Newly found UK papers heighten concern over child sex abuse claims

Jimmy Savile, who died in 2011, was accused of sexually abusing untold numbers of people over decades.

Story highlights

  • Papers came to light after a review into allegations officials covered up child sex abuse claims in 1970s and 1980s
  • Documents from then show "the risk to children is not considered at all," report's authors say

London (CNN)A UK report into allegations of the sexual abuse of children by people in, or close to, government in the 1970s and 1980s has sparked renewed criticism of the behavior of senior British government officials from that era.

The "supplementary report" to an inquiry led by children's charity chief Peter Wanless and senior lawyer Richard Whittam was triggered after new documents relating to the allegations came to light after their original 2014 review had ended.
    It comes at a time when Britain has been rocked by revelations involving the sexual abuse of children by public figures -- including UK entertainer Jimmy Savile -- and allegations that the British establishment may have sought to cover up historic abuse claims involving some former senior politicians.
    In the latest report, Wanless and Whittam write that issues of crimes against children "were given considerably less serious consideration than would be expected today."
    They highlight what they call one striking example, taken from a 1986 letter from Sir Antony Duff, then head of Britain's domestic security service MI5, to the permanent secretary to the Cabinet, Sir Robert Armstrong, following an inquiry into claims a parliamentarian had a "penchant for small boys."
    That investigation concluded, write Wanless and Whittam, by accepting the lawmaker's denials, and they quote an observation in the MI5 letter to the government: "At the present stage ... the risks of political embarrassment to the Government is rather greater than the security danger."
    Wanless and Whittam continue: "The risk to children is not considered at all."
    The letter dates from November 1986 when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in power.

    Charity: 'Misplaced priorities'

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