A report into how child abuse accusations were dealt with by the Home Office has not uncovered any evidence to back up allegations.
The document by Peter Wanless and Richard Wittan QC was written in response to public concern over the allegations which included senior politicians and government departments.
But the findings have already been attacked by MPs and those linked to the missing documents who say that the scope of the report was limited and the authors were not given enough time to undertake a proper investigation.
The report looks into accusations by a whistleblower that the Home Office funded the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), information which resulted in questions being asked of the department in relation to documents it was passed about suspected child abusers.
It states Wanless and Wittan “have seen no evidence to suggest PIE was ever funded by the Home Office because of sympathy for its aims.”
However it does conclude that it “can’t entirely dismiss the allegations that funding of PIE might have taken place with the knowledge of the police or security services as part of an effort to infiltrate” the organisation.
The initial acceptance by the Home Office that 114 were “missing” without any further information being provided fuelled speculation that something untoward had occurred. In particular, questions were asked about a possible campaign of subterfuge in relation to allegations of child abuse against high ranking politicians and Home Office officials.
It seems that any paperwork given to the Home Office was in fact passed onto the relevant police force. However, the report has uncovered the incompetence surrounding recording of child abuse allegations and says there was no system in place for recording what was received by the department and what action was then taken. Even now there is no proper recording system, something the Home Secretary Theresa May has promised to deal with.
In addressing the concerns over the missing files the report concludes that there were no “organised attempts” by officials to destroy evidence or allegations. It concludes that in actual fact, only 11 of the 114 are actually missing and there is “no pattern of destruction or set of particular files going missing…nothing to supper suspicions that registered files were deliberately destroyed to cover up child abuse.”
Labour MP Simon Danczuk, who exposed former Lib Dem MP Cyril Smith as a paedophile, was unimpressed with the report’s findings.
He said, “There are sophisticated digital techniques for looking into archives for missing documents which have not been used in the Wanless review.”
“I put Peter Wanless in touch with a leading company which specialises in tracing this kind of material but the timescale for his review did not allow the use of such techniques.
“That raises serious questions about the scope of the investigations and, frankly, leaves a question mark over any of its findings.”
The son of Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens was also unconvinced.
His father, who died in 1995, told his family that the 40 page dossier he handed to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan would “blow the lid off” the lives of the named child abusers – many of whom were rich and famous and living in the heart of Westminster.
Lord Brittan confirmed he received a “substantial bundle of papers” from Mr Dickens in 1983 and said he had passed them to his officials for investigation. It also tells of a letter from Mr Dickens to the Home Secretary thanking him for his continued support.
“Advice described as offering a full response to all these cases [handed over by Mr Dickens in November 1983 and January 1984] is filed alongside a formal reply from the Home Secretary to Mr Dickens dated 20 March” they state.
“There is no mention of prominent politicians or celebrities in the cases under discussion [in marked contrast to media commentary about these meetings at the time].”
Mr Wanless said upon publication of his report today that it appeared the missing files were not destroyed by anyone who could be directly affected by the allegations. He said that the missing files were last seen “in this century”.
The findings are due to be used by the upcoming, wider inquiry into paedophile activity linked to public bodies and institutions. The problems of finding a suitable chair for the investigation has been the subject of widespread media coverage and Mrs May has had to apologise to victims for the delay and handling of the process.
But it seems that the report has done little to alleviate the concerns of people who want answers to where missing files have gone. They will now be looking towards the next inquiry to gain answers.