Child sex abuse inquiry to hear allegations about public figures in Westminster

The Westminster strand of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is due to open on Monday.

Public hearings into allegations of child sex abuse and exploitation involving public figures associated with Westminster will take place over the next three weeks.

The inquiry said its purpose is not to investigate whether allegations are true or false, but it will be looking at how institutions handled complaints.

It will consider evidence relating to the findings of relevant investigations and whether there is “evidence of conspiracy, cover-up, interference or tolerance in relation to child sexual abuse committed by persons of public prominence associated with Westminster”.

The inquiry will also look at whether “governmental, political and law enforcement institutions were aware and took appropriate steps”.

The Westminster strand is one of 13 being considered by inquiry, which was set up in 2015 in the wake of the Savile Scandal and amid allegations that a paedophile ring once operated in Westminster.

“The focus of this investigation, and indeed of the inquiry more generally, is on the conduct of institutions when allegations of child sexual abuse are made,” a spokesman said.

“We do not anticipate that this investigation will make any findings as to whether, for example, high-profile politicians such as Edward Heath or Cyril Smith (pictured) did or did not commit acts of child sexual abuse of which they have been accused.

“This investigation’s focus will be on the way in which Westminster institutions dealt with and responded to allegations of this nature and whether the right policies are in place if similar allegations are made in future.”

However the public airing of untested and unchallenged allegations, which will also be streamed on YouTube, has been criticised.

Daniel Janner QC, whose father, the late Labour peer Lord Janner, is the focus of one of the inquiry’s strands, said the “whole process is deeply flawed since cross-examination is prohibited”.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, he said: “Today begins a totally unnecessary month-long trashing of the reputations of public figures, the vast majority of whom are dead, in the Westminster strand of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

“Having recovered from losing three previous chairmen and counsel to the inquiry, it will now risk losing trust and undermining any progress it has made over the past four years.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) John Stillwell / PA Wire.