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Home Office under fire over missing child abuse files review

Published July 23, 2015 by JS2

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Newly discovered government documents also relate to senior Westminster figures, including Leon Brittan

The Home Office is facing criticism over a review into the department’s handling of the 1980s Dickens dossier of paedophilia allegations.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, was brought in to investigate in July after an internal Home Office review found no evidence of a dossier of suspected child abusers compiled by Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens in the 1980s.

The internal review also found that between 1979 and 1999 the department had “lost or destroyed” 114 files relating to child abuse.

Wanless has also reportedly failed to uncover the files or the dossier and is expected to criticise the Home Office’s record-keeping and archiving when he publishes his report later today.

He is expected to agree with the department’s findings that there is no evidence to suggest the missing files had been removed or destroyed inappropriately.

The Home Office says the department did consider the allegations contained in the Dickens dossier at the time and passed on 13 “items of information” to the police and prosecutors.

However, Labour MP Simon Danczuk, who raised the issue of the missing dossier earlier this year, has complained that the timescale for the Wanless review has not allowed for more sophisticated digital tracing techniques to be used.

“That raises serious questions about the scope of the investigations and, frankly, leaves a question mark over any of its findings,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

Mark Sedwill, the department’s permanent secretary, said the review had analysed a central database containing 746,000 files from the period 1979 to 1999.

Labour has also been critical of Home Secretary Theresa May’s decision to publish the Wanless report in a written ministerial statement rather than face questions from MPs in the Commons.

“The failure by Wanless to throw any new light on the fate of the allegations by Dickens is likely to fuel the continuing row over the establishment of a national overarching inquiry into historical allegations of child sex abuse,” says The Guardian.

The Home Secretary has already apologised for the delays to the overarching inquiry after Fiona Woolf, the second chair appointed to lead the inquiry stood down over her links to Lord Brittan.

UK News

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Cyril Smith ‘put pressure on BBC’ over investigating MPs

Published March 17, 2015 by JS2

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Liberal MP Cyril Smith wrote to the BBC in 1976 asking it not to investigate the “private lives of certain MPs”.

The MP, who died in 2010 and has been accused of abusing children, wrote to the then home secretary about “filth, innuendo and stirring” by reporters.

The BBC investigation had been looking into claims of an alleged foreign-backed campaign to discredit MPs.

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton said the former Rochdale MP’s letters were “bully-boy tactics”.

“It was an abuse of position that somebody as an MP was saying, ‘You shouldn’t look at us, we’re above the law,'” he said.

‘Personal involvement’

Smith had been the subject of an investigation into the alleged abuse of children in Rochdale but the case was not known about publicly, and he was never charged.

Current Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk is due to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee later, where he is expected to call for a new inquiry to include the activities of Smith.

Mr Danczuk recently published a book alleging more than 140 complaints had been made by victims but Smith had been left free to abuse children as young as eight.

Greater Manchester Police and Rochdale Council are carrying out two separate investigations into child abuse allegations involving the late MP.

More than 100 MPs are calling for a larger inquiry into historical claims of child abuse in schools, hospitals and care homes.

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At the time the media had been investigating a claim made by Prime Minister Harold Wilson that South African secret agents had been trying to smear British MPs.

The Liberal Party was thought to be a particular target because of its outspoken opposition to South Africa’s apartheid policy.

The BBC had employed two freelance journalists, Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour, to look into Mr Wilson’s claims.

According to letters in the National Archives, Smith wrote to BBC director general Sir Charles Curran in September 1976 saying he was “deeply concerned about the investigative activities of the BBC”, especially relating to “the private lives of certain MPs”.

“So far as I am aware I am not one of them, and hence I write without personal involvement.”

Public interest

In another letter, Smith urged the then Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees, to ensure the BBC was not using public money for “muck-raking”.

He wrote: “Frankly, I am fed up of the filth, innuendo and stirring that has gone on for the last six months or so about MPs in all three political parties, and I really do think the time has come for something to be published, or for the thing to come to an end.”

The month before Smith wrote his letter, the BBC had ended its contract with Penrose and Courtiour, saying it did not believe it had proper control over where else they might publish their material.

It is understood Smith had not been one of the subjects of their investigation.

Sir Charles responded to Smith, saying the South African story was “a proper subject for journalistic inquiry”.

But he added: “I was not prepared to see public resources devoted to the pursuit of personal dirt, possibly for publication outside the control of the BBC.”

But Roger Courtiour said the two journalists were “totally convinced the story was in the public interest and should have been continued”.

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Part of the BBC director general’s memo relating to the South African investigation

On Tuesday, the BBC said: “The documents date back nearly 40 years, so we have no additional commentary to offer, and their content appears to be self-explanatory.”

The Home Office said it would make any decisions about a further inquiry into child abuse after a number of current investigations were complete.

By Tom Bateman

Investigation into South Yorkshire Police ordered in wake of fresh allegations of child sex exploitation

Published March 13, 2015 by JS2

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SOUTH YORKSHIRE’S Police and Crime Commissioner has ordered a full-scale inspection of the force amid accusations the force failed to listen to victims of child exploitation in Sheffield.

‘Urgent’ talks with the Home Office are under way after Dr Alan Billings said a probe similar to the one carried out by Louise Casey into Rotherham Council is needed in light of the fresh allegations came to light this week.

I now believe that a full ‘Casey-like’ county-wide inspection of South Yorkshire Police is necessary to get to an accepted understanding about the past and whether things have changed

Dr Alan Billings

The commissioner was put under pressure by a leaked police document which names more than 200 girls in Sheffield who were suspected of being sexually exploited and a list of more 320 men accused of carrying out the abuse, predominantly between 2007 and 2010.

Former police officer Tony Brookes said the force at the time focused on crimes linked to Home Office targets, including car crime and burglary.

Referencing the inquiry which uncovered revealed the abuse of 1,400 girls while authorities turned a blind eye in Rotherham, Dr Billings had today announced the need for a ‘Casey-like’ inspection.

He said: “If I am to do my job, I need to be sure that everything that can reasonably be known about the past is known. This is the first and crucial step if the force is to get itself into a better place.

“However, in the light of what has now been revealed I cannot be certain that we are at that point.

“Reluctantly, therefore, I now believe that a full ‘Casey-like’ county-wide inspection of South Yorkshire Police is necessary to get to an accepted understanding about the past and whether things have changed – which is the first step to restoring public confidence.

“I believe the only authorities that can commission such an inspection are the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Home Secretary. I met with a group of Sheffield MPs, the Chief Constable and Sheffield City Council this morning and my office is having urgent discussions with the Home Office to agree on how this inspection should proceed.”

Yorkshire Post

Child abuse report: Too many children still at risk

Published February 17, 2015 by JS2

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Too many children in England are still “slipping though the net” and remain at risk of sexual abuse, a report says.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner report found there had been “considerable” progress in some areas of tackling child exploitation.

But “at the front line much work is still needed,” said Deputy Commissioner Sue Berelowitz, who headed the inquiry.

A Home Office spokesman said it was “determined that appalling cases be exposed” but said “more must be done”.

The latest report, called “If it’s not better, it’s not the end”, follows an Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups, which was launched in October 2011.

The inquiry published six reports and made 37 recommendations.

Rates of exploitation

The OCC’s follow-up report has raised concerns about the level of progress in some areas, along with the continued “under-identification” of victims.

It said it was “worrying” that the inquiry’s recommendation to make sex education a statutory part of the curriculum had not been adopted by the government.

The report also found “vastly different” reported rates of child sexual exploitation in different parts of England.

Sue Berelowitz
Young people must understand what are and are not healthy relationships, Sue Berelowitz said

In nine local authorities – all with similar demographics and deprivation levels – the rates of known exploitation varied between one victim and 65 victims per 10,000 children.

The report highlighted concerns that too many children at risk of becoming victims or who are already victims are not being identified.

Only 48% of local Safeguarding Children Boards said they had identified victims.

“There are still many parts of England where the identification of victims remains very low, despite the evidence we published that there are children in every part of England who are at risk or who are victims,” the report said.

Strategic objectives had not always filtered down to “front-line practice”, while information sharing between different agencies “remains a problem”, it added.

Sex education call

The report comes after abuse scandals in areas including Rotherham, where it was reported that 1,400 children were abused between 1997 and 2013.

“Organisations and authorities responsible for children’s safety must also not ignore the lessons from our inquiry, reinforced powerfully by findings in Rotherham and elsewhere,” said Ms Berelowitz.

“It is absolutely critical that they have in place ways of identifying the children who at risk or are already victims and ensuring their safety.”

She also called for “age-appropriate relationships and sex education” to be made a statutory part of the school curriculum.

“Young people need to understand what are and what are not healthy relationships,” she said.

Separately, the Commons Education Committee has said in a report that all state primary and secondary schools in England should have to teach sex-and-relationships education (SRE).

A Home Office spokesman said the government was “determined that appalling cases be exposed so that perpetrators face justice” and “vulnerable children and young people are protected”.

“We have a new, tougher inspection framework for children’s services and the College of Policing has introduced new guidance for police which moves the focus of investigations away from the credibility of victims on to the credibility of the allegation,” the spokesman said.

Home Secretary Theresa May has written to chief constables stressing “the highest standards must be met”, while plans to address “accountability, leadership and action” to support victims will be published shortly.

However, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper MP said “in too many cases” children were not being listened to, victims were not being protected and abusers were not prosecuted.

BBC news

The Home Office allegedly funded a paedophile group in the 1970s. Why?

Published November 13, 2014 by JS2

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The Home Office may have covered up historic child abuse allegations – but what of the “Paedophile Information Exchange” group that was allegedly funded by the department?

Theresa May said that she couldn’t say that the Home Office was definitely not involved in covering up historic child abuse allegations in a House of Commons debate this week.

An official inquiry, by head of the NSPCC Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC, had been unable to “prove or disprove” the claims that the department was involved in a cover-up. Theresa May has asked police and MI5 to carry out further reviews of how they handled allegations of child sex abuse.

At the heart of the issue are a trove of files that have gone missing.

Over a hundred files lost or destroyed

There are 114 files from the 1970s and 80s containing allegations of institutional paedophilia that have gone missing or been destroyed.

Mr Wanless said that one of the files had been destroyed as recently as 2012. This file referred the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), a pro-paedophile activist group active between 1974 and 1984.

One of their campaigns was about trying to reduce the age of consent to just 4 years old.

It’s believed that there are ten more files relating to PIE.

The Paedophile Information Exchange was supported by left-wing groups

The group got support from both the left and the right in 1970s Britain. Labour politician Harriet Harman was among young left-wingers who worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), the left-wing group that granted “affiliated” status to PIE.

The NCCL supported PIE by campaigning on the issue of sexual consent; they submitted a response to a government plan to reform sex laws that argued “childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in with an adult result in no identifiable damage”.

The NCCL also allowed Tom O’Carroll, leader of PIE, to make a speech at their Spring conference in 1977. He later admitted and was convicted for distributing child porn images.

Members from PIE were involved in NCCL activities until the early 80s when they were expelled from the organisation. Last year, current Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti apologised for their connection, saying “it is a source of continuing disgust and horror that even the NCCL had to expel paedophiles from its ranks in 1983”.

PIE was also allegedly given money by the Home Office

The Home Office allegedly gave the Paedophile Information Exchange £70,000 of taxpayers’ money in grants between 1977 and 1980, according to a whistleblower who spoke to the Sunday People.

That’s £400,000 in today’s money.

But it’s difficult to get to the bottom of why – as the files have disappeared and some of the people involved have passed on.

What else do we know?

PIE regularly published magazines promoting paedophilia as a sexual preference rather than an abusive act.

The leader of PIE, Tom O’Carroll, wrote a book called Paedophilia: The Radical Case.

It was supported for 6 years by the National Council for Civil Liberties, which has since become Liberty.

There were 180 members, two of whom were female.

But the main things to think about here are: Did they really receive that much money? And why can’t we find out?

Anna Leech

Child abuse claims did not involve prominent politicians, report finds

Published November 11, 2014 by JS2

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Wanless inquiry into missing Home Office files also finds no evidence they were deliberately or systematically destroyed

Specific allegations of child abuse made by the former Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens were taken seriously by Lord Brittan when he was home secretary, but they did not involve prominent politicians or celebrities, according to a new Home Office file uncovered by the Wanless inquiry.

Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), concludes in his inquiry report into 114 missing Home Office files relating to child abuse in the 1980s that there is no evidence that they were “deliberately or systematically removed or destroyed to cover up organised child abuse”.

Wanless says the record keeping practices inside the Home Office at the time mean it is not possible to reach a categorical conclusion but “we found nothing specific to support a concern that the Home Office had failed in any organised or deliberate way to identify or refer individual allegations of child abuse to the police”.

The home secretary, Theresa May, responded to Wanless’s review of the original Home Office internal investigation into the missing files by asking him to look further at how the police and prosecution authorities handled the child abuse allegations that were passed on to them by the Home Office at the time.

She has also asked Wanless and his co-author, Richard Whittam QC, to establish whether any of the material mentioned in the internal inquiry or in connection with the 114 missing files was passed to the security services, and if so, what action they took.

MI5 responded to the Wanless inquiry by carrying out a search of its own files but said it had not found any relevant to the review.

Wanless says that one relevant 1983 Home Office file, the “Brighton assaults” file, was found after the initial investigation had been completed. It contains correspondence between officials and ministers relating to meetings between Brittan and Dickens in 1983 and 1984, mostly prompted by a desire to respond to a horrific attack on a child in Brighton that had led to front-page headlines.

The file includes a paper setting out the case for and against banning the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) that was presented to Brittan on 31 August 1983. “He is recorded in discussion as accepting advice that, with ongoing police investigation into PIE activities, it was not right to be commenting further on banning the organisation,” reports Wanless.

It also contains a departmental briefing for Brittan for a meeting with Dickens on 24 November when he handed over two letters containing specific allegations. In addition, it contains a subsequent letter from Dickens with further enclosed cases for investigation and thanking the home secretary for his “splendid support”.

The cases were passed on to the director of public prosecutions and Dickens was subsequently told that two of the cases could form the basis for police investigations.

“There is no mention of prominent politicians or celebrities in the cases under discussion [in marked contrast to media commentary about these meetings at the time],” adds Wanless.

The inquiry also reviewed the evidence of alleged funding of PIE by the Home Office’s voluntary services unit and concludes on the balance of probabilities that it did not take place. They say they cannot dismiss entirely evidence from a whistleblower that PIE might have been funded as part of a police or security service effort to infiltrate the organisation but found no evidence to support it.

Alan Travis

Written statement to Parliament – Child sexual abuse (Woolf Inquiry)

Published October 21, 2014 by JS2

From:Home Office and The Rt Hon Theresa May MPDelivered on:21 October 2014First published:21 October 2014Part of:Reducing and preventing crime and Crime and policing

This written ministerial statement was delivered on 21 October 2014 in the House of Commons by Theresa May and in the House of Lords by Lord Bates.

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Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May):

Further to my statement to the House on 7 July and my written ministerial statements of 9 July and 5 September 2014, I am pleased to announce that I have appointed the panel members to the independent inquiry panel of experts, which will consider whether public bodies – and other, non-state, institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

Sharon Evans, Ivor Frank, Dame Moira Gibb, Professor Jenny Pearce OBE, Dru Sharpling CBE and Professor Terence Stephenson, will join Graham Wilmer MBE and Barbara Hearn OBE as panel members for the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Ben Emmerson QC is counsel to the inquiry, and Professor Alexis Jay OBE will serve as an expert adviser.

I am confident that this panel, under the chairmanship of Fiona Woolf CBE, will carry out a robust and thorough inquiry, and will challenge individuals and institutions without fear or favour, in order to consider this important issue, to learn the relevant lessons, and to prevent it happening again. The panel represents a diverse range of experience, which includes social care, academia, law enforcement, health, media, the voluntary sector and those with experience of child sexual abuse.

The terms of reference have been drafted to ensure that this strong and balanced panel of independent experts can have full access to all the material it seeks, unless there is a statutory impediment to it doing so. The panel will consider matters from 1970 to the present, although this can be extended if evidence is provided that supports this, and will decide how and where to focus its efforts, in order to complete its work and make recommendations within a reasonable timeframe. The terms of reference have been finalised and a copy will be placed in the House Library. The panel will provide an update to Parliament before May next year.

Each of the panel members has written to me setting out in full any issues which might be seen to cast doubt on their impartiality. Those letters are published in full on the inquiry’s website. I am confident that they will carry out their duties to the highest standards of impartiality and integrity.

Fiona Woolf has a long and distinguished career throughout which she has demonstrated the highest standards of integrity. I am confident that she will lead the work of the panel with authority, and that under her leadership the panel will get to the truth of these issues. They will do so on behalf of victims past and present to ensure that the sexual abuse of children is never again a hidden crime, and that past failings are acknowledged, and recommendations made for further improvements to current arrangements in the light of the panel’s findings. I wish the panel every success in its important work.

The inquiry’s website can be found athttp://www.childsexualabuseinquiry.independent.gov.uk.