Paedophile probe police increased

Salisbury Journal: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

Scotland Yard has tripled the number of officers investigating historic allegations of sex abuse in the wake of claims of a Westminster cover-up over a paedophile ring.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said today that the number of officers looking in to decades-old allegations has been beefed up to "well over 20".

However he also said that 130 staff, including 112 officers, are still working on the inquiries into alleged phone hacking and bribery by journalists.

Speaking to the Police and Crime Committee at London's City Hall he said of the sex abuse claims: "We've tripled the number of people in there this week. Well over 20 people will be dedicated to that and we will make an assessment of the cases.

"It takes a little while because sometimes victims will have moved on to other parts of the country, sometimes abroad, and that poses its own challenges. Not all the people are prepared to tell us all the details or to go on to the criminal justice process."

To date the force had refused to discuss what action it was taking in the wake of the fresh concerns raised over a dossier handed to former home secretary Lord Brittan in the 1980s.

Scotland Yard already has its own inquiry, Operation Fairbank, which was launched in response to information passed on by MP Tom Watson, who used Prime Minister's Questions in 2012 to air claims that there was a paedophile ring with links to Number 10.

He claimed that a file of evidence used to convict a man called Peter Righton of importing child pornography in 1992 contained "clear intelligence'' of a sex abuse gang, and claimed that a member of the group had bragged about links with a senior aide to a former Prime Minister.

Sir Bernard said that similar inquiries are already being staged in a number of areas across the UK.

He told the committee: "If you look at the allegations of historical sexual abuse involving allegations against MPs there are at least six inquiries: Northern Ireland, north west, north Wales, East Anglia, Leicestershire and London.

"At the moment we are assessing what these developments will mean and we are trying to get to the bottom of how many of these allegations are allegations where there is a suspect and how we will deal with it."

Earlier this week Home Secretary Theresa May announced plans for two investigations sparked by the cover-up claims - one a Hillsborough-style independent inquiry into whether public bodies properly handled allegations of child sex abuse.

It will focus on documentary evidence but will have the power to call witnesses and could later be made a full public inquiry.

The plan has already fallen into controversy with calls for the chairwoman Baroness Butler-Sloss to step down because of concerns she is too close to the establishment.

Her brother Sir Michael Havers, who was attorney general in the 1980s, was accused of trying to prevent ex-MP Geoffrey Dickens airing paedophilia claims about diplomat Sir Peter Hayman in Parliament.

She has denied knowing anything about it, and the Prime Minister and the Home Office have defended her appointment.

A separate review, led by NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless and seasoned prosecutor Richard Whittam QC, will look into an investigation conducted last year into the Home Office's handling of child abuse allegations made over a 20-year period, as well as the response of police and prosecutors to information which was passed on to them.

The team is expected to report within eight to 10 weeks and will look at concerns that the Home Office failed to act on allegations of child sex abuse contained in a dossier handed by Mr Dickens to Lord Brittan in 1983.

The Hillsborough-style inquiry will provide a progress report before May next year.

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