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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation Report


H.2: Victor Montagu

2. Alexander Victor Edward Paulet Montagu (known as Victor) was born in 1906, and was Viscount Hinchingbrooke from 1916 until 1962. He was the Conservative MP for South Dorset between 1941 and 1962. In 1962, when his father died, he succeeded as 10th Earl of Sandwich. Having renounced his titles under the Peerage Act 1963, he was then known as Victor Montagu and stood as a Conservative Party candidate in Accrington in the 1964 general election. He died in 1995.

Robert Montagu

3. Robert Montagu is the youngest (born in 1949) of seven children of Victor Montagu and Rosemary Peto. His parents separated when he was five and divorced in 1958. After college he became an importer of goods and then a business consultant. He retrained as a family therapist, working for NHS child and adolescent mental health services and then went into private practice in Dorset. In 2005, he founded the Dorset Child and Family Counselling Trust which went on to become the Family Counselling Trust, operating across Dorset and Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire.[1]

4. In 1955, Victor Montagu bought Mapperton House in West Dorset where Robert Montagu would stay every year during summer, Easter and Christmas vacations until he was between 16 and 18.[2] While other siblings and house staff were in the house, Robert would visit his father before breakfast every day. He was the only child to do so. Robert remembered this practice starting when he was about six and a half and it continued until he was aged around 11. He told us that he used to go into his father’s bedroom for the 7:30am morning news and then a story. After 15 or 20 minutes, his father would sexually abuse him by removing Robert’s pyjamas or asking him to do so, and he would then fondle him all over his body, and kiss, stroke as well as suck his penis, sometimes for some duration. These acts continued until Robert was about nine and a half. He recalled at this point in time the sexual activity escalating with his father positioning him on his front, placing a handkerchief over his bottom and rubbing his penis between the cheeks of his bottom, sometimes with and sometimes without ejaculation. These were invariably daily occurrences at the same time each day. There were acts Robert refused, such as touching and kissing him.

5. He also recalled one full act of anal penetration when he was around 11 years old in his father’s London house just before a skiing holiday. On that occasion, Victor Montagu ran the bath, he then asked Robert to strip and they wrestled for a short time. He then asked Robert to position himself on the side of the bed with his top half leaning over the bed, when he put his penis inside him and masturbated until he ejaculated. The day continued as if nothing had happened.[3] This act of anal rape was the only instance he could recall, although he said there might have been others he had overlooked.[4]

6. Robert believed that presents his father gave him were larger than those given to his siblings. This only increased his self-criticism because they made him believe that he was serving as a prostitute for mercenary reasons. There were no threats not to tell and no encouragement to treat the acts as their secret. He did feel however that his special position with his father was envied by his siblings who teased him about it.[5]

7. He told us how it felt as a child to be the victim of his father’s sexual abuse. Despite the absence of any compliance on his side, he was filled with shame and self-disgust. He thought of suicide and he might have carried it out but for what he took to be an instance of divine intervention in church when he heard a booming voice saying “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”.[6]

8. The abuse came to an end when Robert was around 11 years old. Two of his sisters discovered he was sharing a bath with his father and later quizzed him about it, and then shared it with their mother. As a result, he was “interviewed” by his mother and the family doctor when he was in London before returning to school. He told them “very painfully” everything and in graphic terms. On his return to school, he waited “for the police to arrive and an investigation to begin, and nothing happened”. After a period of separation, he was returned to his father’s care “as if nothing had happened” and his father sought “to continue the relationship”.[7]

9. Robert Montagu made clear that no adult within the family sought to intervene or defend him. His deliberate use of the word ‘interview’ to describe the meeting with his mother and the family doctor was insightful. He says his mother was disgusted by the news. He imagined that she had discussions with his doctor, their lawyer and friends, and decided it was “more important to keep this horrible news from examination by the police partly in order to protect me, in a sense, thinking that was the best thing to do”.[8]

10. As he rightly points out, had there been an investigation his father would have been stopped and there would have been no further victims.[9] He told us that at the age of around 12 he discovered other boys – a newspaper boy or an estate worker’s son, for example – had attended his father’s bedroom just as he had, which came as a shock to him. Later, he became more aware of it when his own school friends and neighbours’ friends were approached. His own research indicated there had been at least 10 victims, probably nearer 20.[10]

11. Although his mother’s and doctor’s inaction might in part have been to protect Robert from police intrusion, it was shortsighted and neglectful, because it ignored the suffering he had endured. It also risked further abuse. Yet despite the abuse he complained of, Robert Montagu has demonstrated courage and determination to escape his past, even though it is plainly never far from his mind.

12. In 2014, after his parents’ deaths, Robert Montagu published A Humour of Love about his experiences, in order “to establish not only my voice but the multifold of voices” by interviewing in his imagination his father to understand his motivations, as well as his mother, the family doctor and their lawyer.[11] He was asked, from his standpoint as a victim of child sexual abuse and from his own professional experience, what steps he considered might reduce the risk of child sexual abuse allegations not being taken seriously, not just by public authorities but also by the family or powerful people being treated with undue deference when such allegations are made. He strongly advocated that mandatory reporting should be made law in schools and within the domestic setting (subject to extenuating circumstances) and he invited us to make a recommendation for mandatory reporting.[12] In September 2018 and in April 2019, the Inquiry held a seminar which examined existing obligations to report child sexual abuse and the arguments for and against mandatory reporting.[13] Mandatory reporting will be considered further in the Inquiry’s final report.

The 1972 police report

13. On 24 November 1972, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Newman of Dorset & Bournemouth Constabulary submitted a report of 17 November 1972 to the Director of Public Prosecutions concerning two suggested offences of indecent assault committed by Victor Montagu against a 10-year-old boy between 31 December 1970 and 11 November 1972.[14] As the dates make clear, the boy in question (ciphered as WM-A108) was not Robert Montagu.

14. WM-A108 lived on the Mapperton Estate and had known Victor Montagu since he was a little boy. One weekend during 1971, Victor Montagu had asked the boy to go with him to his bedroom. There, Montagu removed his own trousers and lay on the bed. He took down WM-A108’s trousers to his knees, leaving the boy’s underpants on and then asked if he would like a little fight. The boy did not want one. Montagu changed trousers, the boy pulled his trousers up and they left the bedroom.

15. On another occasion about a month later, Victor Montagu and the boy went for a walk during which he suggested that he and the boy have a fight. Montagu removed his clothing so he was naked to the waist and the boy took off his jumper but kept his shirt on. They rolled around, ending up with Montagu on top of WM-A108. Montagu kissed the boy on the lips and tickled him, touching the insides of his legs and his “private parts” over his clothing, as well as tickling his back.[15]

16. During similar activity two weeks later in Montagu’s bedroom, Montagu kissed WM-A108’s private parts twice. A similar incident occurred some two months later. The boy described another incident when Montagu kissed him on the lips. In summer 1972 in a swimming pool, Montagu and the boy swam together in the nude, after which Montagu dried him with a towel including his private parts although he did not touch him with his hand.

17. On a final occasion, Montagu wrestled with WM-A108 in an attic bedroom, when he kissed the boy’s private parts and rubbed his penis along the boy’s legs. On this occasion, he held the boy’s hand against his (Montagu’s) own private parts. There was also an incident in Montagu’s London house when he kissed WM-A108 on the lips.

18. During the investigation, WM-A108 told the police about the many gifts Montagu had given him and about a forthcoming trip to Switzerland.[16] In the ‘Observations’ section of the report, DCI Newman described the boy as “a simple lad, perhaps to be pitied”. He was sure WM-A108 had not taken advantage of the situation to “furnish his nest” by demanding gifts from Montagu. DCI Newman then focussed attention on the mother’s reaction to Montagu’s gifts to WM-A108 and his disclosures to her about what had happened, concluding that the mother had “an animal-like approach to life” and “failed to attach much importance to the boy’s possible exposure to moral danger”. The father had eventually understood that “the association had now become dangerous in the interests of the boy’s future”.[17]

19. As for Victor Montagu, DCI Newman noted that all persons on the estate at Mapperton thought very highly of him as an employer and friend. It was also rumoured that his second marriage (in 1962 which ended in 1965) had not been consummated, since which time “he appears to have lived a lonely life and it was thought that his interest in [WM-A108] was no more than fatherly”. DCI Newman continued:

“From his replies, I am certain that he does not realise the seriousness of what has occurred but when one considers that he has grandchildren of a similar age, and incidentally these grandchildren, together with [WM-A108] and other adults were going to form a ‘skiing party’ to Switzerland later this year, then perhaps some sympathy may be afforded him.”

DCI Newman closed his report by saying that Montagu had said WM-A108’s family’s position on the estate was not in jeopardy, adding:

“He also accepted my advice that the association with [WM-A108] should end immediately. I warned him that if it continued, my Superiors would have to consider that the boy be brought before a Juvenile Committee for consideration of putting him into safe custody as being exposed to moral danger.”[18]

20. In interview, Montagu described the activity as “romping” and said that there had been no sex at all as he was 66 and past sex. He said of the several allegations made that “The whole thing is almost entirely true”.[19]

The decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office

21. A decision note from the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office records that Victor Montagu had “admitted outwardly all that the boy says but says there was no sex in it  at 66 he is past sex”, and that the assaults consisted in the main of “romping and wrestling in the nude but there were occasions when Montagu kissed the boy’s penis”. The note describes the case as “bedevilled by the relationship in a rural community of employer and employee”. The decision was recorded as “Borderline  but with a man of previous good character, and no fear of repetition with this boy, I think we could caution.” The decision was made by Assistant Director South on 28 November 1972 and endorsed by Assistant Director Smith with the words “I agree” on 29 November 1972.[20]

22. A letter dated that same day, 29 November 1972, from the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office addressed to the Chief Constable of Dorset & Bournemouth Constabulary advised that the case could properly be dealt with by way of a caution:

The assaults, which are admitted, are not of themselves very serious and if Mr Montagu is prepared to take the excellent advice given to him by Det Chief Inspector Newman and avoid any contact with the boy in the future I do not think that proceedings are called for.[21]

There is no indication whose letter it is, other than a reference at the top beginning ‘AJS’.

23. Gregor McGill, Director of Legal Services at the Crown Prosecution Service, who gave evidence to our Cambridge House, Knowl View and Rochdale investigation about the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision in the case of Cyril Smith, was asked about the documentation in the Montagu case and the decision-making. He thought ‘South’ might be the Assistant Director’s name or the geographical area covered by him.[22] He was unable to shed any light on the decision-making in the case and did not have the benefit of understanding what, if any, policies may have applied to offences of indecent assault or what guidance there may have been on the giving of a caution. He agreed that the decision was turned round far more quickly than would be the case today.[23]

24. Mr McGill said he could only judge the case by how it would have been approached today. He said today the decision would be to prosecute. There was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and there was a clear public interest to prosecute; he pointed to the several aggravating features such as the age and vulnerability of the complainant, the marked disparity in age, the position of authority and trust held by Montagu, the grooming nature of the interaction with the boy and the fact the contact had occurred when they were naked and involved touching of, as well as kissing, the boy’s genitals.[24] Mr McGill said that matters such as Victor Montagu’s failure to consummate his second marriage, his apparent fatherly interest in the boy and his alleged failure to realise the gravity of what had occurred would not be given any credence today by a prosecutor. Ms Zoe Johnson QC, who represented the Crown Prosecution Service in this investigation, noted that the same factors which tipped the balance away from prosecuting in 1972 would tip the balance in favour of a prosecution today.[25]

25. We agree with Mr McGill that the Detective Chief Inspector’s advice to Montagu to avoid contact with the boy, which if it continued put the boy at risk of being taken into safe custody, made “uncomfortable reading”.[26] The effect of any resumption of offending by Victor Montagu was that the boy would be the one to be removed from his family and community rather than the offender, which highlights the relatively less important position occupied by a child victim as against that of an adult offender at the time.

26. Mr McGill agreed that if Victor Montagu had been charged and convicted of offences against his own son between 1955 and 1961, then he could not have been advanced as a person of good character in 1972, which was an aspect of the decision not to prosecute. He accepted that the facts in Robert Montagu’s case might arguably have amounted to similar fact evidence as to satisfy the requirement for corroboration when considering a prosecution in WM-A108’s case.[27]

27. Robert Montagu told us it had been a shock to discover there had been a police investigation in 1972. His reaction to reading the material revealing that his father’s good character had been regarded as justifying not proceeding and that a caution would suffice was to say that it was “entirely wrong, and very indicative of the attitude of the time towards people in public positions”. He said times had changed but from his experience, at that time, these were treated as private matters which should not come to public notice or be brought to court.[28] As noted on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service:

In a society riddled with class distinction and behaviour which was assessed on grounds of morality rather than criminality, the real offending was lost”.[29]

The real offending was lost, but it was an assessment of morality and the class distinction between him and the boy he sexually abused that swung the decision in Victor Montagu’s favour, as is evident from the tenor of the police report. This must have influenced the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to caution Victor Montagu rather than to prosecute him.

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