Cameron studying Conservative child abuse claim

LONDON Mon Nov 5, 2012 1:59pm GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron is looking at an allegation by a paedophile victim who told the BBC that an unidentified Conservative Party figure had abused children in social care during the 1970s, the premier's spokesman said on Monday.

The unmasking of late BBC star presenter Jimmy Savile as one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders has prompted concern that some powerful paedophiles from the 1970s and 1980s may have used their influence to shield them from punishment.

The BBC's flagship current affairs programme aired child abuse allegations on Friday night against what it called a Conservative political figure from the era of Margaret Thatcher, who served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990. He was not named.

Steven Messham, one of hundreds of victims of sexual abuse at children's care homes in Wales over two decades, told BBC Newsnight that he was sexually abused by a prominent Conservative political figure and others in the late 1970s.

Messham, who asked to meet Prime Minister David Cameron over the scandal, said he went to the police at the time but his claims were ignored.

"It's an issue we are actively looking at," Cameron's official spokesman said when asked about the report at a daily briefing.

"The prime minister himself is taking a close interest in the allegations that have been made and clearly we need to be satisfied that those allegations are being looked into properly and thoroughly and that we get to the bottom of what happened."

The spokesman said Conservative leader Cameron's office was working with the interior ministry and the department in charge of Wales on the issue.

It was impossible to immediately verify the abuse claims and the reporter on Newsnight said he could not name the figure because there was "simply not enough evidence to name names".

The state-funded broadcaster is itself grappling with hundreds of abuse allegations against Savile, a cigar-chomping DJ turned television star who victims now say used his influence to mask a lifetime of sexual abuse of young children.

'RAPE'

Messham, who gave evidence in 2000 at an inquiry into child abuse, told the BBC that he was abused "more than a dozen times" by the Conservative figure.

"You were just sexually abused, various things would happen, drink would be involved. It was basically rape, but there wouldn't be just him, there would be other people involved as well," Messham said.

The Telegraph newspaper said it had spoken to the politician at the centre of the accusations and he had denied the claims. He said he would sue the BBC for libel if he was named by them.

"I've never been to this children's home. The fact is that if they publish anything about me they will get a writ in the morning, I wouldn't wait two minutes," the Telegraph quoted the politician as saying.

Lawyers for some of the victims of Savile say their clients have indicated there was an organised paedophile ring at the BBC at the height of Savile's fame in the 1970s and 1980s.

Police have so far arrested glam rock singer Gary Glitter and comedian Freddie Starr as part of their investigations. Both men have been released on bail.

The abuse claims against Savile have also sullied the reputation of the BBC. Newsnight -- the same programme which aired the abuse allegation against the politician -- spiked a report on the abuse claims against Savile last year.

Cameron has said the sex abuse allegations leave the BBC and other institutions with serious questions that they must answer.

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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