5 Nov 2012

Cameron orders two probes into north Wales child abuse

The prime minister says he will take action to make sure “dreadful” abuse claims in relation to events at care homes in north Wales between 1974 and 1990, were not left “hanging in the air”.

David Cameron has ordered an investigation into whether the north Wales child abuse inquiry was properly constituted and did its job, and confirmed a separate process will consider the police response to the allegations.

The Wales Office and the Home Office are examining claims that previous inquiries into abuse cases failed to assess all relevant evidence.

The Waterhouse inquiry was a three-year, £13m investigation into sexual abuse at a number of care homes in north Wales between 1974 and 1990. A report published in 2000 resulted in policy changes and 140 compensation claims from victims.

The tribunal, led by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, heard evidence from over 650 people who were in 40 homes. The aftermath of the investigation saw the appointment of a children’s commissioner for Wales. An independent investigation will now look at whether the inquiry was “properly constituted”.

‘Clear intelligence’

Labour MP Tom Watson last month claimed at prime minister’s questions there was “clear intelligence” suggesting a paedophile ring connected to a former Downing Street aide. The MP has said that since he spoke out over 50 people have contacted him with serious allegations.

Steve Messham has claimed a “leading Tory politician” abused him as a boy in a Welsh care home but was ignored by police when he reported what went on.

We now have the Savile revelations, and we know that it’s entirely possible.
Richard Scorer, solicitor

Messham has asked to meet the prime minister over the scandal, claiming he was abused more than a dozen times by a Conservative figure and that a wider circle of abusers was involved, including businessmen and police.

He criticised the original Waterhouse inquiry, claiming its terms of reference meant he was unable to raise abuse that took place outside the care system. The name of the abuser was withheld from a BBC Newsnight investigation broadcast last Friday but Mr Messham claims he will make sure the name comes out.

The prime minister has now stated: “I am taking action today, first of all to make sure that Mr Messham can meet urgently with the Secretary of State for Wales so he he can hear his allegations and his points directly.”

“Secondly, I am going to be asking a senior independent figure to lead an urgent investigation into whether the original inquiry was properly constituted and properly did its job and to report urgently to the Government. But third, I would also urge anyone who knows anything about these matters to go to the police.”

Mr Cameron added “We will need to get somebody to look into the police response at the time and see if further investigation is required there.”

Urgent Welsh inquiry

Children’s Commissioner for Wales Keith Towler wrote to Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones demanding an inquiry into the latest allegations.

The Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones will meet Mr Towler to discuss his concerns and is seeking “urgent advice” on the original remit of the Waterhouse inquiry.

“I would like to repeat that any victims of child abuse who feel their cases were not fully investigated, should come forward to the appropriate authorities which means the police or to the children’s commissioner, not to political parties,” the first minister stated.

Richard Scorer, who represented 30 victims at the Waterhouse inquiry, has appealed for anyone with relevant information to come forward.

He has highlighted how claims about public figures being involved in abuse were were seen as “a bit far fetched”.

“We now have the Savile revelations, and we know that it’s entirely possible,” he stated.

“A lot of other things have happened in the past few years, we’ve had hacking and things like the MPs’ expenses.”

North Wales police are also seeking to establish if there are any allegations that require a new investigation.

Savile claims

Solicitors are planning to take legal action on behalf of 43 potential victims over the Savile abuse allegations.

Slater and Gordon has sent letters before action to the BBC, Leeds General Infirmary, Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor hospitals, and the executors of Savile’s estate.

A separate law firm Pannone is acting on behalf of seven victims and has sent letters of claim to Savile’s estate. One claim has also been made against the BBC.