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So Home Secretary Theresa May has announced, not just one, but two reviews of how her department, the Home Office, lost or destroyed 114 documents listing all kinds of important people including MPs, ministers and senior civil servants as paedophiles and worse.
May has promised total transparency, today’s number one buzzword it seems, for what often actually turns into the usual smoke and mirrors.
When questioned in the House as to whether the reviews would have access to the secret services and the police she hesitated before giving a reluctant answer in the affirmative. We shall see.
It didn’t take long for Tory ex-home office minister David Mellor to start mixing the whitewash for Cameron and May to carry out a typical Tory cover-up — this time no doubt with Nick Clegg holding the bucket.
Mellor, better remembered perhaps for adulterous hanky-panky in a football shirt than for anything he did in office, told Guardian readers “his only reservation would concern the frankly rather emptily populist decision to put the chief executive of the NSPCC in charge of the inquiry into how the Home Office handled abuse allegations.
“Far more sensible but, I admit, not so sexy publicity-wise, would be to invite a boring lawyer to review what were, after all, legal or quasi-legal decisions, not social worker stuff.”
Which translates to: “Better to pick one of those compliant judges we usually use for public enquiries — they usually come up with exactly what we want to hear.”
Mellor went on to say: “The government needed to act decisively, because the rush to judgement among certain politicians and sections of the press was becoming unbearable.”
Nothing then to do with actually uncovering the truth.
Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens was an interesting man. He was abandoned by his parents and was fostered. He suffered from polio, but he turned heavyweight boxer and later became a Tory MP. He died nearly 20 years ago aged 63.
Dickens was no leftwinger. He campaigned strongly in favour of hanging but he was also a vociferous opponent of child abuse and the cover-ups of the paedophilia he discovered all around him in the Establishment and in government.
In 1981 he used parliamentary privilege to name the deputy head of Britain’s military spying service Sir Peter Hayman as a paedophile.
The Establishment rallied round Hayman. Ted Heath had made the senior diplomat a knight in 1971 for his work in the Home Office and the diplomatic corps. Secretly Hayman had also held very senior positions in military intelligence. He was the long-time deputy director of MI6.
Despite all their best efforts at a whitewash Hayman was so blatant and so arrogant he was jailed in 1984 for sex crimes. With the help of some powerful allies he had got away with it for a long time.
In October 1978, Hayman left a package of paedophilia-related pornography on a London bus. The police traced it to a Notting Hill apartment where, under the pseudonym Peter Henderson, Hayman had huge amounts of pornography including 45 diaries describing sex with children and other obscene literature and photographs.
Hayman was investigated by police but telephone calls were made and favours called in. That old whitewash again. Hayman, under his alias, walked away with an anonymous police warning.
Dickens then named Hayman in Parliament. Thatcher and her ministers were furious.
Thatcher’s Attorney General Sir Michael Havers waffled that Hayman had received pornographic material through the post but it was not of an extreme nature, was non-commercial and in a sealed envelope, so did not warrant prosecution. So that was all right then and Hayman walked free.
Dickens complained in the House of Commons that he had suffered real harassment over the Hayman affair.
“The noose around my neck grew tighter after I named a former high-flying British diplomat on the floor of the House.
“First, I received threatening telephone calls followed by two burglaries at my London home.” Dickens even believed he had been put on a murder hit list. The Establishment and the media ridiculed it as paranoia.
Thatcher’s attorney general was Sir Michael Havers. He will be remembered both as a loyal Conservative politician, encourager of police and the courts against striking miners as well as the lawyer who prosecuted both the innocent Guilford Four and the Maguire Seven, all jailed and then later found not guilty and released.
What isn’t perhaps so well known is that Havers was the brother of Baroness Butler-Sloss who May has just appointed to head her other, more in depth, inquiry into the lost papers. No clash of interests there I am sure.
Dickens paid dearly for his brave whistleblowing. Thatcher never forgave him that some of those named in the dossier were very close indeed.
Meanwhile Hayman didn’t behave himself. Perhaps he felt he didn’t need to. In 1984 he was convicted for an act of gross indecency in a public lavatory. He died in 1992.
Dicken’s brave but unpopular campaign wasn’t over. In November 1983 he delivered a thick dossier to the then home secretary and the senior minister in Thatcher’s Cabinet, Leon Brittan.
It contained allegations of paedophilia in Buckingham Palace, the government, the diplomatic and Civil Service and who knows where else.
This is the dossier that Sir Leon Brittan says he cannot remember and the Home Office has either lost or destroyed.
The top civil servant at the Home Office Mark Sedwill told the home affairs select committee on Tuesday that he had not even asked to see a list detailing what the 114 missing documents related to.
He told MPs he presumed they had all been destroyed, the destruction had not been logged or recorded, but despite that they should not assume that anything sinister was at work. So much for May’s transparency.
Dickens also personally delivered a separate file to another member of the Establishment, the director of public prosecutions, Sir Thomas Hetherington, in August 1983. Amazingly that copy too has been conveniently lost or destroyed.
Dickens’s files and dossier contained details of at least eight prominent public figures who were paedophiles.
Dickens said at the time: “I’ve got eight names of big people, really important names, public figures. And I am going to expose them in Parliament.”
He never did. Pressure, threats, or some other reason kept him quiet. The dossiers and files were lost and a lot of very important people, with very dark secrets, breathed again.
So will those important names become public this time round, Or will the establishment and the Con-Dem cabinet manage to sweep it all under their capacious carpet with all the other sleazy secrets?
I don’t know, but if I were you I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Peter Frost blogs at frostysramblings.wordpress.com/
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