LONDON: Britain pledged 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.
The allegations have jarred the current political elite just as Britain is grappling with revelations that some national celebrities had sexually abused children for decades.
“We are going to leave no stone unturned to find out the truth about what happened,” Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.
“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 said.
Home Secretary Theresa May ordered a wide-ranging inquiry Monday. A separate review will also be held into the handling of allegations of child abuse by politicians.
“In recent years we have seen appalling cases of organized and persistent child sex abuse,” May told parliament.
“The government will establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.”
The broad inquiry, the chair of which is still to be appointed, will look into allegations of child abuse across organizations including the health service, political parties, the church and the BBC.
No evidence has yet been published to support the claims that there was a pedophile conspiracy deep inside the political elite.
But the unmasking of late BBC television presenter Jimmy 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.
Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris, a household name in his native Australia and adopted home Britain, was jailed for almost six years last Friday on 12 counts of assaulting four girls, some as young as seven or eight, between 1968 and 1986.
Fears that claims of abuse by politicians were not properly investigated at the time 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 in the 1980s.
“At that time I think most people would have thought that the establishment, the system, was to be protected,” said Norman Tebbit, a former Conservative minister.
“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.”
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.