We should be used to disappointment by now as far as the nation’s inquiry into child sexual abuse is concerned, but the latest statements from Home Secretary Theresa May are not encouraging.
In a piece she wrote for The Daily Telegraph, May warns that what we have seen so far is just the tip of a grotesque iceberg which will highlight that, “sexual exploitation runs through every level of British society like a “stick of Blackpool rock.” This all sounds on cue and very much in line with what many of us working in the sector have known for a very long time, but then, the caveats start to creep into May’s rhetoric.
She goes on to say that “the trail” will lead into schools, hospitals, churches and youth clubs as well as “many other institutions that should have been places of safety but instead became the setting for the most appalling abuse”. However, she doesn’t mention Parliament in the list, despite the very many allegations we are seeing now about high profile paedophile rings operating inside Westminster, and the fact that the current terms of reference include Parliament, and its ministers.
And then May tells us that the inquiry will not be probing individuals at all. This she says in connection with questions about the VIP paedophile ring. We can only speculate as to whether she read our piece suggesting that members of the now infamous Paedophile Information Exchange be summoned to give evidence to the Inquiry, but it seems rather uncanny that she should make that point now.
This latest revelation will be an enormous blow to many. It is most likely that members of PIE will be mentioned by certain survivors and that they will have a great deal of information on the movement both during and after its heyday in the 70’s and 80’s. May tells us that any allegations surrounding individuals will be passed on to the police, but their remit is not to work out how the abuse came about, or the wider implications of the cases they will receive.
The Inquiry is missing an incredibly important opportunity, not only to understand the cultural and social origins of child sexual abuse in Britain, but the structure in which it works – and therefore the mechanics of how to stop it. Which, as Theresa May knows, is part of the Inquiry’s remit after all.
UPDATE: The original piece from the Daily Telegraph was published a few hours after we wrote this post – you can read it here.