The National Crime Agency is to head a new police investigation into abuse in children’s homes in North Wales in the 1970s and 1980s amid claims that a senior Tory was among the perpetrators.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the agency’s director general, Keith Bristow, would review the original police handling of the case as well as looking at the latest allegations by one of the victims.
“The Government is treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness,” she told MPs in a Commons statement.
“Child abuse is a hateful, abhorrent and disgusting crime and we must not allow these allegations to go unanswered.”
In a further development last night, Downing Street said Mrs Justice Julia Wendy Macur, a High Court judge, would carry out the review of the original Waterhouse inquiry announced by David Cameron.
Mrs May said she would also consider Labour calls for a wider, over-arching inquiry into child abuse – including the allegations involving the late DJ and BBC presenter Jimmy Savile – if the evidence was shown to justify it.
However Labour backbencher Tom Watson, who has raised claims of a past paedophile ring linked to No 10 and of a former Cabinet Minister allegedly involved in child abuse, dismissed the latest moves as simply “the next stage of a cover-up”.
The investigations followed renewed allegations last week by one of the victims, Steve Messham, who said the inquiry by Sir Ronald Waterhouse – which reported in 2000 – examined only a fraction of the claims of abuse.
He told BBC2’s Newsnight that he was taken out of the Bryn Estyn children’s home and “sold” to men for sexual abuse at a nearby hotel and that a senior Tory from the time was among the perpetrators.
In her statement, Mrs May warned MPs not to use parliamentary privilege to try to name the alleged suspect as it could jeopardise the prospect of any future criminal trial.
Mrs May said that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which is drawing together details of allegations made to police forces around the country against Savile, would be able to take into account any lessons that emerge during Mr Bristow’s inquiry which will produce an initial report by April.
For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called for an over-arching inquiry taking in all the outstanding issues of child abuse, including the Savile allegations and the Rochdale child grooming case.
The Pontefract and Castleford MP said there were already three BBC inquiries, a Department of Health inquiry, several separate hospital inquiries, a Crown Prosecution Service inquiry, and the HMIC inquiry looking at various aspects of the issue.
“We remain concerned that these multiple inquiries have no way to draw together the common themes, the problems, the lessons that need to be learned,” she said.
Mr Watson said that in staging a “narrowed-down investigation”, she was putting in place a “basic building block of a cover-up”.
He said: “It would guarantee that many sickening crimes would remain uninvestigated and some of the most despicable paedophiles will remain protected by the establishment that has shielded them for 30 years.”
Mr Messham said that while he believed the victims were now being taken seriously, he had concerns about the way the new inquiry would be conducted.
“I haven’t got confidence that it’s going to be done properly yet, I’ve got to be convinced of that,” he said.
Earlier the senior Tory accused of child abuse strongly denied the allegation.
“Some guy said I was in the habit of taking young men from Wrexham in my Rolls-Royce,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“But I have only been to Wrexham once and I didn’t visit the children’s home, I made a speech to the constituency. I was with an official at all times. I never had a Rolls-Royce.
“It is totally without any grounds whatsoever.”