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261 public figures in 'abuse' probe

Published 20/05/2015

Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey said historic child abuse referrals under Operation Hydrant 'are increasing on an almost daily basis'
Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey said historic child abuse referrals under Operation Hydrant 'are increasing on an almost daily basis'

Police are investigating more than 1,400 prominent men, including politicians, celebrities and those linked to institutions, for historic child sex abuse.

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said they have seen an "unprecedented increase" in the number of reports of abuse in the wake of the 2012 Jimmy Savile scandal.

Laying bare the sheer scale of the task facing them, police estimate they will receive around 116,000 reports of abuse by the end of 2015 - a 71% increase from 2012.

And the claims cut to the very heart of society, with schools, religious institutions, children's homes and sports clubs all implicated.

According to the figures, 1,433 suspects - all believed to be men - have been identified, including 261 "people of public prominence" while 216 are now dead.

Of these prominent figures, 76 are politicians, 135 come from the world of TV, film or radio, 43 are from the music industry and seven are from sport.

Officers have identified 357 different institutions linked to the alleged abuse, including 154 schools, 75 children's homes, 40 religious institutions and nine prisons.

But police, experts in child sex abuse and the Home Secretary Theresa May said the figures are only the "tip of the iceberg". Millions of people in Britain believed to have suffered sexual abuse.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC's lead for child abuse, said the scale of child abuse is "stark" and "referrals are increasing on an almost daily basis".

He said: "There is no doubt in my mind that the Savile effect has played a significant part in giving victims the confidence to come forward and report abuse.

"The service now looks upon child abuse very differently and victims are getting and can now expect a very different response.

"But these figures do raise the question, is more abuse being perpetrated? I don't have the evidence at this moment in time to prove this one way or another.

"But I do know that the internet is being abused in a manner for which it was never intended. And as a result I cannot help but think that more abuse is in fact being perpetrated."

He said no figures are available to give the number of victims, but "it's fair to say that it is going to run into the thousands".

The figures come from a new police co-ordinating hub known as Operation Hydrant, established last summer.

The numbers have been taken from police forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and refer to reports of abuse, or live investigations into abuse allegedly involving VIPs or people linked to institutions.

The revelations come in the wake of a number of high profile police investigations into historic sex abuse involving celebrities, politicians and clergy.

This includes allegations a VIP paedophile ring involving politicians existed which abused children at the Dolphin Square apartment block in Westminster.

Mr Bailey, who is chief constable of Norfolk Police, said the demand has been so great forces are having to shift resources from other departments to focus on historic sex crimes.

He said: "Chief officers around the country are moving resources into this area of our business. More and more officers are being deployed into our vulnerability teams because of this surge in demand. And it's right they should do that.

"In my own force, I am moving detectives who used to be investigating what we would probably recognise as and call 'traditional crime' into our vulnerability teams."

Celebrities including former children's entertainer Rolf Harris, 85, and PR guru Max Clifford, 72, have been jailed for indecent assaults following investigations by Operation Yewtree - the police probe set up after Savile was exposed as a paedophile.

But public confidence in the Crown Prosecution Service's (CPS) willingness to prosecute VIPs was shaken when it announced it would not prosecute Labour peer Lord Greville Janner, 86, despite having enough evidence, because he has dementia. Lord Janner denies the allegations.

Mr Bailey refused to be drawn on the specifics of the case but said more and more historic sex abuse cases are coming to court.

And he denied the figures are a "damning indictment" of past policing in this area, and said the "vast majority" of the reports are new allegations which have not previously been investigated.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the Police Federation conference the figures are only the tip of the iceberg.

She said: "We will need to face up to the changing nature of crime and the impact on police forces, including the much greater reporting of previously ignored or under-reported crimes such as child sexual abuse.

"I have said before that what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.

"So let me be clear, I am committed to ensuring the police have the resources they need to investigate these appalling crimes and bring perpetrators to justice."

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