Abuse inquiry will not rule on truth of Westminster claims

A boy with his hands on his head Image copyright Science Photo Library

The inquiry into historical child sex abuse will not rule on whether allegations against Westminster figures are true, its senior lawyer has said.

Instead it will assess the response of institutions when allegations arose.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was set up in 2015 in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

It heard that public concern about the Westminster claims had "diminished considerably" after a police inquiry ended without anyone being charged.

Operation Midland was set up in 2014 to examine historical claims of a Westminster VIP paedophile ring but ended in 2016 having cost £2.5m and was criticised by a former judge appointed to review it.

That had led to questions about how the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) would handle the Westminster allegations with some suggesting it could become a "witch-hunt of dead politicians".

Daniel Janner, the son of the accused late Labour Peer Lord Janner, said it would be a "circus, where fantasists will have free reign to live out their fantasies in evidence".

However, the inquiry has now said decisions on the veracity of specific claims about individuals will be left to the courts and to police.

Instead, in the "Westminster strand" the inquiry panel will consider hearing evidence about six areas.

They are:

  • Whether police investigations between the 1960s and 1980s were subject to undue influence by politicians and other powerful people
  • Whether there was improper influence in the potential prosecutions of Rochdale MP Cyril Smith and senior civil servant Peter Hayman, both now dead
  • How political parties reacted to allegations of child sex abuse
  • Whether party whips failed to report or even took steps to conceal allegations
  • The honours system - particularly the knighthoods given to Cyril Smith and Jimmy Savile
  • Concerns that Home Office money was funnelled into the Paedophile Information Exchange - a group which supported sex with children

The inquiry will also consider whether police investigations should start from a position of believing alleged victims, and whether they should investigate the dead. However these issues may be considered by a separate strand of the inquiry.

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