Don Hale (investigative journalist)
The British Government is expert at hiding the truth by utilising a tried and tested method of instigating an inquiry that is headed by a well-meaning sort, that takes ages to report back and when it does produces a review that is largely meaningless. At the beginning of this week the Wanless review into whether there was a cover-up of the Home Office’s handling of child abuse allegations returned a verdict of “not proven”, though the Home Secretary, Theresa May, uncharacteristically admitted to Parliament, “I cannot stand here and say the Home Office was not involved in a cover-up in the 1980s”. So, perhaps she was referring to how Special Branch officers threatened an investigative journalist unless he handed over yet another dossier of MPs names who were implicated in a child sex abuse scandal. Or why at least two prominent politicians who were named in this earlier dossier are widely known to the authorities.
Peter Wanless, the CEO of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), concluded in his report into 114 missing Home Office files relating to child abuse in the 1980s that the record-keeping practices inside the Home Office at the time meant it was not possible to reach a categorical conclusion on whether or not files were destroyed as part of a cover-up. The files were given to the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, in 1983 by the late Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens. It was these files – and why they went missing – that was the subject of the review.
But then there is the story of another cover-up, that just won’t go away…
Investigative journalist Don Hale recounts how a file of allegations involving prominent people, including senior MPs, was passed to him when he was the editor of the Bury Messenger by the late Labour Government minister and peer, Barbara Castle. Castle had found that about 30 prominent businessmen, public school teachers, scoutmasters and police officers had links to the Paedophile Information Exchange.
(Note: earlier this year Tim Hulbert, a former Home Office employee, revealed that in 1979 he had been told to wave through the renewal of a £30,000 grant for the Paedophile Information Exchange. At the time Hulbert was informed that PIE was being funded at the request of Special Branch so that for political reasons they could keep an eye on the paedophiles.)
Back to the story… Hale was subsequently visited by the Liberal MP for Rochdale, Cyril Smith, who tried to persuade him that the allegations were lies.
(Note: a Lancashire police dossier on Smith, containing allegations of child abuse, disappeared in the 1970s after it was taken by Special Branch. In the 1980s officers in Northamptonshire were instructed to release Smith from custody after child pornography was found in his car boot. Smith was also caught performing sex acts with young boys in public toilets in St James’s Park. In 2014 Smith was completely discredited as a result of investigatiobs carried out by Labour MP, Simon Danczuk.)
After the Smith visit… Special Branch officers from the Metropolitan Police then arrived at Hale’s office, showed him a D-notice and warned him he would be jailed if he refused to hand over the dossier of names. According to Hale one detective said, “Let me assure you that this story is not in the public interest. It cannot be printed, as a matter of national security.” The officer then produced the D-Notice, signed by a judge. “If you don’t comply with this notice, we will arrest you for perverting the course of justice and you will be liable for up to ten years in prison.” The dossier was confiscated, as also Hale’s notes and his typewriter. The police left but also warned Hale not to write about the raid or tell anyone what had happened.
While the Wanless inquiry reported that it found no trace of the the 114 documents handed to Sir Leon Brittan (who then passed them on to the Home Office) and so assumes they were destroyed, that still leaves the matter of the second, earlier dossier that Castle produced. The British public is impatient with inquiries that go round in circles and, no doubt, the Government will state that in the absence of this second dossier – conveniently seized by Special Branch (and presumably subsequently destroyed) – no further action should be taken.
However, the names of two prominent Tories – both now dead – are widely known within Westminster circles as having been listed in the Castle dossier. Both were also named by another source, who claims they were present at ‘drink and drug-fuelled sex parties’ involving young boys and which took place at Tory party conferences.
If you were not already aware, both individuals named were knights of the realm, with links to Education, and one was a close confidante of Margaret Thatcher.
Mr Wanless: it’s time your remit was widened.