76 politicians caught up in British child abuse probe

The Houses of Parliament are seen during sunrise in London on March 30, 2015. British police said Wednesday they have received historical child sex abuse claims against 261 public figures, including 76 local- to national-level politicians, as th
The Houses of Parliament are seen during sunrise in London on March 30, 2015. British police said Wednesday they have received historical child sex abuse claims against 261 public figures, including 76 local- to national-level politicians, as they respond to a surge in complaints sparked by the Jimmy Savile scandal. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - British police said Wednesday they have received historical child sex abuse claims against 261 public figures, including 76 politicians, as they respond to a surge in complaints sparked by the Jimmy Savile scandal.

A review of investigations by regional police forces has identified 1,433 suspects - all men - in cases of alleged abuse by prominent public figures or people in institutions such as schools and hospitals.

They include 261 prominent figures, including 135 from world of television, film or radio, 76 local to national level politicians, 43 from the music industry and seven from the world of sport.

The investigations relate to 357 different institutions, including 154 schools, 75 children's homes, 40 religious institutions and 14 medical establishments, according to the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC).

Overall, there has been a 71 per cent increase in complaints about long-hidden incidents of sexual abuse of children since 2012, when the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was exposed as a prolific and predatory paedophile.

Savile, who died in 2011 aged 84, is thought to have abused children as young as eight over five decades, often in institutions such as schools and hospitals where he worked as a celebrity volunteer and fund-raiser.

"These figures are stark. They indicate the scale of child abuse police are dealing with," said police chief constable Simon Bailey, who is leading the NPCC review.

"Many victims have now found confidence to report abuse, knowing we will treat them sensitively, respectfully, listen to them and take reports of their abuse seriously."

The government announced last year that it was setting up an independent inquiry to look into how public institutions and bodies failed children going back decades.

But the inquiry has struggled to get going after the first two chairwomen stepped down over accusations they were too close to establishment figures.

A judge from New Zealand, Lowell Goddard, has now taken on the job but victims have reportedly been warned that she may not publish her final conclusions until 2023.