has become the PM’s PPS. Now he’s what they call ‘a noted pederast’, with a liking for young boys; he admitted as much to Norman Tebbit.”

  • Sir Peter Hayman 
    Hayman had been a Home and Foreign Office mandarin. He was a senior figure in MI6. As Peter Henderson he left a packet of child abuse material in an envelope on a London bus. His London flat was raided and he was cautioned. 

  • Peter Righton 
    After Righton’s conviction for child abuse, he retired to a cottage on the estate of establishment figure Lord Henniker. An investigation into his links with senior politicians was “shut down from high” in the 1980s, according to child protection workers.
  • Steven Smith 
    Jailed in 2011 for possessing indecent child images, worked in the Home Office in the 1980s. He said child abuse material “was stored in locked cabinets there, where no police raid would have found them”.
  • Patrick Rock
    Tory party fixer and adviser to David Cameron, Rock was charged with possession of child pornography this month. He worked on a policy for online pornography. He has been charged with three offences of making child abuse images and one of possessing 62 indecent images of children.


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