Exaro News Archive

Baroness Butler-Sloss faces another hitch in heading CSA inquiry

Lord Havers, baroness’s brother, curbed investigation into Kincora scandal 30 years ago

By David Hencke and David Pallister | 14 July 2014

“The conduct of the police, or elected representatives… or military intelligence… was not under scrutiny in this inquiry” – Judge William Hughes, Kincora inquiry

Home secretary Theresa May has received a fresh warning that Baroness Butler-Sloss may not be able to chair the new inquiry into child sex abuse.

May was surprised to learn that the baroness’s brother, the late Lord Havers as attorney general, limited an investigation into the sexual abuse of children 30 years ago at Kincora boys’ home in Northern Ireland.

She was informed that Michael Havers, as attorney general, in 1984 briefed the judge who conducted the Kincora inquiry, ensuring that he kept within highly restricted terms of reference.

Exaro can reveal that May has also been warned that Judge William Hughes, who led the inquiry, was unhappy that he was blocked from examining claims that high-profile politicians visited Kincora, and prevented from summoning all potentially relevant witnesses.

The judge made what appear to be pointed remarks in his final report on Kincora about the exclusion of politicians and other key categories of people from his inquiry.

He wrote: “The conduct of the police, or elected representatives, or clergymen, or military intelligence or any other persons who may have been in receipt of allegations, information or rumours relating to Kincora or any other home, was not under scrutiny in this inquiry.”

May has been warned that the judge was unhappy that the terms of reference limited him to look at the activities of Kincora staff – while excluding visitors. Jim (now Lord) Prior, then Northern Ireland secretary, ordered the inquiry, but Havers is understood to have drawn up its terms of reference.

Havers certainly briefed Hughes – an old friend and colleague as a barrister – in advance of the Kincora inquiry, Whitehall sources revealed.

One well-placed source said: “Havers briefed him, and it was Havers who gave the terms of reference to him.”

The home secretary is considering whether that makes it too awkward for Butler-Sloss to chair the national inquiry that was announced only on Monday, even if the baroness were previously unaware of her brother’s role 30 years ago.

The terms of reference for the Kincora inquiry were narrowly drawn. Hughes had to “inquire into the administration of children’s homes and young persons’ hostels, whose residents were subjected to homosexual offences that led to convictions by the courts or where homosexual misconduct led to disciplinary action against members of staff, and into the extent to which those responsible for the provision of residential care for children and young persons could have prevented the commission of such acts or detected their occurrence at an earlier stage.”

Cabinet minutes, dated November 1983 and obtained from the National Archives, record how Prior rejected a full-scale public inquiry into Kincora. The minutes betray an attempt to dismiss what were described as “rumour and unfounded accusations”.

The minutes say: “He was, however, considering setting up some other form of inquiry, which might help to halt the further spread of rumous and unfounded accusations.”

May had been determined to keep Butler-Sloss as inquiry chairwoman, but Whitehall sources say that she has not ruled out replacing her after all.

The appointment came under further pressure following reports that Butler-Sloss kept allegations against a bishop out of a published report of her review into sexual abuse of children in a diocese to protect the Church of England’s reputation.

Butler-Sloss said that she had “never put the reputation of any institution, including the Church of England, above the pursuit of justice for victims”.

Survivors of child sex abuse had already attacked her appointment, partly because of a potential conflict of interests over her brother’s decisions as attorney general when Lord Brittan, as home secretary, received files on VIP paedophiles. Brittan says that he passed them on to relevant officials and authorities, but little action seemed to result.

Vera Baird, solicitor general between 2007 and 2010, today called on Butler-Sloss to stand down over a conflict of interest.

The latest disclosures come as the cross-party group of MPs who initially called for an overarching inquiry is to meet May to press for survivors of child sex abuse to be put on its panel.

And they come on top of our revelations over the weekend of how MPs and VIPs held parties at Dolphin Square, luxury apartments near Westminster, to sexually abuse children.

Update 14 July 2014 12.07pm: Less than half an hour after Exaro broke this story, the Home Office announced that Baroness Butler-Sloss was resigning with immediate effect.

The Home Office issued a statement on behalf of Butler-Sloss, in which she said: “I was honoured to be invited by the Home Secretary to chair the wide-ranging inquiry about child sexual abuse, and hoped that I could make a useful contribution.

“It has become apparent over the last few days, however, that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry. It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background, and the fact my brother had been attorney general, would cause difficulties.

“This is a victim-orientated inquiry, and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns, and give appropriate advice to government.

“Nor should media attention be allowed to be diverted from the extremely important issues at stake, namely whether enough has been done to protect children from sexual abuse and hold to account those who commit these appalling crimes.

“Having listened to the concerns of victim and survivor groups and the criticisms of MPs and the media, I have come to the conclusion that I should not chair this inquiry and have so informed the home secretary.

“I should like to add that I have dedicated my life to public service, to the pursuit of justice and to protecting the rights of children and families and I wish the inquiry success in its important work.”

Theresa May, home secretary, said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened by Baroness Butler-Sloss’s decision to withdraw but understand and respect her reasons. Baroness Butler-Sloss is a woman of the highest integrity and compassion and continues to have an enormous contribution to make to public life.

“As she has said herself, the work of this inquiry is more important than any individual, and an announcement will be made on who will take over the chairmanship and membership of the panel as soon as possible so this important work can move forward.”

Update 14 July 2014 1.30pm: Zac Goldsmith, Conservative, and one of the original cross-party group of seven MPs who called for the inquiry, said that Exaro’s story on Kincora made Baroness Butler-Sloss’s position untenable.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One this afternoon, he said: “The connection to Michael Havers, I think, absolutely made her position untenable and particularly on the back of some more recent revelations in relation to the Kincora inquiry, where the terms of reference were re-written just before it began with a view to excluding investigations into visitors to the care home so it would only focus on social workers and the staff.

“These kinds of things are really big. It is inevitable that a proper, all-encompassing inquiry would find its way all the way to Kincora. It would look at who set the terms of reference, look at who was excluded, who was protected by the terms of reference, and that would lead to Havers himself, who was responsible for that.

“So it did put her in a really difficult position. I absolutely do not blame her. I do not think that anyone should.”

He continued: “If I were running an investigation where I had to acknowledge that my own brother had potentially re-written the terms of reference for an inquiry in order to protect powerful people, I would find it hard to continue.

“Now, I doubt that she was aware of that. I do not think that anyone was aware of that until the story broke this morning.”

Goldsmith also backed up Exaro’s report on Saturday night that revealed how the decision to appoint Butler-Sloss was rushed.

He said: “The Home Office spent too long thinking about whether or not the inquiry should happen. We were battering the Home Office to make this thing happen. They took a snap decision. It was the right decision, which was to do this inquiry.

“Then having taken too long, they went too fast. I think that they simply failed to do their homework.”

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Exaro News investigates matters of public interest and seeks to uncover the truth.