Downing Street has warned against "trial by Twitter" after broadcaster Phillip Schofield brandished a list of names of alleged paedophiles gleaned from the internet during a live TV interview with Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Schofield was forced to apologise after the names - understood to be Conservative Party figures - were briefly exposed on screen as he passed the list to Mr Cameron on ITV1's This Morning. And the Prime Minister warned of the danger that discussion on the internet of an alleged paedophile ring could degenerate into a witch-hunt against people who are gay.
Tory MP Rob Wilson reported This Morning to broadcasting regulator Ofcom, urging them to investigate whether ITV had breached its duty to give individuals a chance to respond before subjecting them to serious allegations on-screen.
Meanwhile, a woman who worked on two inquiries into abuse at care homes in north Wales said that no prominent figures were named in the initial Clwyd Council report, which has never been published. Sian Griffiths told ITV News that there were 150 factual inaccuracies identified in the Jillings report, but that she could not remember anything in it which was not covered by the later Waterhouse Report, which was made public.
The former Clwyd Council employee said she had no reason to doubt the word of care home resident Steve Messham, who says that he told the inquiries about incidents in which he was taken to hotels for abuse by a ring of men, including at least one senior Tory. And she said that photos of abuse which Mr Messham handed to police may have been destroyed.
Asked if there were people named to the inquiries who "got away" with abuse, Ms Griffiths said: "I think probably there were. On the basis that the allegations were historical and there was nobody to corroborate what the complainants were saying or files or registers to back up what they were saying. I imagine, yes, there are people who weren't convicted for their offences."
Speaking on This Morning, Mr Cameron resisted calls from Labour for a single over-arching "mega-inquiry" into claims of child abuse involving BBC presenter Jimmy Savile and NHS hospitals as well as the north Wales children's homes, warning that this might slow down the process of getting to the truth.
Mr Schofield pressed him to conduct his own investigation into allegations against prominent Tories, handing him a card bearing a list of names which he said he had found in a cursory three-minute trawl on the internet.
Although Mr Schofield appeared to be trying to keep the card turned away from the cameras and the names were only visible for a fraction of a second, it is possible the identities of individuals may have been disclosed, potentially leaving ITV exposed to legal action.
A Downing Street source described the broadcaster's actions as "irresponsible", adding: "This silly stunt has resulted in people's names being put out there. They will want to vigorously defend themselves." And Mr Cameron warned: "There is a danger if we are not careful that this can turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly about people who are gay, and I'm worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now, taking a list of names off the internet."