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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


K.1: Conclusions

Addressing and allaying public concerns

1. There is ample evidence that individual perpetrators of child sexual abuse have been linked to Westminster.[1] However, the Inquiry has found no evidence to support the most sensational of the various allegations of child sexual abuse made over recent years that there has been a powerful paedophile network operating within Westminster. There is no evidence to suggest an organised network of abusers in Westminster, or that individuals with a Westminster connection who sexually abused children were part of a coordinated, organised group.

2. It is clear that there have been significant failures by Westminster institutions in their dealing with, and confrontation of, allegations of child sexual abuse. This has included not recognising it, turning a blind eye to it, actively shielding and protecting perpetrators, and covering up allegations of child sexual abuse.

3. Even though we did not find evidence of an organised Westminster paedophile network, the lasting effect on victims of sexual abuse by individual abusers linked to Westminster has been profound. And it has been compounded by institutional complacency about child sexual abuse and indifference to the plight of victims. We found, in particular, that institutions regularly put their own reputations or political interests before child protection.

4. Despite the Inquiry engaging in an extensive evidence-gathering process, we have seen no material indicating the existence of a Westminster ‘paedophile ring’. Similarly, no evidence of any attempts to cover up or suppress information about the existence of such a ring was found at MI5, SIS, GCHQ or in Metropolitan Police Special Branch records now held by Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command.

5. The allegations made by Anthony Daly in relation to his book Playland: Secrets of a Forgotten Scandal, published in 2018,[2] that senior establishment figures were present at parties where underage ‘rent boys’ were sexually abused and exploited do not of themselves constitute evidence of the existence of an organised network.

6. No material emerged from the political parties to show that there existed any kind of organised network of persons engaged in child sexual abuse. Despite the suggestion by Tim Fortescue that whips were aware of and sought to gain advantage from “scandal involving small boys”,[3] we found no evidence that party whips deliberately suppressed any specific information about child sexual abuse. However, we also gained the distinct impression that the whips’ offices were concerned above all to protect the image of their party. There was a consistent culture for years of playing down rumours and protecting politicians from gossip or scandal at all costs. Moreover, it was done without ever considering the interests of potential victims and whether action should be taken to investigate allegations further, or to pass them on to the proper authorities.

7. The source of some of the most lurid claims about a sinister network of abusers in Westminster has now been discredited. 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 false allegations of child sexual abuse and murder made by him against a variety of prominent political figures, including Sir Edward Heath, Lord Brittan, Lord Bramall and the former heads of MI5 and MI6. He was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment.

8. We have considered various areas of concern raised by Peter McKelvie. Each of these was investigated by the police but could not be supported. His concerns, which appear to have been genuine, might have been allayed by better communication about the progress of the investigations by the Metropolitan Police Service.

9. The Inquiry heard about the various claims made concerning Elm Guest House, which was a tawdry establishment where child sexual abuse took place.[4] We heard evidence about the various investigations conducted by the Metropolitan Police Service, which is available in full on the Inquiry’s website.[5] This evidence goes some way to clarifying the allegations relating to child sexual abuse involving persons of public prominence and the extent to which there is any support for them.

10. The Inquiry investigated Don Hale’s account of a ‘D-Notice’ being misused to stop publication of an explosive story about child sexual abuse by Cyril Smith and other high-profile politicians. We are unable to place any weight on Mr Hale’s evidence and we cannot make any positive finding regarding the account that he gives.


11. We heard evidence of overt and direct deference by police towards powerful people, such as a conscious decision not to arrest or investigate someone because of their profile or position. One example of this kind of deference comes from Lord Taverne, who told us about Sir Joe Simpson’s remark to the Home Secretary that police did not investigate certain Westminster lavatories to avoid the embarrassment of apprehending MPs and celebrities who frequented them. The best example of such deference is the case of Sir Peter Hayman, who was cautioned but avoided prosecution for sending obscene material in the post. This followed a meeting between his solicitor, Sir David Napley, and the Director of Public Prosecutions, after which Hayman himself considered he had been given immunity from prosecution. There is no question but that Hayman was the beneficiary of preferential, differential and unduly deferential treatment as a person of public prominence.

12. A second form of deference we have heard about is a more internal kind within institutions themselves, such as where junior police officers did not challenge senior officers’ questionable decisions during investigations of the powerful for fear of harming their own career prospects. We also heard evidence that changes to police culture over the past two or three decades have meant that this kind of deference has significantly reduced.

13. We have also seen some evidence of the dangers of deference to ideas, rather than people. The profound social changes of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in relation to socially acceptable sexual behaviour, meant that people in positions of political and cultural influence at that time deliberately sought to challenge the boundaries of sexual activity. Language was often used in ambiguous ways. For example, the term ‘boys’ was used to describe 18 to 21-year-old young men. Although homosexual acts were decriminalised in 1967, the age of consent was still higher than for heterosexual relations until 2000 and being openly homosexual in Parliament was still unusual and the subject of disapproval. The effect of this was that in some circles there was an unwillingness to challenge efforts to make ‘paedophilia’ acceptable or to ask difficult questions about proposals to reduce the age of consent which seemed to be borne of inappropriate attitudes, for fear of being seen as old-fashioned, buttoned-up or out of touch with the times. Child welfare and protection yielded to self-serving ideas of sexual liberation.

14. A good example of this was the way in which the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was able to gain support from certain civil society organisations for a period of several years. This appears to have been possible partly because PIE was not quite as open about its aims to begin with as it was later to become, and so its members were to some extent initially able to infiltrate civil libertarian and gay rights groups ‘under the radar’. It was also because, as both Jeremy Clarke,[6] a trustee of the Albany Trust, and Corey Stoughton,[7] Advocacy Director of Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties, NCCL), admitted, the governance structures and awareness of safeguarding in both the Albany Trust and the NCCL at the time were significantly more lax and underdeveloped than they are now.

15. However, the desire on the part of organisations like the Albany Trust and the NCCL to be seen as open-minded, and their determination to challenge prevailing conventions in society and push at the boundaries of what was considered appropriate, blinded them to the danger and led to some seriously flawed thinking. The evidence we heard from Mr Clarke about “understanding and acceptance” being the key aim of the Albany Trust was a good example of this.[8] This ethos appears to have been stretched to breaking point so that there was consideration of how to accept even the wholly unacceptable. Both organisations demonstrated a fundamental failure to see the problem and a lack of moral courage to confront it. The Inquiry has explored this problem in more detail in its research publication Deflection, denial and disbelief.[9] It identified the emergence of a discourse which argued that adult sexual attraction to children is a legitimate sexual orientation, and noted that PIE sought to make use of similar arguments.

Differences in treatment due to socio-economic status

16. This investigation has provided striking evidence of how wealth and social status insulated perpetrators of child sexual abuse from being brought to justice to the detriment of the victims of their alleged abuse. Preferential treatment of this type could be characterised as a further type of deference. The case of Victor Montagu might be regarded as an especially egregious example of it; significant leeway was given to Montagu as a well-known aristocratic landowner, and a patronising attitude was shown by the police and the Director of Public Prosections’ office towards a working-class victim.

17. While Sir Peter Hayman avoided prosecution, Robert Wardell, a bus inspector, was prosecuted for sending Hayman through the post “serious and extreme[10] material. This led the investigating officer to say there was “one law for Wardell and another for Hayman”.[11] The prosecution lawyer similarly remarked:

The taller they are, the harder they fall, and Hayman was fairly tall in respect of the diplomatic side of it. Therefore … he had a lot to lose. I’m not saying the others didn’t but he had a lot to lose if he was prosecuted.[12]

Those comments imply that Hayman received special treatment due to his status, and the lawyer’s remark suggests that special treatment was deserved for that reason.

18. The Montagu and Hayman cases provide instances of deference or a form of patronage due not only to power but also to social status and class. In her closing submissions on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service, Zoe Johnson QC argued that it was an age of deference, when victims’ rights were not paramount, and it is therefore impossible to disentangle those elements.[13] We acknowledge that in an age when deference was shown to power, authority and class, and victims’ rights were not at the forefront of the decision-making process, identifying the rationale underlying the decisions made in such cases may not be easy. However, we are left with the distinct impression that deference to class and power was the overriding motive for the decisions in the Montagu and Hayman cases.

19. We heard in a particularly stark way in this investigation how the poverty and disadvantaged position of victims led to their allegations of child sexual abuse not being taken seriously. The evidence of Paul Holmes about the difficulties in getting help for boys being sexually exploited around Piccadilly Circus was a vivid account of this problem. These boys were often runaways from damaged backgrounds who were known as ‘street rats’ by many police officers.[14]

Insufficient consideration of the needs of child victims and survivors

20. 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.

21. In 1979, Lord Steel (the leader of the Liberal Party) “assumed” Sir Cyril Smith had committed offences of child sexual abuse.[15] In our view, rather than give primacy to the protection of children, he yielded to considerations of political expediency and failed to launch a formal internal inquiry into Smith’s alleged activities. Likewise, the government’s and MI5’s handling of the case of Sir Peter Morrison in the mid-1980s demonstrated that considerations of political embarrassment and the security risk were of paramount importance while the risks to children allegedly abused by Morrison were not considered at all.

22. We also heard how the police were more concerned about prosecuting suspects than considering the welfare of sexually exploited children. Political parties in a 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 instances prioritised reputation and discretion with little or no regard for victims.

The implementation of safeguarding policies in practice

23. Professor June Thoburn analysed the policies and procedures of the parties and numerous government departments, and commented on their quality. Many government departments have improved their approach in recent years to varying degrees, and put in place safeguarding mechanisms.

24. The situation with political parties is less impressive. To give one obvious example, at the time of the hearing in this investigation, the evidence was that certain political parties had no specific safeguarding and child protection policies at all, and that remains the case for some political parties.

25. We also heard evidence, notably from the Green Party and the Labour Party, to suggest that there are major gaps in the practical knowledge of even senior people about basic safeguarding principles. It is a matter of grave concern that, even after a significant public outcry about allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster, elected politicians and officers of political parties do not understand how to respond to allegations properly, or consider themselves in a position to make judgements about whether abuse is sufficiently serious to warrant referral.

26. These examples show that there is still significant work to be done, including in relation to the detail of their policies and their rigorous implementation, particularly in terms of recognising and reporting allegations of child sexual abuse. This must extend to re-training and probationary periods for people in positions of authority in appropriate circumstances.

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