A national police group is being set up to link child sex abuse investigations involving public figures and institutions such as schools and care homes.
The body, which is set to meet for the first time in September, has asked all 43 police forces in England and Wales, as well as the PSNI and Police Scotland for details of their ongoing inquiries.
Chief officers and senior investigators have been asked to sit on the group, which could share information between forces where inquiries overlap.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who will chair the group, said: “Following a meeting of senior officers in Merseyside in the last few weeks, a stream of work, called Operation Hydrant, was established so as to allow a central strategic co-ordination group to collate and share information, advice and best practice among forces who were investigating allegations of historic child abuse where there were persons of public prominence (PPPs) concerned in the investigation.
“Since the foundation of Hydrant, a decision has been made to expand the scope of Hydrant’s work to encompass not just those historic abuse inquiries concerning PPPs, but also all those concerning institutions as well.
“This is likely to involve all police forces in the UK, and we have included Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in our remit.”
The group, while not leading any investigations itself, will gather information on inquiries involving well-known figures such as celebrities and elected officials, or organisations such as schools, councils, hospitals, prisons, children’s homes or a parliament.
There are currently several ongoing inquiries across the country into alleged historic sex crimes, including Operation Pallial, which is looking at claims of abuse in care homes in North Wales; an inquiry into Knowl View school in Rochdale, where late MP Sir Cyril Smith is said to have preyed on boys, and Scotland Yard’s Operation Yewtree, which has seen Rolf Harris and former PR guru Max Clifford jailed for sex crimes.
Claims have also been made about an alleged paedophile ring with links to Westminster.
Chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s Javed Khan said: “Barnardo’s welcomes the announcement of a national police scrutiny group to look into child sexual abuse allegations involving public figures and institutions across the UK.
“As yet another celebrity is exposed as a paedophile, we ask how many more public figures were involved in these awful crimes against children.
“It’s now a month since the Government ordered an inquiry into historical child sexual abuse. It is deeply worrying that this is not off the ground.
“The Government must not drag its heels, so it is critical that they say who will lead the inquiry and what its remit will be.”