The Home Secretary says that people across Britain do not yet “appreciate the true scale” of the abuse and that once the inquiry is done “we will never look at society in the same way again”.
A major inquiry into child abuse will reveal that sexual exploitation runs through every level of British society like a “stick of Blackpool rock”, Theresa May warns today.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the Home Secretary, says that people across Britain do not yet “appreciate the true scale” of the abuse and that once the inquiry is done, “we will never look at society in the same way again”.
In a highly personal intervention, Mrs May says that the panel, being led by Justice Lowell Goddard, will encourage more victims of abuse to come forward and lead to perpetrators being brought to justice.
“I hope and believe it will give all victims and survivors a voice,” Mrs May says. “For too long nobody listened, nobody wanted to admit the darkness in our midst.”
She warns that “the trail” will lead into schools, hospitals, churches and youth clubs as well as “and many other institutions that should have been places of safety but instead became the setting for the most appalling abuse”.
What we have seen so far is “only the tip of the iceberg”, Mrs May says.
Mrs May set up the inquiry into child abuse following revelations about the crimes committed by Jimmy Savile as well as disclosures about abuse in Derby, Oxford and towns across Britain.
There were also a series of allegations about a Westminster paedophile ring.
“The inquiry won’t probe individuals but where there is evidence a person has abused their position – no matter how high or how low that position – it will be passed to the police to investigate,” Mrs May writes. “So if there has been a cover-up, we will uncover it. And if perpetrators of child sexual abuse are found, they will be brought to justice.
“The inquiry won’t examine abuse that has taken place within the family but it is my hope that by confronting the issue head on, it will encourage more people to come forward and report such abuse to the authorities. And I hope and believe it will give all victims and survivors a voice. For too long nobody listened, nobody wanted to admit the darkness in our midst.”
Justice Goddard, a new Zealand High Court judge, was named by Mrs May as the new head of the inquiry, which will examine allegations of an establishment cover-up of abuse spanning decades.
The appointment of Justice Goddard, 65, followed the loss of two former chairmen who stood down over perceived conflicts of interest due to their personal connections with establishment figures.
Admitting failings in the way the inquiry was initially set up, Mrs May says “It is a matter of public record that the inquiry had a difficult beginning. We did not realise the degree to which survivors mistrusted the political establishment.
“And we set up the inquiry in the way Whitehall always sets up inquiries. But it wasn’t enough for survivors to have the inquiry, its chairman and its terms of reference presented to them as a fait accompli. We needed to work with survivors if we were going to get those things right. It was through this collaboration that my understanding of this complex issue grew.”