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WHILE the country obsesses about Brexit and the mainstream media feed off each other in their reportage, many stories are passing under the radar which would normally warrant some close attention.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is progressing slowly but revealing details not widely known, such as the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) being funded for three years in the 1970s by the Home Office. At the time, the PIE was campaigning to legalise sex with children under 16 and was supported by the National Council for Civil Liberties, then led by Blairite stalwarts Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman.
The inquiry was ordered by Theresa May when she was home secretary, started in 2014 and now focuses on Westminster and allegations against MPs. It had its origins in the revelations that emerged after Jimmy Savile’s death. Many of his victims were disabled or dying in specialist hospitals such as Stoke Mandeville, and Leeds General Infirmary. The subsequent report showed 214 criminal offences, including 34 rapes, recorded against Savile’s name across Britain between 1955 and 2009. Police said the Top Of The Pops presenter had sexually abused a teenager at a hospice, one of 14 medical sites he used to prey on his victims. He also committed 14 offences at schools across the country, some of them when children had written to him for his popular BBC series Jim’ll Fix It.
Some staff at the BBC have admitted they knew of his activities but declined to report him to the police as he was a big star drawing big audiences. He was a Tory supporter, friendly with Margaret Thatcher and duly rewarded with a knighthood in 1990, the same year Pope John Paul II awarded him a Papal Knighthood.
MPs have also been mired in the paedophilia scandal. The example of former Liberal MP Cyril Smith, another predatory paedophile, is a salient example. Like Savile, he targeted the most vulnerable children, usually in children’s homes and, like Savile, his paedophilia was well-known among senior Liberals, other members of Parliament and top public figures in his home town of Rochdale.
But when Liberal Party leader David Steel appointed him chief whip he had access to and leverage over Liberal and other MPs with secrets to hide. When Steel was questioned recently at the inquiry about Smith he admitted he knew about the paedophile issue but chose not to report anything to the police. He was not asked whether Smith threatened to expose other Liberal MPs or councillors in return for his silence. Recently the police admitted they had avoided three separate chances to prosecute Smith for the rape of minors, suggesting that civil servants and MI5 took control of the case and did nothing.
In June 2014 a senior Downing Street aide Patrick Rock was charged with allegations of downloading computerised child abuse imagery. His brief was to advise David Cameron on internet security for filtering online pornography.
Conservatives Edwina Currie, Gyles Brandreth and Rod Richards have previously made damning statements of how well-known in Westminster circles it was that MP Peter Morrison was a dangerous paedophile, and yet his career was unaffected as he rose to be deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. He was Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary in 1990 and her campaign manager that same year despite this knowledge having been around for many years.
In 1991 Frank Beck, who ran care homes in Leicestershire, was found guilty of abusing more than 100 children in the 1970s and 1980s. During the trial, a 30-year-old man claimed he had been abused by Lord Greville Janner, who was still a Labour MP at the time. However, Lord Janner was not prosecuted and he insisted there was “not a shred of truth” in the claims.
One of Tony Blair’s former senior aides Phillip Lyon, who previously arranged his weekly prime minister’s question time, was arrested after police raided his Commons office. Lyon was found guilty of downloading child pornography and jailed for a year. Stephen Carnell, who was agent for Labour MP Chris Bryant during the 2010 general election campaign, was caught with more than 12,000 indecent images and 450 films. He was jailed for three years for collecting and distributing what the judge described as “appalling” images of child sexual abuse.
Cameron failed to make good on his promise to order a full-scale investigation into allegations of widespread paedophile activity within Parliament after a request by the Labour MP Tom Watson made in 2012. Hansard recorded that the police file relating to Peter Righton, who was convicted in 1992 of importing child pornography from Holland, needed to be re-examined.
Watson suggested that the evidence file used to convict Righton, if it still existed, contained clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring linked to the corridors of power. The central allegation was that a large body of material seized in the police raid on Righton’s home prior to his conviction had not been fully investigated.
Subsequent testimony by retired police officers at the inquiry claimed that police were stopped from their criminal investigations by Special Branch and MI5, and a file containing details of paedophile MPs handed to the Home Office has “disappeared.”
Steven Walker is a former child protection social worker and Unicef Children's Champion.
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