| Victor Montagu pictured in 1962. His abuse of the boy took place over a two-year |
period a decade later. Photo: Rex Coleman/National Portrait Gallery London
A senior Conservative politician escaped prosecution for child abuse in the 1970s when he promised the authorities he would not see the victim again, according to files released by the National Archives.
Victor Montagu, a rightwing Tory MP and one-time political secretary to Stanley Baldwin, (Baldwin served as Prime Minister of Great Britain 3 times) was let off with a caution by the director of public prosecutions in 1972 for indecently assaulting a boy for nearly two years.
The decision by Sir Norman Skelhorn QC meant Montagu never stood trial and his paedophile activities were never exposed.
“The assaults, which are admitted, are not of themselves very serious, and if Mr Montagu is prepared to take the excellent advice given to him by Det Ch Insp [Jack] Newman and avoid any contact with the boy in the future I do not think that proceedings are called for,” a letter from prosecutors states.
That's great for that one boy, but what about other boys, his own son even?
Montagu was a leading figure in the establishment. He was an MP for South Dorset from 1941 to 1962 and became a member of the Monday Club, a rightwing political pressure group in the 1960s. He inherited his father’s seat and became the 10th Earl of Sandwich in 1964, a title he renounced to stand for parliament again as an independent.
Skelhorn also ruled out a prosecution of the Liberal MP Cyril Smith in 1970 for indecent assaults on children after a police file was sent to him from the Lancashire constabulary.
Did anyone ever investigate Skelhorn? He seems remarkably lenient on pedophiles. But then, in the 60's and 70's pedophilia was so common in high places that it was not considered very serious; perhaps not the least bit unusual.
Montagu died in 1995 but the files on his case, which reveal that a prosecution against him for indecently assaulting a young boy was not pursued, have been kept secret for more than 40 years. They were released earlier this week after an application under the Freedom of Information Act.
I am not disputing anything the boy has told you. I know whatever he has said will be true … It all stems from romping
Victor Montagu to police
The documents remain heavily redacted in parts. They include police statements and letters on behalf of the then DPP and reveal the deference with which he was treated by the authorities.
The files show the boy was interviewed on 10 November 1972 after rumours that he was being sexually abused. Two officers visited Montagu at his home in Mapperton, Dorset, and interviewed him under caution. He was later charged by police with two counts of indecently assaulting a male under 16 on a number of occasions between 31 December 1970 and January 1972 and of indecently assaulting the same boy between 31 December 1971 and November 1972. He was remanded to appear at Bridport magistrates court.
But when the then chief constable of Dorset and Bournemouth, Arthur Hambleton, wrote to Skelhorn for advice on the case, prosecutors chose to give Montagu a caution instead of proceeding with a criminal trial in public.
A note, from the DPP’s office endorsing the decision, said the case was “borderline” but because Montagu was of “previous good character” and there was “no fear of repetition with this boy … we could caution”.
So the DPP was OK with 'repetition' with another boy, as long as it wasn't 'this' boy.
The files show that Montagu had tried to downplay the possibility that he might be prosecuted for offences of indecent assault or indecency with children. He said: “That’s simply romping about with children either with clothes on or not doesn’t amount to that … there was no vice or criminality involved.”
The victim told police Montagu had taken him to London, where the MP had a home in Great College Street near parliament, and he was planning to take him on a skiing trip to Switzerland. “That’s perfectly true,” Montagu replied. “The whole thing is almost entirely true. I’m very glad he didn’t exaggerate.”
I am certain that he does not realise the seriousness of what has occurred … perhaps some sympathy may be afforded him
Det Ch Insp Jack Newman of Montagu
Montagu’s youngest son, Robert, told the Guardian he had no idea a prosecution against his father had been dropped.
He wrote in his autobiography last year of the repeated sexual abuse against him by his father when he was between the ages of seven and 11. He said he knows 10 people who were abused by his father as children but he believed there may be up to 20.
“It doesn’t surprise me altogether but I didn’t realise that it went on so late into his life,” he said. “I had no idea he was ever visited by the police at home or charged. My father was a loner, I don’t think he was part of any Westminster paedophile ring, but he was right there at the time.
“He had a house in Great College Street, near the House of Commons, and overlooking the gardens of Westminster School, he was right in the middle of it all.”
| Robert Montagu wrote last year of his father’s sexual abuse. |
Photograph: Les Wilson/SOLO Syndication
“Nothing must be covered up any more. I hope people continue to talk and write about all this. My father may come up in the inquiry, I am not sure. What is vital is the inquiry goes ahead, and is not shelved by the Tory government.”
Montagu was 66 and semi-retired when he was investigated. In a statement in the files, Newman said the village was “totally dependent on the (Montagu) estate for employment”.
In the note written to his superior officer, the divisional commander, Newman said: “It was thought that his interest in (the boy) was no more than fatherly. From his replies I am certain that he does not realise the seriousness of what has occurred … perhaps some sympathy may be afforded him.”
He warned Montagu that if he assaulted the boy again the child would have to be brought before a juvenile committee “for consideration of putting him into safe custody as being exposed to moral danger. He (Montagu) confirmed that the association would end as from that moment,” Newman wrote.
Montagu admitted almost everything. “I am not disputing anything the boy has told you. I know whatever he has said will be true … It all stems from romping.” He claimed there was no sex involved, because “at 66 I’m past sex”.
But he described how a charge would affect his position in the community. “If the rumour got abroad in this place I should have to leave the country. If the police prosecuted with a substantive charge which I would not deny, I would also have to leave the country after the proceedings.”
Obviously no thought of any possibility of prison time!
He asked that police did not interview his staff for corroboration, but when the officers said they had spoken to his gardener and housekeeper, Montagu replied: “Thank you for telling me. I shall have to ride it out, but I shall now understand their averted looks.”
The officers visited Montagu’s bedroom, and an attic room, to corroborate the descriptions the boy had given them of where the abuse took place. The police told Montagu: “These rooms are as the boy described.” To which Montagu replied: “(He) has a truly remarkable memory in someone so young.”