Learning the lessons of Savile


Never was there clearer evidence of the difference the Savile scandal has made to attitudes to allegations of child abuse.

The prime minister has broken into a trip to the Gulf to announce an investigation into allegations that abuse at a North Wales children's home went much further than an official inquiry revealed and may have involved a senior Conservative from the Thatcher era.

One source close to the prime minister told me "it reeks".

He was referring to allegations, first aired last Friday on the BBC's Newsnight, which suggested that victims of abuse at the Bryn Estyn children's home in the 1970s and 1980s were told by the police and the Waterhouse Inquiry that there was no evidence to back their recollection of who had abused them and, therefore, no reason to pursue their allegations further.

That is why Downing Street is aiming to appoint a judge to examine both "the scope and conduct of the original inquiry" into child abuse - to ask, in other words, whether the inquiry's terms of reference were set too narrowly to allow consideration of child abuse beyond one children's home in North Wales and whether allegations made by victims against public figures were wrongly excluded from the final report.

Number 10 is trying to learn from the BBC's handling of allegations about Jimmy Savile and, in particular, what is now widely seen to have been the mistake of insisting that the serious allegations were best dealt with by the police alone.

It is aware of the potential political damage of any perceived cover-up given that the allegations centre on a one-time senior Conservative - albeit someone who no longer has any involvement in frontline politics - and given that the Waterhouse Inquiry was set up by William Hague in 1996 when he was Secretary of State for Wales in John Major's government.

I am told that Number 10 have seen no evidence that is not already in the public domain. However, the fear amongst the prime minister's advisers is that children's homes may have been used by paedophiles who were prominent public figures and the authorities may have failed to investigate this properly.

PS: The BBC, in line with many other news organisations, has chosen not to name the politician at the centre of these very serious allegations as we have no evidence beyond the interviews aired on Newsnight on Friday.

Correction 10 November 2012: The BBC has apologised unreservedly for broadcasting a report on Newsnight on 2 November over allegations of child abuse which transpired to have involved a case of mistaken identity. As a result the video of the original report has been removed from the website. More details can be found here.

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  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    #73. it is not irrelevant here as #74 points out. Whether you like it or not Saville is "currently" not be charged with anything and thererfore is not guilty.

    lets see if yo uwould like to be accussed of child abuse and then have yr children removed from you yr family

    They have tried to move some of the "principle" of operations out of the family courts to other areas of operation 400end

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Oh, it was removed even before I could publish my post complaining about the first being removed.
    Perhaps the moderator would like to point out where Saville and the others have been proven to be guilty rather than just removing posts that disagree with their personal beliefs? Watch post 74 get deleted as well then this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    How long before my second post gets deleted. Had one deleted because I dared to point out that Saville hasn't yet been found guilty but everyone has decided he is through rumour and innuendo. We have a situation here where ALL men are being tarnished with the pervert brush on any rumour how ever small, and all are required to prove our innocence before being allowed to do anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    65 That was not the point he made - you made it for him, far better than he has managed in years. It is irrelevant to this topic other than as a watch-out for how to deal with it in future - because what stops these abuses getting found out is constant failure to satisfy a criminal level of case individually forming a vicious circle of disbelief. The family court way is open to the same abuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I've lost faith in English justice.
    People guilty of massive fraud, which is stealing, such as the NatWest 3 aren't even prosecuted because their employer didn't want the bad publicity, whereas in the USA they were prosecuted and imprisoned.
    They served part of their sentences in an English prision where of course they were let out early.
    Lucky they didn't steal a loaf from Tesco.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 70.

    That seems to be the way these 'investigations' go, set limited terms of reference, send in underpowered locals who would no more cross a bigwig than be rude to the Chief Constable. Result: the rich/powerful/influential walk away unblemished. In the case of the BBC it's weak management using a sort of 'by implication' decision making process. That way it's only the underlings who make mistakes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    #65 EfW well said, Bady P had god knows how many visits from how many people and YET nowbody notice a thing. It cost P his life and the taxpayers thousands BUT it did not protect him. Whilst I had 10 visits they found nothing casue there was nothing , cost thousand too and also tranished the relationship of my kids to their mother cost unimaginable to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I'm surprised that there hasn't been a marked increase in eye strain down at Westminster what with all these enquiries --the tenth concurrent enquiry right now?-- with all that white wash around it must be blinding: even to the truth.

    Poor people go to jail: rich people have enquiries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    BG@ 48
    "Unfortunately my expectations for root & branch justice are low."

    Our confidence in institutions has hit an all time low -it's an accumulation of events over the last decade.

    I really don't like being this cynical but I'm afraid I share your view.

    Let's hope events across the water don't go the cynics way today

  • Comment number 66.

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    Comment number 65.

    56.Whistling Neil
    "...How you write your sad tale is unfortunately pretty much the script followed by those who actually are guilty of abuse..."


    You are missing his point.

    In family courts a departure is made from a fundamental principle: equal burden of proof.

    A mother's allegations are taken to be true unless the father can prove them false, but he must prove his own true too

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    #17 nickthesocialist

    Party political point scoring. This serious issue deserves better.

    There is a good article in 'The Times' today, "It's only rock'n'roll but I like it." Interesting take on the rock culture of the 60s and 70s: "Is it time we reappraised the music of our rock'n'roll heroes?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    #56 MAGNA CARTA and trial by peers and Innocent until proven guilty are the tenants of our socity that prevent anarchy like the STAZZI in East Germany etc, where the mere allegation is enough to ruin someones life.

    This is the same tryanny that is in the family courts and does so much damage to children.

    The Focus since the 1989 children act has been on the wrong people

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    #56 nothing to do with divorce BUT my children wishes to have a life with their father.

    I'm trying to inform the General pubic about the paradox of FALSE MALICIOUS allegations of Child Abuse in the family courts and the length that r undertaken to be proven that you can c yr kids and those that r doing the actuall abuse and nothing much happens.

    Focus 4 PC has been on the wrong people

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    #56 r u suggesting that I'm a child abuser 4 loving my children.
    bcause that is exactly what was made in an attempt 2 prevent access to my kids, but of which are furious with what was alledged in thier name. I went 2 F4J meeting ALL 15 had similiar allegations made. family courts are lacking due process. Wrong people are being targeted. Targets are Saville and others not fathers

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Si its fine for the BBC and others to name a landlord who had nothing to do with a murder, a suspect in the recent child abduction case and Freddie Starr before they were arrested, but we can't name a high ranking Tory and other suspects.

    Some consistancy please.

  • Comment number 59.

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  • Comment number 58.

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