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Summary

  1. 11 November report into how Home Office, police and prosecutors dealt with claims of organised child abuse in the 1970s, 80s and 90s
  2. Followed 2013 review into information passed on by the late Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens in 1983
  3. 2013 review found no record of specific allegations of child sex abuse by public figures but revealed 114 files had been "lost or destroyed"
  4. 2014 review, led by NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless, found no evidence files were "deliberately or systematically removed or destroyed"
  5. Report also found no evidence Home Office ever funded the Paedophile Information Exchange
  6. A wider inquiry into historical child sex abuse is also under way

Live Reporting

By Esther Webber and Vanessa Barford

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Key conclusions

We're bringing our live coverage of the Wanless report to a close but you can follow

events in the House of Commons, where Home Secretary Theresa May will be taking questions from MPs on the report's findings.

The report's key conclusions were:

  • No evidence of a cover-up of allegations of child abuse by the Home Office
  • No evidence the Home Office gave funding to the Paedophile Information Exchange
  • "Significant limitations" in the Home Office's record-keeping systems
  • Proposals for all files held by government departments relating to claims of child abuse to be specially marked and retained.

Focus on convictions

Committee chair, Labour's Keith Vaz, asks whether they were given too tight a timetable.

Mr Whittam says given the "paucity" of Home Office records from the time, it would be better to move the focus to following up evidence of child abuse to bring convictions where possible.

'Chaotic' record-keeping

Pressed to say whether he can rule out a cover-up, Peter Wanless explains that the "chaotic" nature of record-keeping at the Home Office means anyone trying to orchestrate a cover-up would have "no guarantees" they would be successful.

No digital records

Richard Whittam QC contrasts his experience looking into the Hillsborough tragedy - where some paper files had been made available digitally - with this investigation, where he only had access to paper records.

Richard Whittam
BBC

Child abuse survivors

Peter Wanless says "whether or not pieces of paper are found is no substitute" for testimony from child abuse survivors. He adds there are people in the judiciary who understand the issues involved and could be brought together with victims.

'Imprecise' tools

Richard Whittam QC, who co-authored the Wanless review, tells the committee that the tools they were given to conduct their inquiry were "imprecise". He spells out they were given paper records only searchable by document title, and that the time span covered by the files did not always correspond to their task of looking at what happened between 1979-99.

Wanless Review explainer

Confused as to what the Wanless Review is about? Watch this

BBC explainer.

'A mess'

"The files are a mess," Mr Wanless tells MPs, before saying the absence of a system in the Home Office for flagging up and retaining documents relating to cases of alleged child abuse made it "incredibly difficult" to say whether the right things were being done in the department.

Peter Wanless
BBC

Report in full

The full report is available on the

Home Office website.

Timing issues

Peter Wanless confirms to the committee that the report was completed on 25 October and says he doesn't know why it wasn't published until today.

Calls for statutory inquiry

MPs have so far focused mainly on appointments for the panel which is conducting the wider inquiry into child abuse, from which chairwoman Fiona Woolf recently resigned. The Home Affairs Committee chair, Labour's Keith Vaz, sums up the victims' groups' evidence as "strongly" supportive of putting the inquiry on a statutory footing.

Keith Vaz
BBC

Home Affairs Select Committee

You can follow the Home Affairs Select Committee's evidence session with representatives of victims' groups and later, Peter Wanless, in its entirety

here.

Evidence to the Home Affairs Committee

Peter Saunders of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood tells the Home Affairs Committee he doesn't know whether files were deliberately destroyed but that it is "little wonder" that files goes missing when they name "people at the top of the political tree" in relation to child abuse allegations.

Peter Saunders
BBC

No PIE funding

The review also found nothing to support claims that paedophile-rights group the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was funded by the Home Office.

'No cover up'

A quick recap on the main findings. Mr Wanless said it was "not possible" to say whether files had been deliberately or systematically removed or destroyed to "cover up" organised abuse - but it found "nothing to support" such a concern.

Home secretary's reaction

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I am determined that appalling cases of child abuse should be exposed so that perpetrators face justice and the vulnerable are protected."

Theresa May
Oli Scarff

Ongoing investigations

There are also a number of other ongoing investigations and inquiries into historical abuse allegations in institutions around the UK.

Here are the main ones.

Timeline

Here's a

timeline of the key events that led to the launch of the two reviews into the way allegations of child abuse were handled in Westminster and wider society in the 1980s.

Other reviews

Mr Wanless' review is one of two reviews into historic child abuse that Theresa May announced in July. Another independent, overarching inquiry into the way public bodies and other important institutions have handled child sex abuse claims is still ongoing.

'Significant limitations'

The department's record-keeping methods are described as "an imperfectly operated paper records system" which placed "significant limitations" on Mr Wanless' ability to reach definitive conclusions about what happened.

The former Home Office building, now home to the Ministry of Justice
Peter Macdiarmid

'Set up to fail'

Labour MP Simon Danczuk told ITV he was concerned Mr Wanless may have been "set up to fail" because of the six-week timetable for his investigation. Mr Danczuk said: "I've talked to experts who carry out these types of reviews using digital technology who say you would need about six months to go through 20 years of documents."

Simon Danczuk MP
BBC

Recommendations

The Wanless review makes two recommendations which go beyond the first Home Office inquiry:

  • Files relating to allegations of child abuse must be marked as "significant" - not only in the Home Office, but across government departments.
  • There should be a system of recording what information is sent to the police by the Home Office and a formal procedure confirming the outcome.

Committee hearing

MPs will get the chance to question Mr Wanless about his findings later this morning - he's due to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee at 12.15pm. Before that, the committee will take evidence from representatives of several victims' groups.

Wanless review

Peter Wanless
BBC

The review conducted by Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC.

MI5 review

Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw says Home Secretary Theresa May has asked for a further review to establish whether any child abuse material was passed on to the security service, MI5, and if so, what action what taken.

She has also asked for further inquiries about how police and prosecutors handled the material.

Urgent Commons question

An urgent question on the Wanless review has been granted to shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, meaning Home Secretary Theresa May will face questions on the topic from MPs at 1pm.

No Home Office funding of PIE

The review found "no evidence to suggest the Paedophile Information Exchange was ever funded by the Home Office because of sympathy for its aims". It was unable to find out whether Special Branch funded PIE in order to keep track on its members, saying such a scenario would have been "odd but not impossible".

'Risky'

The report concludes that the Home Office's practice of destroying correspondence after two years is "risky", highlighting that children "may take much longer" to come forward with allegations of abuse.

'Concern'

The Wanless report agrees with the conclusions of the first review carried out by the Home Office that there is no evidence of an organised attempt to conceal child abuse but expresses "concern about child abuse record keeping".

The terms of reference

Mr Wanless was appointed to look into two previous reviews - one into material on child abuse received by the Home Office from 1979-99 and one into whether the Home Office directly or indirectly funded the Paedophile Information Exchange, a pro-paedophile campaign which was disbanded in 1984.

Hello and welcome to live coverage of the publication of, and continuing reaction to, Peter Wanless' review of the Home Office's handling of alleged child abuse from 1979-99.