An internal review of hundreds of thousands of Home Office files found 13 previously undisclosed “items of alleged child abuse” last year. Four had not been referred to the police.
Four previously unknown cases of historic sex abuse have been referred to the police by Home Office officials in recent months, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
An internal review of hundreds of thousands of Home Office files found 13 previously undisclosed “items of alleged child abuse” last year.
The Home Office said that nine of the 13 cases had been reported to the police – including four which involved the department’s officials.
However, the remaining four were overlooked by civil servants – and have now been reported to the Metropolitan Police.
The cases were unearthed by an internal review ordered by the Home Office’s permanent secretary Mark Sedwill in February last year, months after the scandal involving former Liberal MP Cyril Smith broke.
The review – which was carried out by an independent investigator from HM Revenue and Customs – trawled through 746,000 files between 1979 and1999, and uncovered the 13 instances of alleged child abuse.
A summary of the review, which was made public after a Freedom of Information request, said: “This work identified 13 items of information about alleged child abuse, including 4 cases involving Home Office staff.
“Nine of these items of information, including all of the cases involving Home Office staff, were either already known to the Police or were reported to them by the Home Office at the time.
“The Investigator considers that the remaining 4 items of information are likely to be of limited value, as they are either of doubtful credibility or involve the use of a single profile indicator to identify a potential offender.
“However it is recommended that the information is passed to the Police for a proper assessment as this falls within their remit.”
The Home Office said that all the recommendations had now been implemented, which meant they have been referred to the Police.
The review also said that it had “identified 11 centrally recorded files from the 1980s relating to the Paedophile Information Exchange, all of which had been destroyed”.
It added: “The recorded file titles, together with media reports of events at the time, give some indication of the probable contents of these files from which the Investigator has concluded that their destruction was consistent with applicable record retention policies.”
It concluded: “The independent investigator is satisfied that the Home Office did pass on to the appropriate authorities any information received about child abuse in the period 1979 to 1999 which was credible and which had realistic potential for further investigation.
“The investigator believes that the risk of any undisclosed material remaining in files form that period is extremely low.”
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale who has been campaigning on historic child abuse, questioned why the Home Office had not passed on the cases to the police earlier.
He said: “It’s never the job of the Home Office to try and determine what constituted potential evidence, that’s the job of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
“The public will think that people in the Home Office were withholding information from the police which could have led to the successful prosecution of child sex abusers.
“Had the evidence been passed to the police at the time they might have been able to link it to other information in their possession and build a case against someone.”
He added: “The public are left wondering why the Home Office didn’t pass on the four cases to the police when they initially received the information, some years ago.
“The more we delve into historic child sex abuse and the role of the Home Office the more concerns are raised. This is why we now need an independent overarching enquiry into historic child sex abuse.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said it was considering a request for comment from The Daily Telegraph, but could not comment at the time of going to press.
A Home Office spokesman said: “In response to concerns raised in Parliament and the media relating to the handling by the Department of historical allegations of abuse, the Permanent Secretary commissioned an independent review of all relevant papers received by the Department between 1979 to 1999 to identify any information received and the outcome.
“The review concluded the Home Office acted appropriately, referring information received during this period to the relevant authorities.
“The Department has now received a request for further information from the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further until we have responded to the Chair’s request. We will respond in due course.”