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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation Report

Contents

A.1: Background to the investigation

1. On 24 October 2012 at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Tom Watson MP claimed that there was “clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No. 10”. Mr Watson asserted that there had been a failure to follow up evidence obtained in the police investigation into convicted child sexual abuser Peter Righton, including evidence that, as he put it, related to a “senior aide to a former Prime Minister”.[1]

2. Mr Watson’s question gave rise to considerable public interest. His allegation came at a time of general disquiet regarding allegations of historical child sexual abuse. Mr Watson asked his question just three weeks after the first allegations about Jimmy Savile had been broadcast on ITV and only days after the launch of Operation Yewtree. His question was followed closely by Simon Danczuk MP calling in Parliament for an inquiry into alleged abuses by Cyril Smith.

3. These allegations fed into the growing public concern that a network of child sexual abusers may have operated with a degree of impunity at the highest levels of public life. That concern continued to grow. Two years later, on 6 July 2014, Simon Danczuk wrote in the Mail on Sunday calling for a public inquiry into historic child sexual abuse in Westminster. The same day, in a television interview on The Andrew Marr Show, Lord Tebbit said that this had to be understood against the “atmosphere of the times” and agreed, when asked by Mr Marr, that “there may well have been” a “big political cover-up” related to child sexual abuse in the 1980s.[2] In a subsequent statement to us, Lord Tebbit explained what was in his mind when he referred to “a big political cover-up” by the establishment. He referred to his awareness of Jimmy Savile’s excessive interest in child patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the lack of action taken against Cyril Smith for allegedly abusing teenage boys, rumours of sexual deviance of senior members of the Church of England and Catholic Church, and suggestions that Peter Morrison MP had an interest in young men, which Lord Tebbit took to mean “young men of about sixth form age”.[3]

4. The public concern about Westminster child sexual abuse allegations in this two-year period following Mr Watson’s Parliamentary question was a significant factor in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse being established. On 7 July 2014, the day after Lord Tebbit’s interview, the setting up of the Inquiry in its initial non-statutory form was announced by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May MP.

5. The allegations between 2012 and 2014 of cover-up and conspiracy relating to Westminster child sexual abuse were not entirely new. Public allegations of this nature had been made from time to time over the preceding two or three decades. The two great political sex scandals of the 1960s and 1970s – the Profumo and Thorpe affairs – involved extensive allegations that the Westminster establishment had turned a blind eye to wrongdoing or covered it up. While those two matters involved adult sexual activity, other high-profile sex scandals during the period involved children.

6. Many historic allegations from the 1960s to the 1990s have been revisited. There has, for example, been extensive commentary and debate concerning events at Elm Guest House, which was advertised as a gay guest house, and what became of the so-called ‘Dickens dossier’ compiled by Geoffrey Dickens MP. Claims have been made by retired police officers to the effect that investigations into prominent individuals suspected of involvement in child sexual abuse were suppressed in the 1980s and earlier. Most prominent of all were the claims of Carl Beech – known as ‘Nick’ – of a Westminster paedophile[4] ring in Dolphin Square. Beech’s claims were first made public in 2014, and were the subject of the Metropolitan Police Service’s Operation Midland. For several reasons Beech’s claims did not form any part of this Inquiry, as set out below.

References

Footnotes

  1. INQ004102; Hansard 24 Oct 2012, Column 923
  2. INQ004091
  3. INQ001846_002
  4. The term ‘paedophile’ is a diagnostic term for a paraphilic disorder, often used inappropriately to describe all perpetrators of child sexual abuse. It applies to a person who has a primary or exclusive sexual preference for prepubescent children. Not all paedophiles act on their sexual preference or interest. Having a sexual preference or interest in children and young people is not a criminal offence, but acting on that sexual preference or interest is a criminal offence.
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