Conservatives have rejected suggestions that the law needs to be strengthened to protect police whistleblowers who fear they will be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for exposing a coverup of a paedophile ring in the 1970s.
In fact, Exaro reports that an amendment to the Official Secrets Act enshrining protection for CSA whistleblowers was voted down in the House in February by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Damian Green, the former Home Office minister, said he believed the home secretary, Theresa May, had already given former police officers sufficient comfort by promising in the House of Commons they would not be prosecuted for revealing a coverup.
He said May had made clear that the Official Secrets Act did not apply if serious criminality was being revealed.
|Home Office Minister Theresa May|
“It’s not clear to me that you need a change in the law because in the end a police officer’s job is to investigate criminality and then pass evidence on to prosecuting authorities.”
And when they do that, and the evidence is destroyed, and they are told to keep their mouths shut or they would be prosecuted under the OSA - what do you think is going to happen, Elizabeth?
But the Labour MPs John Mann, Tom Watson and Simon Danczuck said they had spoken to officers who had expressed fears of a coverup and wanted further legal reassurance before going public.
Mann had tabled an amendment to give police whistleblowers protection but the move was rejected by the Commons.
Danczuck said he had spoken to Metropolitan police officers in the past 24 hours and they had spoken of standup rows and swearing in the office about bring stopped from investigating paedophiles.
|MP John Danczuk|
Police officers questioned Smith during the inquiry in the early 1980s, which investigated properties in south London where it was suspected sex parties were held involving teenage boys, but he was released within hours of being taken to a police station, it said. Smith and others were caught abusing children, but officers were ordered to hand over all their evidence – including notebooks and video footage – and warned to keep quiet about the investigation or face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
The officers were also told that if they kept quiet they could expect promotion, Newsnight said. They were assured that those who had been caught “would not be playing a role in public life any more”. Smith continued as an MP until 1992.
The Labour MPs urged David Cameron to guarantee that officers who give evidence over the alleged paedophile ring in Westminster will not be prosecuted.
Watson said: “It is also clear that the duty of all former police officers, intelligence officers and civil servants who have knowledge of a coverup to come forward.”
Mann, whose proposal to waive prosecution for people with information about abuse was rejected by MPs last month, urged the government to reconsider the idea.
— John Mann MP (@JohnMannMP)
March 17, 2015
Why did Tories and Lib Dems vote down my amendment on immunity from prosecution re Official Secrets Act on child abuse evidence last month?
|MP John Mann|
The government argues there is no need to change the law. In November the home secretary said: “I’m very clear the Official Secrets Act should not get in the way of anybody giving evidence to the inquiry [into historical allegations of child abuse] or bringing forward evidence that is relevant to the issue. So if anybody is worried about the Official Secrets Act they should come forward and speak out.”
But Danczuk said officers were still frightened of coming forward. He said he had spoken to a former officer with the Met on Tuesday night, who claimed investigations into allegations of child abuse were halted because of the prominent individuals involved.
“He is concerned about his pensions and the fact that he has made a commitment not to talk about these investigations – they were sworn to secrecy,” he told the World at One.
Danczuk added: “They need more comfort – they would need some sort of change in legislation that would enable them to feel comfortable in terms of sharing what they know about this subject. Ministers have to make it very categorical that no action will be taken against these former officers if they come forward.”
Yet they seem quite unwilling to do that; quite unwilling to let that genie out of the bottle where they cannot control it. Governments don't like things they cannot control.
The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said the allegations should be investigated “thoroughly without fear or favour”. He said: “I would urge anyone who has any information that can cast any light on what happened way back then to come forward and co-operate with the police.”
“These allegations could not be more serious. There are allegations of very, very serious dereliction of duty and of wrongdoing by people in the police at the time who were investigating – it is alleged – some of the most grotesque crimes imaginable.”
According to Newsnight, the officers involved said they did not know the senior figure who threatened them. The BBC’s source was described as a former officer familiar with the original investigation and its closure.
|Cyril Smith - 400 pounds of pathetic perversion|
Newsnight’s claims will be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission as part of its inquiry into allegations of police corruption in London relating to child abuse. The IPCC said it was investigating 14 referrals with details of alleged corruption in the Metropolitan police relating to child sex offences from the 1970s to the 2000s.
Newsnight was informed of the intelligence-led operation, which it is believed began in 1981 and involved a team of undercover regional crime squad officers, including some from Yorkshire, who were based at Gilmour House – a large police headquarters in Kennington in south London.
The team targeted six or more addresses in south London, including a flat in Coronation Buildings in Lambeth – a rundown tenement block about a mile from the House of Commons.
The squad believed that boys from care homes were being provided “to order” for sex parties. Newsnight said it had been told that during a three-month secret inquiry, officers gathered a substantial amount of evidence of men abusing boys aged around 14.
Evidence included photographs and video taken from inside a flat with a hidden camera that had been installed with the help of a caretaker.
According to an account given to the BBC, Smith was seized at a property in Streatham where he had been taking part in a sex party with teenage boys. It is understood he was taken to a police station but was released that night. A desk sergeant was reprimanded for wanting to keep him in custody.
Newsnight has also been told that the squad had evidence relating to a member of Britain’s intelligence agencies and two senior police officers.