Historical sex abuse: ‘Tens of thousands of cases’

Hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse have been made against Jimmy Savile. Picture: James Hardisty

Hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse have been made against Jimmy Savile. Picture: James Hardisty

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THE number of people coming forward with allegations about historical child abuse is set to reach “many tens of thousands”, an MP has warned.

Labour backbencher John Mann, who has been campaigning on the issue, said the state “can’t deal with” the volume of claims that are being made.

He insisted there was too much focus on who was going to run the government’s troubled inquiry into paedophile activity and suggested a national institute needed to be created to make progress.

The MP’s comments come with the wide-ranging probe ordered by Home Secretary Theresa May still mired in uncertainty. Two candidates for chair – former judge Baroness Butler-Sloss and ex-Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf – have had to stand aside over their establishment links.

Mr Mann said there had been too much emphasis on individuals. “It’s not just about who chairs an inquiry, it’s about what the remit of an inquiry should be, who else should be sat on that inquiry, who should be advising it,” the Bassetlaw MP said.

“As an example, one of the things that survivors’ groups are calling for in the discussions I’ve had with them is for government to set up a national institute to take forward this work on what you do with all these people coming forward.

“Probably, it’s going to be many tens of thousands of people across the country. The state can’t deal with the numbers of people coming forward.

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“The police and social services cannot cope with the volume that’s there, even now. And we’re hardly at the beginning of people coming forward.”

Mr Mann went on: “I’m getting vast numbers of people, including my constituents, coming forward making allegations. Many of those people came forward in the past and weren’t listened to or weren’t believed.

“That’s a key part of the problem. What do you do with people making allegations against people – and nothing was done in the past – when the people they’re making allegations against in some cases are dead?”

It comes after Baroness Butler-Sloss cautioned against giving victims too much influence over who led the probe. The retired judge, who stepped down as head of the planned public inquiry, said there could be “real problems” if victims were to decide who was its eventual chair.

The inquiry, sparked by claims of paedophiles operating in Westminster in the 1980s, is set to investigate whether “public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales”.

The panel has started work but has no-one to lead it after its first two nominations resigned. Mrs May, who is still considering the format of the inquiry, has told members of the panel it might be disbanded. Dozens of survivors have called for the government to scrap the current inquiry and replace it with a more powerful body.

Lady Butler-Sloss stood down earlier this year amid claims she faced a conflict of interest because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general at the time of some of the alleged abuse.

Lady Butler-Sloss said “there has to be a victim voice on the panel” but the survivors should not be able to chair it themselves or choose who fills the position.

She said: “You need someone who knows how to run things and if you get someone from an obscure background, with no background of establishment, they’ll find it very difficult.”

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