ONE OF the country’s most eminent legal experts will head up an investigation into paedophilia allegations levelled at the heart of the British establishment as concerns have escalated over a potential cover-up in the child sex abuse scandal.
Former High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss will lead the independent inquiry into the handling of allegations of paedophilia by state institutions as well as bodies such as the BBC, churches and political parties.
The announcement of her appointment by Home Secretary Theresa May was made yesterday as MPs questioned a leading civil servant over scores of files linked to allegations of paedophile activity in Westminster which have gone missing.
The top mandarin at the Home Office, Permanent Secretary Mark Sedwill, admitted there were no surviving records of what had been destroyed or lost from the 1980s and 1990s.
He expressed his concerns that more than 100 files had gone missing, adding: “Most of these files were probably destroyed, because the kind of topics that they covered would have been subject to the normal file destruction procedures that were in place at that time.
“They cannot be confirmed to be destroyed because there is not a proper log of what was destroyed and what wasn’t.”
He also announced that Richard Whittam QC will be leading a fresh inquiry into the Home Office’s handling of information it received during the period – including a 1983 dossier from ex-MP Geoffrey Dickens.
Lady Butler-Sloss will lead the wider independent inquiry into how claims of child abuse were dealt with by public institutions, political parties, the Church and the BBC, and is due to report to Parliament before May next year.
Crossbench peer Lady Butler-Sloss is the former president of the family division of the High Court and chaired the Cleveland child abuse inquiry in the late 1980s.
Rumours of decades of organised paedophile activity among the ruling class have moved centre stage over the past week, amid questions over whether the Home Office failed to act on detailed allegations provided by Mr Dickens in 1983.
Then Home Secretary Lord Brittan has flatly denied failing to deal with the material properly, while a review carried out by a HMRC official last year found no evidence that anything relevant was not passed to other authorities.
But it also disclosed that the Dickens dossier appeared to have been destroyed – and Mr Sedwill has since revealed that 114 files deemed potentially relevant are missing.
Mrs May said the independent panel overseen by Lady Butler-Sloss had been established to ensure “public bodies and important institutions” dealt with “appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse” which have come to light in recent years.