Former children's minister Tim Loughton has said the real issue of child abuse is being detracted from by a "witch hunt around celebrities and high profile figures."

As George Entwistle's resignation as director general of the BBC continued to dominate headlines, the Conservative MP said such a media frenzy was "deeply frustrating."

tim loughton

Loughton urged people not to forget that this is about child abuse

Loughton, who held his post as children's minister until David Cameron's reshuffle in September, told BBC Radio Four's The World at the Weekend

"For many of us who have been involved in child protection for many years this is deeply frustrating. We really mustn't forget that this is about child abuse.

"This is about vulnerable children and young people, going back many decades, who have been subject to pretty horrific abuse.

"In the vast majority of cases, it is by ordinary people, people in positions of trust who are there to look after them and singularly failed."

Entwistle fell on his sword on Saturday following the broadcasting of a Newsnight investigation which incorrectly implicated a senior former Tory in a child abuse scandal at a North Wales children's home.

george entwistle

George Entwistle was only in his role as director-general for 55 days

However Loughton said focussing on issues of blame risked eclipsing historic reports of child abuse, which demanded investigation.

"I fear the publicity around the witch-hunt of celebrities and high-level figures is detracting from the real purpose - which is to root out child abuse that has gone on in the past, bring the perpetrators to book, give the victims some closure and make sure that it's not happening in 2012."

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Mr Loughton blamed Newsnight's "shoddy journalism" for the current "questions being put on the testimony of various witnesses, and one in particular.

"No-one is denying the child abuse has happened. We know it has happened in north Wales children homes because people have gone to jail for it, we know it has happened in the Church, we are now investigating what's happening in BBC.

"But what I hope this doesn't lead to is victims who have been suffering in silence for many years, who were deterred from coming forward, were now thinking 'I daren't raise my head above the parapet'."


Stuart Andrew MP
Tim Loughton is spot on. The focus must not be about resignations and celebrities but about protecting children and prosecuting abusers.

Loughton was echoed by president of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron, who tweeted last night:


Tim Farron
Sorry that the DG felt he had to resign. We must now make sure that the focus is on victims of abuse, not the media.

Former cabinet minister David Mellor has come under fire on Twitter after labelling abuse victim Steve Messham a "weirdo" on BBC Sunday Politics.

His comments were made after a two page spread in the Mail on Sunday called Messham a "victim of his own delusions."

The NSPCC said in a comment to Huffington post UK: This sends the wrong message to young victims of abuse who may be discouraged from speaking out. And it could also make it more difficult for adults to speak out on behalf of children and report their concerns."

The BBC was braced for further bloodletting on Sunday as recriminations flew within the corporation and the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, said there would have to be some "tough managerial decisions".

Following talks with the BBC Trust, Mr Davie is to set out plans on Monday for dealing with some of the issues arising from the Newsnight broadcast "as a first step in restoring public confidence," a spokesman for the Trust said.

lord pattern

Lord Patten met with Tim Davie to discuss the future of Newsnight

The chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee John Whittingdale said senior staff who were directly involved must also be held to account.

The programme was cleared for broadcast at the level of the BBC board of management, even though the abuse victim, Steve Messham, was never shown a photograph of Lord McAlpine and the peer was not given a chance to refute the allegations.

"If George Entwistle was unaware of the programme, which he says he was, then clearly somebody below him took the decision that it was right to broadcast it," Mr Whittingdale said.

"That was a terrible decision and people need to take responsibility for that. So potentially it may require other people to resign."

Labour former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw said: "Given that in my view George Entwistle - who was a good man, a decent man trying to do his best, only a few weeks in the job - was grossly, grossly let down by people beneath him, and I don't think supported enough by people in the Trust, I think it cannot end here."