The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has refused to say if it kept its promise to pass evidence about a former senior civil servant – twice arrested over unconnected rape allegations – to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
The promise was made in 2014 after concerns were raised that the civil servant, Brian McGinnis, who has also been linked publicly to the Jimmy Savile scandal, may have helped stop MPs tightening laws protecting disabled people from sexual abuse in the 1980s.
DHSC’s failure to say whether it kept its promise to investigate the concerns and pass them to the inquiry will raise concerns of a cover-up, at a time when Jeremy Hunt, who was health secretary in 2014, is fighting to become the next Tory leader and prime minister.
McGinnis has always claimed to be innocent of the rape allegations and insists that he is a lifelong “celibate”.
Five years ago, Disability News Service approached what was then the Department of Health (DH, pictured) to ask it to look into concerns that McGinnis may have played a key role in dismissing calls in the mid-1980s for a review of the law on sexuality and people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions.
McGinnis had been named weeks earlier in 2014 in a report into the activities of the disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile at Broadmoor hospital, as he was the senior civil servant in charge of mental health in the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) in 1986, shortly before Savile was appointed to a new board to run the hospital.
The report mentioned that McGinnis had “since been the subject of two allegations that have been made public”, which “arose in the course of his voluntary sector work with disturbed and abused children, and both cases were dropped without charge”.
Those allegations, always denied by McGinnis, were made public in a news story written by DNS editor John Pring in Disability Now magazine in 2006.
In 1985, the year before McGinnis left DHSS, MPs on the Commons social services committee had called for an “independent expert review of law and practice on sexuality and contraception in relation to mentally disabled people”.
But DHSS dismissed the idea in its response to the committee’s report, warning that “a major review might simply attract unwelcome, unhealthy and wholly disproportionate media interest without achieving any helpful consensus”.
It is believed that this statement could have come from McGinnis.
The review never took place, and law reform that would make it easier to secure convictions for rape and indecent assault of people with learning difficulties and mental health conditions was delayed until 2003, when a new act introduced fresh offences and tougher sentences.
DNS was led to believe five years ago by DH that any material it held on McGinnis that related to the DHSS response to the social services committee would be passed to the child abuse inquiry that had recently been launched by the Home Office, and that DH was examining its archives to check whether McGinnis influenced the DHSS response.
It later confirmed that it was investigating whether McGinnis may have helped to block tougher sexual abuse legislation.
A DH spokesperson said in August 2014: “We are taking this issue very seriously and investigating whether there is any relevant material held on file.”
Last month, on 6 June, DNS attempted to confirm whether DHSC did indeed pass any material to the independent inquiry, which is being led by Professor Alexis Jay.
A DHSC press officer originally said that it was “taking a bit more time than anticipated” to produce a response, before apologising again for the delay six days later, and then finally advising DNS to submit a freedom of information request instead.
DHSC has declined to comment further on the delay.
A spokesperson for the inquiry said yesterday (Wednesday): “The inquiry cannot comment on whether it has or has not received evidence from a particular individual or organisation outside its public hearings.”
Jeremy Hunt’s campaign team has also failed to respond to a request to comment.
McGinnis, who became a special advisor for Mencap after leaving the civil service, has never been convicted, or even charged, with any offence.
But he has been arrested twice over unconnected rape allegations, one of which involved a child with learning difficulties at the notorious Betts Way respite home in Bromley, Kent, in the mid-1990s.
The arrests came in March 2001 and August 2005 and both resulted in McGinnis, who is now in his early 80s and is believed to live in Shirley, Croydon, being released without charge.
He has always denied the allegations.
Until the allegations about his behaviour were publicised in 2006, he was an influential figure in the disability world, with links to a string of charities, learning difficulty organisations and his local church in Shirley.
Following his first arrest, Bromley council advised its staff to “disassociate” McGinnis “with anything related to children with learning difficulties and council services”.
Croydon council later told church authorities that McGinnis “should be suspended from duties that involved him working with children”, after being informed by Bromley council about the 2005 arrest. He had at the time been working with a children’s church group.