Whitehall child sex inquiry: the 114 files ‘lost’
Home Office admits that it destroyed, lost or could not find ‘potentially relevant files’ between 1979 and 1999
Geoffrey Dickens with a booklet written by health visitors on how to spot the signs of child abuse (REX)
But Mark Sedwill, permanent secretary to the Home Office, has now admitted for the first time that his department had destroyed, lost or simply “not found” 114 “potentially relevant files”
He also said four new possible leads about child abuse have now been passed on to Scotland Yard. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Any relevant material that is submitted to us will be dealt with as appropriate.”
A senior Tory MP and former children’s minister last night accused the Home Office of a cover-up. Now Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is under pressure to “get involved” in establishing what happened to the missing records. She will face demands in the House of Commons tomorrow to explain how her department came to lose the documents.
In recent days fresh questions have emerged about whether enough was done to investigate the allegations.
Mark Sedwill, the permanent secretary at the Home Office (EPA)
Mr Sedwill wrote to David Cameron yesterday to say a new investigation would examine whether the conclusions of last year’s review “remain sound”.
But in a separate letter to Keith Vaz, the home affairs select committee chairman, he outlined new details about the 2013 review, in which he made the admission about the 114 files.
In his letter Mr Sedwill told Mr Vaz that Mr Dickens had submitted allegations of sexual offences over a number of years to several Home Secretaries, including Lord Brittan, rather than just one single dossier.
He said the review had analysed a central database containing 746,000 files from the period 1979 to 1999 and had identified 527 potentially relevant files, from which nine items of information about alleged child abuse were reported to police.
But Mr Sedwill said the same analysis of the central database “identified 114 potentially relevant files had been presumed destroyed, missing or not found”.
The admission immediately raised further questions as to whether there was an attempt inside Whitehall to cover up the allegations raised by Mr Dickens when he submitted his dossier to Lord Brittan.
Keith Vaz has deep concerns about the loss of the 114 files (AFP/GETTY)
Mr Vaz welcomed the decision to set up a new review of the Government’s handling of the cases but expressed deep concerns about the loss of so many files.
“We obviously now realise that the first review was not fit for purpose,” Mr Vaz told The Sunday Telegraph. “But what concerns me is the line in the letter that talks about 114 files going missing, This is very disturbing. People will be extremely concerned. It is a huge amount of files about a very sensitive issue.
“We really need to know who authorised it. How do we know such a precise figure? Somebody must have known that these 114 files existed and they must presumably know the date that they went missing or were destroyed.
“We know the Home Office loses passports and a couple of files here or there but 114 is quite a lot of files to lose. I think we do need answers to this.
“I hope Mrs May will have the answers because I am a little concerned at the absence of the Home Secretary from most of these deliberations over the last few days. This is the Home Office and she is the Home Secretary and it should be her setting up these reviews.”
Mr Vaz, a former minister under Tony Blair, added: “This is a lot of material that has gone down the tubes. We need to know how this happened.”
Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP and former children’s minister, said: “To lose one file is unfortunate but to lose 114 smacks of complete incompetence or, I fear, some degree of cover-up.
“This just raises so many more questions which really must now be answered as a matter of urgency.”
The Home Office said the original review was satisfied it had passed to the appropriate authorities information about child abuse which was “credible” and “had realistic potential for further investigation”.
But it admitted that for the conclusions to “remain valid” a new examination of its work by a senior independent legal figure was now required.
Mr Dickens, who died in 1995, told his family that details in his dossier would “blow the lid off” the lives of powerful and famous child abusers, his son said. Barry Dickens said his father would have been “hugely angered” that the allegations had not been properly investigated.
Lord Brittan has confirmed he received a “substantial bundle of papers” from Mr Dickens when he was Home Secretary in 1983 and said he had passed them to his officials for investigation.
Mrs May said on Friday she would “examine the case” for a public inquiry into historical child abuse in public life, for which 139 MPs have now called.