Victims Angry at Being Ignored by 'Disrespectful, Manipulative' Home Office Over UK Abuse Inquiry

Theresa May
Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May arrives for a meeting at Number 10 Downing Street in London September 1, 2014. May is to be Britain's next Prime Minister. Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Victims and whistleblowers of child abuse say that their calls for changes to be made to the way the Westminster paedophile inquiry is being carried out have consistently fallen on deaf ears at the Home Office, fuelling suspicion of a continuing major government cover-up.

Whilst an official inquiry into allegations of a so-called Westminster paedophile ring was launched in July, Phil Frampton, the former chair of the Care Leavers Association, and one of the most vocal critics of the inquiry, claims that the investigation has done little but "play" survivors by going through the motions of consulting victims for the benefit of public consumption, but failing to do anything about it.

"We are extremely concerned and angry at the disrespect the Home Office has shown to survivors, since the inquiry was announced, its use of obfuscation, manipulation, lack of transparency and misrepresentation of survivors," says Frampton.

The inquiry made the headlines last week after an open letter was sent to home secretary Theresa May, slamming it as "not fit for purpose". The letter, which had 28 signatories including Frampton, said that they would not resume co-operation until May removes the current panel, replacing it "on a transparent basis", declares a statutory inquiry that can compel witnesses to give evidence, and extends the time period looked at by the inquiry back to 1945.

This was not the first letter sent to the Home Office criticizing the handling of the inquiry. On 28th July, Frampton and survivor groups from across England and Wales wrote to Theresa May, calling for an inquiry chair who had "a record of standing up to the establishment", as well as a change that would allow the inquiry to "hear evidence from survivors of organised abuse, which would finally give them a voice and allow them to be heard and believed".

Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf were both forced to resign from leading the inquiry over perceived links to the establishment that they were supposed to be investigating. The Home Office has seemed incapable of finding someone from outside the Westminster bubble, suggesting it may be necessary to look to overseas to find someone to lead the inquiry- but Frampton is opposed to this as he insists it needs a Chair who understands British systems.

On 25th November, Theresa May agreed to hold a meeting with survivors including many of the signatories of the first letter. When asked by the survivors to radically alter the panel and for a statutory inquiry, May reportedly told the group that a statutory inquiry would be a matter for a new inquiry chair.

In another letter, sent to the director of safeguarding John O'Brien - who in charge of protecting children and vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect - on December 1st, survivor groups calling themselves the 'Survivor's Alliance' said: "There was unanimous disappointment at the lack of transparency so far in the Panel selection process. Furthermore, there has been no acknowledgement by either the Home Office or the Panel of the needs of survivors and the impact that disorganised media coverage is having on them and support groups."

"This has placed many survivors in a position of serious harm, which has not been acknowledged by the Home Office or Panel," the letter said.

Frampton says that in all cases, the signatories have heard nothing. "The Home Office only seems to respond to our letters, if at all, via the media. For example on Thursday, Theresa May said she was aware of our letter and that the points raised had been raised before, but her office hasn't even acknowledged receipt of past letters and hasn't replied to any. Her statement was an admission. Had she bothered to reply over the last four months, she would probably have received greater respect for the operations of her department," he says.

"Many survivors and whistleblowers have commented about the failure of the Home Office to respond either to pointed questions or comments asking for replies," he continues. "For the government, success would be nothing happening. If they can just pin things on dead people then they will be happy - as they did with Jimmy Saville and Cyrill Smith."

"These people are not going to look in the darkest places, out of fear they may see themselves in the darkness."

According to Frampton, victims of child abuse have been calling for an official investigation into allegations of paedophiles operating in Westminster for over a decade. The claims, he says, were either ignored, or shunned as made-up.

Frampton says he gave evidence alongside David Cameron at a parliamentary select committee in 2002 where the now-prime minister suggested that care leavers and abuse victims were "motivated by a legal treasure hunt", meaning that compensation given to victims of convicted paedophiles acted as an incentive to make false allegations.

"I am concerned that, just as Norman Tebbit recently justified the Thatcher's government covering up abuse to save the establishment, so too, Cameron might be doing the same," says Frampton.

Peter Saunders, CEO of NAPAC, is more positive. Whilst he was a signatory of the 28th July letter to May, Saunders has chosen not to boycott the inquiry. On Friday he attended a meeting with John O'Brien, the director of safeguarding in the Home Office.

"Whilst we have an institution that is appointing people to investigate its own past failures, which obviously brings issues, the government are very aware of the concern and apparent conflict of interest as well as their previous lack of transparency over the appointment of the panel," he says.

"However, they have acknowledged their mistakes and this is a step forward. They have never set anything up like this before but May's people assured us they were working round the clock so we will stick with them until we see otherwise," he went on.