In recent years, there have been increasing reports of child sexual abuse in a number of institutions, including in the BBC, the NHS, in children’s homes and in schools. Allegations of sexual offending involving children have been made against people with prominent positions in public life, including those in the media and in Parliament. At the same time, there have been growing reports of failures within the police to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse, and failures within the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute these allegations. Together, these reports demand a comprehensive and joined-up response. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was established as a statutory inquiry on 12 March 2015 to consider the growing evidence of institutional failures to protect children from child sexual abuse, and to make recommendations to ensure the best possible protection for children in future.
The information and statistics currently available do not give a full account of the scale of child abuse across England and Wales, but estimates suggest that one child in every 20 in the United Kingdom has been sexually abused. In 2014, police statistics show that there were over 28,000 recorded sexual offences where the victim was aged under 16. There are likely to have been many more offences that were not reported to the police. As in Australia, Northern Ireland, Jersey and Scotland, the level of public concern has resulted in calls for an overarching inquiry to look at the big picture, to learn the lessons of the past, to take stock of child protection procedures that are currently in operation, and to set a new course for the future. In conducting its work, the Inquiry is liaising with the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, with the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, with the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland, and with the Scottish Inquiry into Historical Abuse of Children in Care. Together the inquiries have much to learn from each other. The Inquiry is also liaising with Operation Hydrant, the national police investigation into more than 1400 investigations of non-recent sexual abuse of children.