Politics

Everything You Need To Know About The Child Abuse Scandal Hitting Westminster

What you need to know and why so many people care.

1. Two years ago Labour MP Tom Watson asked the prime minister to examine a set of documents used to convict Peter Righton, an infamous paedophile, in 1992. Watson said the dossier could provide evidence of a paedophile network linked to parliament.

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

2. The Metropolitan Police then set up Operation Fernbridge to investigate claims of sexual abuse and grooming.

Luke Macgregor / Reuters

As part of this the Met Police started investigating Elm Guest House, in south west London, after receiving allegations that young boys from a children’s home in Hounslow were being abused at the building by politicians in the 1970s and 1980s.

Righton was charged and convicted after he was caught in possession of obscene material – child abuse images – by a customs officer at Dover. Once convicted, it was discovered Righton was a founding of the Paedophile Information Exchange, a group set up to facilitate men who wanted to have sex with children.

But Righton’s conviction was particularly notable as he had links to politicians and even the Health Minister through his professional work in the field of residential child care and as a former consultant with the National Children’s Bureau.

3. Later in 2013 the Home Office conducted its own investigation into handling of historical child abuse allegations. It found 13 items of information, four of which implicated Home Office officials in child abuse.

Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters

Last summer, seven officers were looking into the case and had already amassed 300 potential leads.

4. While the investigation continued, Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, last Tuesday asked former Home Secretary Lord Brittan to reveal any information he knew about a dossier of information compiled by former MP Geoffrey Dickens, who died in 1995.

AFP/AFP / Getty Images

5. That dossier is what everyone’s talking about now.


It consisted of allegations about an alleged paedophile ring that involved MPs and other public figures. Dickens passed the dossier to then home secretary Leon Brittan in 1983, who has said he passed it on to the Home Office. Brittan had previously denied knowing anything about the dossier.

6. But on Sunday it was revealed that the Home Office lost the dossier.

It also revealed that Dickens passed a second copy of the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Home Office confirmed up to 114 documents from the dossier relating to historical complaints of child abuse may have been misplaced or destroyed.

Former Cabinet minister Norman Tebbit said on The Andrew Marr show on Sunday that there “may well” have been a political cover up.

7. So why’s there so much fuss?


It’s partially because the Home Office didn’t mention the fact 114 documents had gone missing in their 2013 search through their archive.

8. In response, Tom Watson started an online petition on change.org for the government to launch a national inquiry. 80,000 people signed the petition within a day.

9. Home Secretary Theresa May told the Commons on Monday afternoon that there will be an inquiry into the way public bodies responded to child abuse claims in the past.


I can now tell the House that the Government will establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

It will, like the inquiries into Hillsborough and the murder of Daniel Morgan, be a non-statutory panel inquiry. This means that it can begin its work sooner, and because the basis of its early work will be a review of documentary evidence rather than interviews with witnesses who might themselves still be subject to criminal investigations, it will be less likely to prejudice those investigations.

But I want to be clear that the inquiry panel will have access to all the government papers, reviews and reports it needs.

She said that Peter Wanless, the CEO of the NSPCC, will lead the review of Home Office handling of allegations with the assistance of a lawyer and “if necessary, the government is prepared to make it a full public inquiry.”

11. So what’s next?


An inquiry will look into the Home Office’s investigation and try and explain why there wasn’t any response to Dickens’ allegations.

And later this week, a report will say the Home Office never funded the Paedophile Information Exchange in the 1970s, even indirectly.

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