Westminster child sex abuse: Senior police and politicians knew about widespread paedophilia but ‘turned a blind eye to it’, inquiry finds
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was aware of rumours about Tory MP ‘but did nothing’, probe claims
by Chiara Giordano, published on The Independent, on February 25, 2020
Political institutions significantly failed in their responses to allegations of child sex abuse for decades by “actively shielding and protecting perpetrators” and covering up allegations, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has concluded.
According to the inquiry, several highly placed people in the 1970s and 1980s, including Sir Peter Morrison MP and Sir Cyril Smith MP, were known or rumoured to be active in their sexual interest in children and were protected from prosecution in a number of ways, including by police.
Former Metropolitan Police officer Robert Glen told the inquiry his team had enough evidence to prosecute Sir Cyril Smith, a former Liberal MP, in the 1970s for sexual offences against young boys – but he claims the investigation was thwarted by senior officers who said it was “too political”.
The report also claims Liberal Party members “were likely to be aware of allegations against Smith” but “did nothing to inhibit his political progress”.
The party leader at the time, Lord David Steel, allegedly admitted to the inquiry that he “assumed” Smith had committed the offences alleged in a Private Eye article but took no action because it happened “before he was even a member of my party”.
In the late 1980s, allegations arose that Sir Peter Morrison, the Conservative MP for Chester, had been caught by police molesting a 15-year-old boy on a train at Crewe.
The report claims senior officials within the Conservative Party knew about allegations concerning Morrison for years but did not pass them on to police.
Instead, he became Margaret Thatcher’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1990 and was knighted a year later.
Thatcher was aware of rumours about Morrison but did nothing, former cabinet secretary Lord Armstrong claimed.
A vivid picture of corruption in central London in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was portrayed by several witnesses, the inquiry report said.
“This included the cruising of expensive cars around Piccadilly Circus, by those viewing boys and young men, who would hang around the railings known as the ‘meat rack’ to be picked up by older men and abused,” it added.
The boys were described as being aged between 11 and 22 and from “damaged backgrounds” or “runaways from the care system”.
Lord Taverne, a Home Office minister in 1966, described a meeting with the then home secretary, Roy Jenkins, and the then commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Joe Simpson, during which Sir Joe remarked that there were “several ‘cottages’ in Westminster which we don’t investigate” because “they are frequented by celebrities and MPs”, the report said.
While not specifically about the sexual abuse of children, the inquiry said this was an “example of a policy giving special treatment to persons of prominence and of deference towards those in power at Westminster”.
During three weeks of public hearings last year, the inquiry heard from survivors, whistleblowers, cabinet ministers, MPs and police officers, among others.
The inquiry did not find any evidence of an organised paedophile network at the heart of government.
However, the report concluded there has been a political culture that values its reputation far higher than the fate of the children involved.
It has made five recommendations, including ensuring all political parties have comprehensive safeguarding policies and procedures.
The inquiry is also calling on the Cabinet Office to re-examine its policy on the posthumous forfeiture of honours.
Professor Alexis Jay OBE, chair of the inquiry, said: “It is clear to see that Westminster institutions have repeatedly failed to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse, from turning a blind eye to actively shielding abusers.
“A consistent pattern emerged of failures to put the welfare of children above political status although we found no evidence of an organised network of paedophiles within government.
“We hope this report and its recommendations will lead political institutions to prioritise the needs and safety of vulnerable children.”