An investigation by Wiltshire Police has concluded that former Broadstairs resident and politician Sir Edward Heath would have faced questioning over alleged offences of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse against an adult.
The investigation was carried out under Operation Conifer, a national investigation, led by Wiltshire Police on behalf of the National Police Service, into allegations of non-recent child abuse made against the late Sir Edward Heath.
Operation Conifer had four objectives:
- To identify and safeguard children and vulnerable adults who may be at risk of abuse today
- To seek to establish the facts concerning allegations of child abuse made against Sir Edward Heath through an objective and proportionate investigation
- To identify and where possible bring to justice, any living person who may have committed criminal offences relating to child abuse or associated cover up
- To attempt to provide public confidence in the police response to the allegations that were made
Over a period of two years, Operation Conifer received 42 disclosures relating to 40 separate individuals. The disclosures made covered 14 different police force areas in the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands.
The disclosed offences spanned from 1956 to 1992, and each was alleged to have occurred whilst Sir Edward Heath was a publicly elected member of parliament.
The disclosures made against Sir Edward Heath related to alleged offences of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse against an adult.
For each of the 42 disclosures that were alleged against Sir Edward Heath, a proportionate investigation was undertaken.
At the end of the investigation, the available evidence and information gathered was considered, and the following conclusions have been made;
- In the case of seven individual disclosures, if Sir Edward Heath had been alive today, it has been concluded that he would have been interviewed under caution in order to obtain his account in relation to the allegations made against him.
Wiltshire Police say no inference of guilt should be drawn by the decision to interview under caution. The account from Sir Edward Heath would have been as important as other evidence gathered as part of the wider investigation.
None of the victim disclosures in this category relate to the time when he was the serving Prime Minister.
- In the case of 19 individual disclosures, it has been concluded that there is undermining information available, such that the threshold to interview under caution would not be met.
- In the case of three disclosures, the persons reporting alleged abuse have subsequently concluded that they were genuinely mistaken in naming Sir Edward Heath as the perpetrator
- In the case of ten disclosures, the alleged abuse was reported by a third party, and in the case of another three; the victim reported the alleged abuse anonymously. In the case of these respective disclosures no findings have been concluded.
A statement from Wiltshire Police says: “It is important to state that the role of the police in a criminal investigation is not to reach a conclusion as to the likely guilt or innocence of a person who is subject to allegations. Therefore, the findings in the report published today (October 5) do not state whether Sir Edward Heath was guilty of any criminal offences or comment on the prospect of a successful prosecution had he been alive today.
“The investigation has been subject to scrutiny throughout from a panel of independent members of the public whose role it was to check and test the decision making and approach of the investigation team.”
The investigation came to an end on 31 August 2017.
Sir Edward Heath was born in Broadstairs inJuly 1916 and was a student at Chatham House Grammar School in Ramsgate. He was a member of Broadstairs Sailing Club.
He was Prime Minister from 1970-1974.