The Home Office has published the results of an inquiry by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam into a missing dossier detailing child abuse allegations compiled by late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens.
It found that there was “no basis” for believing that the Home Office deliberately hidden or destroyed the file to cover up wrongdoing by senior figures in the establishment.
Here is the key passage from the report:
…based on registered papers we have seen, and our wider enquiries, we found nothing to support a concern that files had been deliberately or systematically removed or destroyed to cover up organised child abuse. We found nothing specific to support a concern that the Home Office had failed in any organised or deliberate way to identify and refer individual allegations of child abuse to the police.
The missing dossier is said to have contained the names of senior politicians that the former Conservative MP, who died in 1995, alleged were involved in child abuse in the 1980s. His son told the BBC that his father had said the file would “blow the lid off” the secret lives of a number of prominent individuals.
In its final report last year on what happened to the Dickens dossier the government concluded:
The Independent Investigator is satisfied that the Home Office did pass on to the appropriate authorities any information received about child abuse in the period 1979 to 1999 which was credible and which had any realistic potential for further investigation. The Investigator believes that the risk of any undisclosed material remaining in files from that period is extremely low.
However, a number of questions remain. In July the Daily Mail revealed that Labour peer Barbara Castle compiled her own dossier of child abuse in the 1980s that the paper claims also implicated a number of senior figures. Don Hale, the local newspaper editor who was handed the dossier, claims that the papers were seized by Special Branch officers.
The Home Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the report today with Wanless and Whittam due to appear at 12:15pm GMT.
Home Secretary Theresa May issued a statement welcoming the findings of the report and outlining its main recommendations:
[Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam] have concluded that, in respect of the first Review commissioned by the Permanent Secretary, “the conclusions were reasonably available to the Reviewer on the information then available” and that they “agree with recommendations made”. In respect of the second Review commissioned by the Permanent Secretary, Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC make clear that they “have seen no evidence to suggest PIE was ever funded by the Home Office because of sympathy for its aims”. Their Review makes three recommendations for the Department, all of which have been accepted. These were that:
- They endorse the recommendations made in the first Review.
- Where an allegation of child abuse is made it must be recorded and the file marked as significant. That significance should then inform the Department as to how to handle that file, its retention and the need to record when [if at all] it is destroyed. This approach is relevant, not only to the Home Office, but could usefully be adopted across Government as well.
- There should be a system within the Home Office of recording what information is sent to the police and then a formal procedure of confirming what the result of that reference is.
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