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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


J.3: The intelligence and security agencies

27. The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), the Security Service (MI5) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) provided witness statements[1] and safeguarding policies to the Inquiry.

28. The SIS confirmed that there was no formal policy in place concerning safeguarding and child protection before November 2015.[2] However, in two cases prior to 2015, despite the absence of a formal policy, referrals were made to relevant authorities regarding information about child sexual abuse or exploitation.

28.1. In one case involving the discovery of pornographic material, including indecent photographs of children on a computer used by SIS staff, a referral was made to police.[3]

28.2. In another case, where an SIS officer found out that a new contact was believed to be in the possession of a cache of illegal images of children, a referral was made to the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.[4]

The SIS policy, which was revised and updated in June 2018 and January 2019, provides guidance on the reporting of any information or allegations of child sexual abuse or exploitation. This forms part of mandatory legal training for all SIS members, including contractors and secondees. In February 2018, for example, the policy was applied in practice to a case where the SIS became aware that a foreign contact was in possession of a video clip which might have involved child sexual abuse.[5]

29. Prior to 2014, there was no specific MI5 policy relating to the protection of children at risk.[6] A policy has been in place since 2014 and has undergone a number of revisions.[7] We heard evidence from an MI5 witness about three case studies demonstrating how the policy works in practice, two involving possible child sexual abuse and one involving possible violence against a child. In summary, in each case the information was passed to the police.[8]

30. The GCHQ Deputy Director for Mission Policy explained that the day-to-day intelligence and information assurance activities undertaken by GCHQ staff in their professional capacities rarely, if ever, bring them into direct contact with children.[9] However, GCHQ provides members of staff with policy and guidance on what action they should take if they encounter material related to child sexual abuse in the course of examining operational data. One of GCHQ’s intelligence missions is to provide support to countering online child sexual exploitation and abuse and members of staff working in this mission seek out evidence of abuse. Should intelligence analysts working on unrelated missions encounter material related to child sexual abuse, they are guided by the GCHQ policy on Offensive Material which gives instructions on how to handle such information. We were provided with a number of policies relevant to child safeguarding and protection.

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