The recent revelation of papers found in a box marked “Cabinet Secretary Miscellaneous Papers” which shows that there was a cover up of allegations of child abuse is not surprising to me, not only because I have been hearing anecdotal allegations against senior public figures since at least 1997, but also because in the past we lived in a different age.
A letter written in 1986 by Sir Anthony Duff, followed an inquiry into an MP alleged to have a “penchant for small boys.” Sir Anthony had apparently spoken to the errant MP, who denied the allegations. Rather than the allegations being referred to the police, Sir Anthony apparently accepted the denial and did not pursue it further.
The letter from Sir Anthony Duff to Sir Robert Armstrong added: “At the present stage … the risks of political embarrassment to the government is rather greater than the security danger.”
This letter had not been found when Sir Peter Wanless, and barrister Richard Whittam when they did their review. In very guarded language on Radio 4 Today programme, Sir Peter was loath to allege a cover up. He simply commented that the reputation of public figures and government departments was given a greater priority than the allegations of abuse by children – a stark and surprising revelation through the eyes of 2015.
There are yet further documents which have been found which concern Peter Morrison, Peter Hayman and William van Straubenzee
Wanless found that a number of documents were “missing”, and could not rule out the possibility that they had been “non-accidentally” destroyed, but there was no evidence of this. What we don’t know are the circumstances surrounding the documents going missing – something, no doubt, that the Goddard inquiry will look into. Certainly the whole contents of the box of papers has been passed to the inquiry to consider.
Examine the evidence:-
- Allegations against Lord Janner never pursued in the 1990’s and 2000’s on 4 occasions. CPS have admitted that they made mistakes. Was there any involvement by government?
- Cyril Smith not prosecuted after the Metropolitan Police were “leaned on” by a mysterious figure from government. Was this an MI5 officer? There is circumstantial evidence now in view of the above.
- Jimmy Savile claimed to have “friends” in high places, particularly amongst the Leeds Police Force. I have read his police statement in which he threatened the police with legal action should they have the temerity to take their Duncroft school allegations further. He implied that he had friends in high places.
So is it surprising to read about such an attitude within government departments?
- Through the eyes of 2015, it is shocking that criminal prosecutions could be stopped through the old boys network, and pressure being applied by government. It appears to be tantamount to corruption.
- As recently as 1997 it was a different world where there was a lot more secrecy surrounding the operation of government. The Data Protection Act 1998, and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 had not been enacted.
- It was only in the late part of the 1980’s (1987) that the Access to Personal Files Act gave children in care access to their personal files.
- In living memory was the Cold War, the Second World War, and the danger of “national security” being in peril should government become destabilised. Thus the fear was that, if there was a scandal about the way in which a government minister had interfered with small boys, it could provoke riots, at worst, or the collapse of the system of government.
- We still have the Official Secrets Act, which protects certain types of information from public knowledge, but the way in which it can be invoked, and its scope has definitely been eroded over the years. There are now legal challenges into the way in which certain tribunals involving allegations against terrorists are to be conducted with decisions of the Supreme Court coming into play.
- Looked at through the eyes of today, clearly the Official Secrets Act and threats to National Security was misused and stretched unreasonably to prevent serious allegations of child abuse against an individual.
- Do remember though, that when these types of allegations started to become a national scandal in the early 1990’s – particularly the Frank Beck case in Leicestershire (now related to Janner), many members of public found it very hard to believe to be true. I can bear testimony to this as I started dealing with child abuse work in 1994.
- So the public reaction to someone saying that a well known member of government had been interfering with small boys in 1990 would probably been one of disbelief. It is thus not surprising that a senior MI5 officer might also not have believed it was true.
- There are countless examples in the children’s homes cases that we have dealt with over the years of members of staff refusing to believe complaints by boys that another care worker was sexually abusing him. Thus the same sort of scandal is prevalent in a non-famous, non-celebrity setting.
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