Police triple number of officers working on Westminster 'child sex abuse cover-up' claims

Number of officers working on Westminster child abuse cover-up claims triples. Credit: PA

By ITV Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship

The number of police officers working on claims of a Westminster cover-up of child abuse allegations has been more than tripled.

The unit investigating the claims is called Operation Fernbridge and until today just seven officers had been assigned to the case. The Metropolitan Police has confirmed 22 officers are now working on the operation.

Watch: Westminster whistleblower tells ITV News he was ordered to 'back off' over Government grants to paedophiles

That had prompted criticism from a number of MPs who said it was insufficient given the gravity and the potential scope of the historic claims.

ITV News understands the officers in the unit have been struggling to cope with the workload.

Today, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the numbers had been increased this week to "well over 20".

Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the number of Operation Fernbridge officers have increased to 'well over 20'. Credit: PA

He also gave an indication about the challenges the unit was facing: "It takes a little while because sometimes victims will have moved on to other parts of the country, sometimes abroad, and that poses its own challenges. Not all the people are prepared to tell us all the details or to go on to the criminal justice process."

The force had previously been reluctant to discuss the operation, following new claims that a dossier handed in to Leon Brittan in the 1980s had gone missing.

Read: Missing sex abuse files 'probably destroyed'

The former Home Secretary - now Lord Brittan - insists the dossier, which contained allegations of a paedophile ring in Westminster, was handed to the appropriate authorities.

The Met Police Chief did admit, however, that 130 staff, including 112 officers, are still working on the inquiry into phone hacking.

More: Gove laments 'unseemly row' over Butler-Sloss role