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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation Report

Contents

A.2: Scope of this investigation

7. This investigation is entitled ‘Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse Linked to Westminster’. It concerns institutional responses into allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation involving people of public prominence who were associated with Westminster. By ‘Westminster’, we mean the centre of the United Kingdom’s government, government ministers and officials, as well as Parliament, its members and the political parties represented there.

8. With the exception of Carl Beech’s allegations (discussed below), the Inquiry has sought to investigate and throw light upon the issues giving rise to public concern about child sexual abuse involving Westminster that have come to the fore since 2012. It has not been possible to examine and seek to reach conclusions about all the questions that have arisen over the years. The allegations cover a significant number of factual matters relating to events that took place all over England and Wales over decades. The Westminster investigation is also only one of the many investigations into different subject areas that the Inquiry will undertake. The Inquiry must approach its work in a selective and proportionate manner.

9. Other reviews and inquiries have already investigated some elements of this public concern. Questions around the ‘Dickens dossier’ and the alleged Home Office funding of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) were explored in two internal Home Office reviews and by the further review carried out by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC in November 2014. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has investigated many of the complaints of police misconduct in respect of Westminster child sexual abuse allegations. The Inquiry’s work has built on these previous reviews and inquiries, in accordance with its Terms of Reference.

10. The Inquiry heard evidence in relation to seven topics,[1] which to some extent interact with each other:

  • Police misconduct: This relates to the allegations that police investigations into cases of possible child sexual abuse linked with Westminster may have been the subject of inappropriate interference.
  • Political parties: We considered the way in which political parties, and in particular the leadership of those parties, have reacted to allegations of child sexual abuse made about individuals within their own parties.
  • Whips’ offices: This responds to concern generated by comments made by a former Conservative Party whip, Tim Fortescue. In a BBC interview in 1995, Mr Fortescue suggested that whips would help to cover up scandals as a means of gaining loyalty, including what he described as a “scandal involving small boys”.[2]
  • PIE: The Inquiry heard evidence about the links between PIE and other civil society organisations during the 1970s, in particular the Albany Trust and the National Council for Civil Liberties. We also investigated the allegations by Mr Tim Hulbert, a former Home Office Voluntary Services Unit consultant, that PIE may have been in receipt of Home Office funding.
  • Prosecutorial decisions: There has been concern that decisions whether or not to prosecute persons of public prominence associated with Westminster in child sexual abuse cases may have been the subject of improper interference from within the Westminster establishment.
  • The honours system: The honours system itself is an institution operated on behalf of the Crown by senior politicians and civil servants within the Westminster establishment. Concerns have been raised as to whether the honours system takes appropriate account of allegations of child sexual abuse that have been made against individuals being considered for an honour or those who have already been been granted an honour.
  • Current safeguarding policies of Her Majesty’s Government, the Palace of Westminster and political parties: Finally, the Inquiry considered the sufficiency and efficacy of current safeguarding policies relating to children by Her Majesty’s Government, the Palace of Westminster itself and political parties.

11. During the investigation we identified several cross-cutting themes, which will be highlighted throughout the report.

  • Addressing and allaying public concerns: As set out above, some cases of high-profile politicians or other Westminster figures being involved in child sexual abuse are well-documented and easily verifiable. However, there have also been allegations and rumours which have circulated for many years, about which it is much harder to establish the truth. Some of these are profoundly disturbing and have rightly attracted significant public interest. Part of the Inquiry’s role is to look into these allegations and rumours. If on close examination it transpired there was a satisfactory explanation for the underlying facts, we have sought to allay public concerns and put to rest some long-running beliefs which we have concluded have no credible foundation.
  • Deference: This is a major theme that has emerged again and again in the course of this investigation. Westminster lends itself to deference of many types. It is an area of public life steeped in tradition and it is concerned above all with the exercise of power. We have seen examples of deference within political parties and other institutions towards more senior figures, and deference by police and prosecutors towards politicians and other persons of public prominence.
  • Differences in treatment due to socio-economic status: On several occasions throughout the evidence, we noted a distinct difference in the way wealthy or well-connected individuals have been treated, as opposed to those who were poorer or more deprived and without access to networks of influence. We have formed the distinct impression that wealth and social status have played a key role in insulating perpetrators of child sexual abuse from being brought to justice, and the poverty of victims has led to allegations of child sexual abuse being taken less seriously.
  • Insufficient consideration of the needs of child victims: A consistent pattern that has emerged from the evidence we have heard is a failure by almost every institution to put the needs and safety of children who have survived sexual abuse first. We heard how the police were more concerned about achieving prosecutions than about the welfare of sexually exploited children. Political parties in a whole variety of ways have shown themselves, even very recently, to be more concerned about political fallout than about safeguarding. Our investigation of the honours system found a process which in some cases prioritised reputation and discretion with little or no regard for victims.
  • The implementation of safeguarding policies in practice: It is clear that until very recently none of the key Westminster institutions had anything approaching adequate safeguarding policies, frameworks or procedures. That has changed significantly in recent years. However, even the best procedures and policies are useless if they are not implemented and if the members of the institutions are unaware of their requirements. Sadly, we heard evidence that suggested practical working knowledge of relevant procedures was still sorely lacking.

Our findings in relation to each are drawn together in Part K.

12. The focus of this investigation – and of the Inquiry more generally – is on the conduct of institutions, rather than of individuals. In general terms at least, the conduct of individuals is a matter for the police and for the courts. As stated above, this investigation concerns the way in which Westminster institutions responded, or failed to respond, to allegations of child sexual abuse. The clear purpose of the Inquiry hearing evidence about such allegations was not to examine their truth, but to investigate what institutions knew about allegations of this nature and how they responded to them, if at all. It was therefore neither necessary nor proportionate for this investigation to attempt to reach conclusions about the truth of individual allegations of child sexual abuse made against Westminster figures. Indeed, statutory agencies regularly make decisions (in the context of child protection) based on allegations and a complete assessment of all the circumstances, rather than after the substance of allegations has been proven in a formal justice system process. This is because their focus is the welfare of the child rather than establishing guilt or innocence.

Operation Midland and Carl Beech

13. In late 2014 serious allegations of child sexual abuse and murder were made by Carl Beech (initially known only as ‘Nick’ to protect his identity) against a variety of prominent political figures, including Sir Edward Heath, Lord Brittan, Lord Bramall and the former directors of MI5 and MI6. The allegations centred on an apartment complex known as Dolphin Square, but also involved other locations.

14. As has been well publicised, the Metropolitan Police investigation into Beech’s allegations – Operation Midland – ended with no charges being brought. A detailed review of Operation Midland was carried out by a retired High Court Judge, Sir Richard Henriques. His report, published in 2016, made a series of criticisms of the Metropolitan Police relating to the way in which Operation Midland had been conducted.

15. In light of the investigation of Beech’s allegations, and the risk of prejudice to possible future criminal proceedings, those allegations were not included within the scope of our investigation.

16. In July 2019, several months after the conclusion of the hearings in this investigation, Carl Beech was convicted at Newcastle Crown Court of perverting the course of justice and fraud in connection with the allegations referred to above. He was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment.

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