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UK's Cameron orders checks into new abuse claims

  • Article by: DAVID STRINGER
  • Associated Press
  • November 5, 2012 - 11:30 AM

LONDON - Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron ordered an investigation Monday into newly raised allegations related to a major child abuse scandal in north Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cameron said he had also asked a Cabinet minister to meet with a victim of child abuse who alleges a senior figure at the time within the Conservative Party was involved in a pedophile ring.

"These actions are truly dreadful and they mustn't be left hanging in the air," Cameron, who now leads the Conservative Party, said in Abu Dhabi during a three-day tour of the Gulf and Middle East.

His announcement comes amid national scrutiny of the alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of young people by Jimmy Savile, the well-known BBC TV host who died last year. Police say that since the complaints against Savile were made public last month, hundreds of people not linked to his case have emerged to report their own allegations of past abuse.

Cameron said he would appoint an independent figure to lead an investigation aimed at determining if a previous major public inquiry into the north Wales scandal was sufficiently thorough. The Waterhouse Inquiry reported in 2000 on abuse at several Welsh children's homes, foster homes and other care facilities in the 1970s and 1980s.

In an interview with the BBC's "Newsnight" program broadcast Friday, abuse victim Steve Messham alleged that the Waterhouse Inquiry had stopped short of examining claims made against a Conservative Party figure. The BBC did not name the political figure, and no one connected at the time to the party has ever faced charges related to the abuse scandal.

The Conservative Party was led by Margaret Thatcher from 1975 to 1990, and governed Britain between 1979 and 1997. Cameron took office at the head of a coalition government in 2010.

Cameron's office also announced that Britain's interior ministry would launch a separate investigation aimed at checking whether police had properly responded during the 1970s and 1980s to allegations made by abuse victims in north Wales.

"I would also urge anyone who knows anything about these matters to go to the police," Cameron said. "That is where evidence should be taken so that action can be taken and we can deal with this dreadful, dreadful issue."

Messham was scheduled to meet Tuesday with Welsh Secretary David Jones to set out his allegations, the Wales Office said.

Police and charities which help victims of childhood sexual abuse have recorded a surge in new complaints since a TV documentary last month detailed alleged abuse carried out by Savile, the late BBC presenter. Officers said the case had proven a "watershed moment" and given some victims the confidence to contact authorities for the first time.

© 2014 Star Tribune