UK

Historical child abuse: Key investigations

  • 17 August 2015
  • From the section UK

There are a number of ongoing investigations and inquiries - criminal and otherwise - into historical abuse allegations at institutions across the UK. Here is a guide to the key inquiries and their scope.


Operation Hydrant

In the summer of 2014 a co-ordination hub was set up by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) to oversee the investigation of allegations of "non-recent" child sex abuse within institutions or by people of public prominence.

The team of officers working on this operation have been picked from forces across the UK, but the hub is based in South Yorkshire. The operation's staff are identifying links between investigations, and preventing duplication between forces

On 20 May 2015 the NPCC announced that the operation had received reports of 1,433 suspects from police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - 666 of the suspects were "related to institutions", while 261 were classified as people of public prominence.

The operation is being led by Norfolk Police Chief Constable Simon Bailey.


Met Police

Umbrella inquiry: Operation Fairbank

Fairbank is the Met Police's umbrella inquiry into historical child sex abuse claims involving politicians and other public figures. It began in 2012 as a "scoping exercise" to establish evidence for formal investigation and went on to establish a number of criminal investigations: Operations Fernbridge, Midland, Cayacos and then later Athabasca.

  • Grafton Close Children's Home: Operation Fernbridge (now closed)
Image copyright PA
Image caption Father Anthony McSweeney was found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy between 1979 and 1981

Launched in February 2013 and led by the Met Police, Operation Fernbridge investigated allegations of abuse in the early 1980s at Grafton Close Children's Home in west London, and at Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London. In connection with Grafton Close, two people were charged with offences. One was found dead and one, Catholic priest Father Anthony McSweeney, was found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy. He was sentenced to three years' jail in March. The operation has been closed and investigations into Elm Guest House taken up by Operation Athabasca (see below).

  • Elm Guest House: Operation Athabasca

This new investigation takes over from Fernbridge in investigating allegations about a paedophile network centred on Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London in the 1970s and early 1980s. Police are still appealing for information on 020 7161 0500.

  • Dolphin Square: Operation Midland

Established in November 2014, Operation Midland is examining claims that boys were abused by a group of powerful men from politics, the military and law enforcement agencies at locations across southern England and in London in the 1970s and 1980s. It is also examining claims that three boys were murdered. Operation Midland has focused on the Dolphin Square estate in Pimlico, south-west London.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Convicted paedophile Peter Righton
  • Paedophile Information Exchange: Operation Cayacos

Operation Cayacos is investigating allegations of a paedophile ring linked to convicted paedophile Peter Righton - a founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, which campaigned to make sex between adults and children legal.


Greater Manchester Police

  • Cyril Smith
Image copyright PA
Image caption Cyril Smith died in 2010 aged 82

Greater Manchester Police is investigating allegations that Cyril Smith, the larger-than-life Rochdale MP who died in 2010, abused vulnerable young boys in the town. His family says he always denied the accusations. The allegations first surfaced in 1979 when Private Eye magazine carried reports that he abused teenagers at Cambridge House, a privately run "hostel for working boys" in Rochdale. It has also been alleged that he raped boys at Rochdale's Knowl View residential school. He also frequented Elm Guest House in south-west London - a location linked to the Met Police's Operation Fernbridge.


Wiltshire Police

Image copyright Reuters
  • Edward Heath

The national investigation into claims of historical child sexual abuse involving former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath is to be led by Wiltshire Police.

Although several other forces are carrying out investigations linked to Sir Edward, Wiltshire Police will act as overseer to ensure a "consistent approach".

Sir Edward lived in Salisbury, Wiltshire, for many years and died at his home there in 2005 aged 89.

On 3 August 2015 the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said it would look at whether officers at Wiltshire Police failed to pursue allegations made against the former prime minister.

A retired detective has alleged that claims were made in the 1990s but not followed up.


States of Jersey Police

  • Operation Whistle

In a statement released earlier this year the States of Jersey Police provided details of its "locally- generated operation" - Operation Whistle - which it said had been running "under the auspice of Operation Hydrant".

The force said Operation Whistle was set up after the Jimmy Savile scandal, and following an increase in the reporting of historical cases of abuse in Jersey.

The force said it was investigating a number of allegations involving:

  • 45 suspects - some of whom are deceased or as yet unidentified
  • Four institutions
  • 13 people of public prominence - one of whom is Edward Heath

Other inquiries and investigations

A number of other inquiries and investigations are under way or have been completed. Here are the details:

Inquiries into the handling of abuse allegations
Independent inquiry Announced in July 2014, the independent inquiry will investigate the way public bodies handled child sex abuse claims. Former judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was chosen to head the inquiry, but she stepped down following concerns about her family links. She was replaced by Fiona Woolf, the Lord Mayor of London. But in October 2014 she also stood down after concerns were raised over her social links to the former Home Secretary Leon Brittan. In February 2015, New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard (pictured) was announced as the new head of the inquiry.
Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) The police watchdog is investigating alleged corruption in the Met Police, including claims it covered up child sex offences because MPs and police officers were involved. The IPCC is investigating 14 referrals spanning four decades. The Met said it had voluntarily referred the allegations, which arose from Operation Fairbank.
Home Office (Wanless) review Headed by NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless (pictured), the review examined Home Office handling of historical child sex abuse allegations and the way police and prosecutors dealt with information given to them. This followed a call from Labour MP Simon Danczuk to explain why written allegations about powerful paedophiles - presented in the 1980s to Lord Brittan when he was home secretary - have since disappeared. A 2013 Home Office review of allegations concerning child abuse from 1979-99 resulted in four files, not previously disclosed, being passed to police. The Wanless review found no evidence that records were deliberately removed or destroyed.
Historical Institutional Abuse(Northern Ireland) Set up to establish if there were systemic failings by institutions or the state in their duties towards children in their care between 1922-95. Due to report January 2017. Chaired by Sir Anthony Hart (pictured). A High Court judge in Belfast has granted a judicial review into how the Kincora Boys' Home will be investigated. Three senior care staff at Kincora were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys. Allegations remain that some members of the British intelligence services knew of the abuse and helped to cover it up.
Scotland care inquiry A statutory public inquiry into the historical abuse of children in care has been set up by the Scottish government following scandals involving child abuse at institutions including those run by the Roman Catholic church.
Other inquiries
Operation Pallial, North Wales The National Crime Agency is investigating allegations of historical abuse at children's homes in North Wales. It has found evidence of 140 alleged cases of historical abuse between 1963 and 1992. Also, Mrs Justice Macur has been appointed to review the 2000 Waterhouse inquiry into North Wales abuse dating back to the 1970s.
Operation Garford, Suffolk Investigating historical abuse allegations centred on Kesgrave Hall School from the 1970s to the 1990s. Results of the original investigation, carried out in 1992, are being reviewed. Suffolk police are carrying out two further, unconnected investigations into allegations of abuse at two other schools.
Independent Jersey Care Inquiry The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry is investigating historical abuse claims in Jersey's care system from 1960 to present day. It began in July 2014. Frances Oldham QC is the inquiry chairwoman.
Jimmy Savile inquiries
Operation Yewtree Police investigation into Savile (pictured) and others. An investigation by the Met Police and NSPCC reported in January 2013 on allegations against Savile. Cases which emerged as a result of investigations into Savile, but were unconnected to him, included Max Clifford, Rolf Harris and Dave Lee Travis. Investigations into other suspects are continuing.
Savile NHS inquiry Reports found Jimmy Savile sexually assaulted victims aged five to 75 between 1962 and 2009 in 28 hospitals, including Broadmoor and Leeds General Infirmary. Reports relating to 13 other NHS organisations, including Stoke Mandeville Hospital, were published in February 2015. The Stoke Mandeville report found Savile abused 63 people connected to the hospital between 1968 and 1992.
Savile BBC inquiry Dame Janet Smith is investigating whether culture and practice at the BBC enabled Savile to carry out abuse of children unchecked. It has now finished taking evidence. Her report was expected in May 2015, but its publication has been delayed.
Dept for Education Headed by human rights lawyer Lucy Scott-Moncrieff - to look at allegations that Savile abused children in schools and children's homes, from the 1960s to 1980s.

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