Report: Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation

This investigation concerns institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation involving persons of public prominence who were associated with Westminster. Westminster is defined in this report as the centre of the United Kingdom’s government, government ministers and officials, as well as Parliament, its members and the political parties represented there.

Seven topics were covered in evidence. These were: police misconduct, political parties, whips’ offices, the Paedophile Information Exchange, prosecutorial decisions, the honours system, and current safeguarding policies in government, Parliament and the political parties.

Several cross-cutting themes recurred throughout the investigation. One is the theme of ‘deference’ by police, prosecutors and political parties towards politicians and others believed to have some importance in public life. Another concerns differences in treatment accorded to wealthy or well-connected people as opposed to those who were poorer, more deprived, and who had no access to networks of influence. A third relates to the failure by almost every institution to put the needs and safety of children first. The police paid little regard to the welfare of sexually exploited children. Political parties showed themselves, even very recently, to be more concerned about political fallout than safeguarding; and in some cases the honours system prioritised reputation and discretion in making awards, with little or no regard for victims of nominated persons.

There is ample evidence that individual perpetrators of child sexual abuse have been linked to Westminster. However, there was no evidence of any kind of organised ‘Westminster paedophile network’ in which persons of prominence conspired to pass children amongst themselves for the purpose of sexual abuse. The source of some of the most lurid claims about a sinister network of abusers in Westminster has now been discredited with the conviction of Carl Beech. Nevertheless, it is clear that there have been significant failures by Westminster institutions in their responses to allegations of child sexual abuse. This included failure to recognise it, turning a blind eye to it, actively shielding and protecting child sexual abusers and covering up allegations.

Several highly placed people in the 1970s and 1980s, including Sir Peter Morrison MP and Sir Cyril Smith MP, were known or rumoured to be active in their sexual interest in children and were protected from prosecution in a number of ways, including by the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and political parties. At that time, nobody seemed to care about the fate of the children involved, with status and political concerns overriding all else. Even though we did not find evidence of a Westminster network, the lasting effect on those who suffered as children from being sexually abused by individuals linked to Westminster has been just as profound. It has been compounded by institutional complacency and indifference to the plight of child victims.

There was no evidence that individual persons of prominence visited Elm Guest House in South London, although child sexual abuse almost certainly occurred there.

Police investigations

A vivid picture of corruption in central London in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s was portrayed by several witnesses. This included the cruising of expensive cars around Piccadilly Circus, by those viewing boys and young men, who would hang around the railings known as the ‘meat rack’ to be picked up by older men and abused. The boys were described as aged between 11 and 22. Many were from damaged backgrounds or were runaways from the care system, and were known as ‘street rats’ by police officers.

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