In recent years, thankfully, this crime has been dragged out of the shadows and public attitudes show it to be a growing national priority.
Protective agencies are having to change their approach to reflect public concern. The police are witnessing a significant cultural shift in how they deal with child abuse and so too are local authorities. Similarly, the media is eager to report and raise awareness of what is arguably the worst crime imaginable.
However, there is one institution that has stubbornly resisted these changes and seems determined to keep this crime hidden in the shadows. It has provided inadequate leadership on the issue and has shown a complete lack of appetite in tackling abusers in their own ranks.
I refer to the British Parliament. Last week I told a select committee hearing that politics was the last refuge of child abuse deniers. This raised a few eyebrows at the time but everywhere you look politicians are showing my analysis to be true.
PM David Cameron has been happy to sound off about the legal case of Andy Coulson, thereby incurring the wrath of the judge in the hacking trial, when it comes to his own former policy adviser Patrick Rock, now facing serious charges of possessing child p
Similarly stories of child abuse were frequently told about Margaret Thatcher’s aide Sir Peter Morrison. It was only after he died that fellow Tories, including Edwina Currie, outed him as a paedophile.
If there is one issue that is guaranteed to make some politicians lost for words, turn the other way or feign complete indifference it is child abuse.
The message from political parties is “move along, nothing to see here”. The silence is deafening.
When police, as part of a probe into child sex abuse allegations, recently raided the office of Labour peer Greville Janner, the word went around Parliament that this must not be discussed.
While PM David Cameron has been happy to sound off about the legal case of Andy Coulson, his criminal former spin-doctor, thereby incurring the wrath of the judge in the hacking trial, when it comes to his own former policy adviser Patrick Rock, now facing serious charges of possessing child pornography, he is silent.
Equally, the default position of Deputy PM Nick Clegg whenever allegations of serious sexual abuse hit the Lib Dems is denial, defensiveness and silence.
This horrifying spectacle reached a new nadir last week when I challenged former Home Secretary Leon Brittan to explain why he had not acted on a massive dossier of evidence about a ring of “elite” paedophiles, operating in and around Westminster, that had been presented to him in the 1980s by fellow Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens.
Last year Lord Brittan had stated that he had no recollection of this dossier but last week he seemed to regain his memory. Yes, there was a dossier, he admitted, and he had passed it on to his officials but it was now lost.
Within that dossier, said Dickens’s son Barry last week, were the names of Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith. Had it been acted upon children would have been saved and victims would have seen these vile perpetrators face justice. How could this have been so casually dismissed? Lord Brittan’s two muddled statements on this, which gave the impression that he was talking about a minor local planning matter for all the complacency they showed, perfectly illustrate the sense of shifty evasiveness shown by the establishment when it comes to child abuse. We cannot know if this was ambivalence or incompetence.
Perhaps that’s why police officers came to see me a while back, asking if I thought there would be political interference into an investigation they were carrying out into historic abuse by a former Member of Parliament.
We have truly reached a sorry pass if the police feel they even have to ask this and that is why an overarching Hillsborough-style inquiry is now needed to discover the truth about Geoffrey Dickens’s dossier and its contents.
I am of the view that politicians must give a voice to the voiceless, not rub their noses in the dirt.
As long as the political classes continue to obstruct and to defend the indefensible and refuse to expose the failings of the past so they never happen again then that, sadly, is what we are doing.
‘Parliament has shown no appetite for tackling the child abusers within its own ranks’