84 suspects in Welsh child sex-abuse scandal

LONDON (AFP) - Investigators into claims of past abuse at 18 children's homes in Wales on Monday said they had uncovered evidence of "serious criminal offences" carried out by 84 suspects between 1963 and 1992.

Seventy-six new claimants have come forward to Operation Pallial investigators, making a total of 140 allegations of offences against boys and girls aged between seven and 19.

The independent investigation, set up by interior minister Theresa May, said claimants had identified a total of 84 suspects - 75 male and nine female.

"Offenders quite rightly should have to look over their shoulders for the rest of their lives," said North Wales Chief Constable Mark Polin on publishing the report into the first phase of the probe.

"If you believe the passage of time will reduce the resolve of Operation Pallial or any police force to identify people who are still alive and to bring them to justice, you are sorely mistaken." The report added: "Complainants have provided accounts of serious criminal offences committed against young and vulnerable people by adults charged with their care."

May launched the probe after the BBC aired a child-abuse investigation in the wake of the scandal surrounding former presenter Jimmy Savile, wrongly implicating former politician Alistair McAlpine in the affair.

The broadcaster ended up paying out £185,000 (S$354,000) in damages to McAlpine.

The false allegations came as the BBC was under intense scrutiny over its earlier decision to spike a report about widespread claims against Savile, plunging the world's largest broadcaster into one of the worst crises in its history.

Keith Bristow, director-general of the National Crime Agency, is reviewing the original police investigations, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

An inquiry was previously led by former High Court judge Ronald Waterhouse in the 1990s and reported its findings in 2000.

Following the inquiry, eight people were prosecuted and seven convicted.

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