News / Europe

Britain's Political Elite Rattled by Sexual Conspiracy Claims

FILE - Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May said a panel of legal and child-protection experts would investigate how public agencies handle child-abuse allegations July 7, 2014.
FILE - Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May said a panel of legal and child-protection experts would investigate how public agencies handle child-abuse allegations July 7, 2014.
VOA News

Britain pledged on Monday to investigate claims that politicians may have sexually abused children in the 1980s in a conspiracy by members of the establishment who used their power to cover up the crimes.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced a review of how officials, police and prosecutors handled accusations made against public figures in the 1980s, amid claims their failure to act was part of an establishment cover-up.

"I am absolutely determined that we are going to get to the bottom of these allegations and we're going to leave no stone unturned to find out the truth about what happened -- that is vital," Cameron said.

“Three things need to happen: Robust inquiries that get to truth; police investigations that pursue the guilty and find out what has happened; and proper lessons learned so we make sure these things cannot happen again,” he added.

New inquiry

Home Secretary Theresa May said a panel of legal and child-protection experts would investigate how public agencies, including governments and hospitals, handled child-abuse allegations.

She said she set up the inquiry after "appalling cases of organized and persistent" sexual abuse, including decades of assaults by the late TV host Jimmy Savile.

That inquiry, which she said was unlikely to report back before a national election in May 2015, would look at organizations including the BBC, the health service, religious authorities and political parties.

“Some of these cases have exposed a failure by public bodies to take their responsibilities seriously,” May told the House of Commons.

May said a related investigation, led by National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children chief executive Peter Wanless, would examine whether abuse claims handed to authorities in the 1980s were lost or destroyed to protect wrongdoers.

Fuelling fears of a cover-up, the ministry revealed this weekend that it had lost 114 files relating to complaints it received about child abuse between 1979 and 1999, saying that they were "presumed destroyed, missing or not found."

No evidence has yet been published to support claims that there was a pedophile conspiracy inside the political elite.

Prolific sex offender

But the unmasking of late BBC television presenter Savile as one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders has forced a wider questioning about how pedophiles in positions of power could sow such damage while evading detection for so long.

Once feted as a national treasure, Savile is now known to have used his fame to get unsupervised access to his victims, raping and abusing girls, boys, men, women and even dead bodies.

Veteran TV entertainer Rolf Harris was sentenced last week to almost six years in prison after being convicted of 12 counts of abusing girls, some as young as 7 or 8, between 1968 and 1986.

Fears that claims of abuse by politicians were not properly investigated in the 1980s were stoked when one of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's most trusted advisers admitted there may well have been a cover-up of child abuse at the time.

“At that time I think most people would have thought that the establishment, the system, was to be protected,” Norman Tebbit, a former Conservative minister, said on Sunday.

“And if a few things had gone wrong here and there, that it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far,” he said. “That view was wrong.

Such a blunt assessment of the priorities of an earlier Britain was explosive, prompting front-page headlines about “V.I.P. Paedos” in local print media and leading national television news bulletins.

Abuse claims have sullied the reputations of some of the world's most venerated institutions: Pope Francis on Monday told victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clerics that the church should “weep and make reparation” for crimes.

Abuse allegations

In Britain, local media have alleged that a group of British politicians and others in positions of authority may have used their position to abuse children in state care during the 1980s. It was not possible to independently evaluate those claims.

British police in 2013 began an investigation known as Operation Fernbridge into allegations of child abuse in the early 1980s at the Elm Guest House in London.

For campaigners working with the victims of child abuse, the domestic political storm shows Britain may be finally preparing to face some of the demons from its past.

“People just didn't want to talk about it in the past,” said Jon Bird, a 56-year-old who works for the National Association of People Abused in Childhood charity.

“You hope they are going to take it seriously and give it the resources and powers to actually get to the bottom of it,” said Bird, who was raped when he was 4 years old. “So far it is just words.”

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid