Now Chief Coroner is exposed as paedophile apologist who wanted age of consent to be 14
- Peter Thornton publicly declared support for paedophiles’ ‘civil liberties’
- He criticised decision to prosecute PIE leader Tom O’Carroll under old law
- MoS revealed another judge’s defence of Paedophile Information Exchange last week
SPECIAL INVESTIGATION By Martin Beckford
A second senior judge can be revealed today as a campaigner for the rights of members of a vile paedophile group that tried to legalise sex with children.
Peter Thornton, the Chief Coroner for England and Wales, publicly declared that his campaign group ‘supported the civil liberties of everyone including paedophiles’.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has discovered that he openly criticised the prosecution of the infamous Paedophile Information Exchange, even after its leader was jailed at the Old Bailey.
And he wrote that he backed a ‘reduction in the age of consent for both homosexuals and heterosexuals to 14’ when he ran a high-profile civil liberties organisation. Documents uncovered by this newspaper show that Mr Thornton, then a barrister, also defended one of the vile child sex campaigners in court.
The news follows our revelations last week that an Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Fulford was a founder of a support group for PIE members ahead of their prosecution. And today it can be revealed that Fulford also represented a PIE leader at the Old Bailey more than ten years after his initial involvement in the campaign.
The new details will put further pressure on Labour grandees Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey, who were all leading figures in the National Council for Civil Liberties when Thornton was its chairman.
They have insisted the paedophiles who joined the group had been marginalised by the late 1970s, but Mr Thornton was still defending their rights in NCCL’s newsletters as late as 1983.
Last night the former Old Bailey judge, 67, said he did not recall supporting a lower age of consent or representing a PIE leader, and expressed regret that paedophile activists were linked to the NCCL for so long.
There are growing calls for a full investigation into the influence of PIE, which openly campaigned for the age of consent to be lowered to just four, and which received invaluable help from some on the Left.
Peter Saunders, of the National Association For People Abused In Childhood, said: ‘Shame on the NCCL for ever going down this route. Everybody has always known that paedophiles want to harm children.
‘This strengthens our call for a Royal Commission into this whole murky affair – there are clearly many Establishment figures involved.’
Documents uncovered by The Mail on Sunday reveal for the first time the role played by Mr Thornton in defending PIE. He attacked the prosecution months after PIE was described in court as a ‘force for evil’, and its chairman Tom O’Carroll was jailed for two years for the rare offence of conspiracy to corrupt public morals.
Mr Thornton wrote that the case was an ‘expensive and largely unsuccessful’ attempt to revive the ancient law, ‘dangerous not only for the defendant at risk of a prison sentence but also for the prosecutor at risk of exposure for vindictiveness’.
In a lengthy article published in the NCCL’s newsletter, Rights, in November 1981, he claimed that although PIE members ‘had been sending pretty unattractive porn to each other’, police could not nail the organisers for what they wrongly believed to be an ‘introduction to sex with children racket’.
A retrial meant ‘more expense’ and ‘more worry for those in the dock’ and after only one defendant, O’Carroll, was convicted, Mr Thornton claimed this was ‘hardly a justification’ for launching the case.
The PIE members were accused of trying to arrange sex with children through contact adverts, but Mr Thornton said their defence was that they were ‘lonely, isolated paedophiles getting in touch with others similarly cut-off from society by their emotional and sexual orientation’.
He concluded the charge against PIE had been ‘vague, wordy, above all too remote from any tangible misdemeanour’. Mr Thornton added, however, that ‘child molesters and other sexual offenders should unquestionably be brought to account for specific offences under our extensive protective legislation’.
This prompted a self-confessed paedophile to write to the magazine complaining that Thornton had not done enough to defend his rights. Mr Thornton wrote back in the spring 1983 issue to apologise for offending the paedophile and to insist that the NCCL – now known as Liberty – did have a radical stance on sexual law.
He wrote: ‘Our policy… is to seek a reduction in the age of consent for both homosexuals and heterosexuals to 14. My remarks were not intended to infringe upon these proposals; nor were they intended to offend, and if they did I regret it.
‘I am happy to reaffirm that within the existing policy, NCCL supports the civil liberties of everybody including paedophiles and gays.’
In 1984, the year after he left the NCCL, Mr Thornton went on to act as counsel for PIE member Peter Bremner – who under the alias Roger Nash had attended gay rights meetings with judge Fulford – at his Old Bailey trial.
According to press cuttings, Mr Thornton ‘told the jury that neither PIE nor its views were on trial’. Mr Thornton, married with two children, went on to become a QC and served as a circuit judge before being appointed the first Chief Coroner in England and Wales in 2012.
In a statement to The Mail on Sunday, he pointed out he had ‘expressed the clear view, which I hold today, that paedophiles and sex offenders should be caught and punished’.
Regarding his apologetic letter to the paedophile, Mr Thornton said: ‘I responded with a reference to what was then NCCL policy about the age of consent which was proposed as 14 for males and females.
‘I do not recall personally supporting that policy: my particular interests were policing, prisons and the administration of justice.
‘For the avoidance of all doubt, my view is that the current age of consent is correct.’
He added: ‘I am sorry the Paedophile Information Exchange had any connection with NCCL. I was chairman of NCCL when I believe PIE was ejected from NCCL, which was the right decision.
‘With hindsight it should have happened earlier. I never supported PIE or its aims in any way. Abuse of children, physical or sexual, is and always has been a terrible crime.’
Ian Pace, an academic and campaigner against abuse in musical education, said last night: ‘This is an extremely serious situation which demonstrates that the PIE network was able to infiltrate some of the upper echelons of British government and society in the 1970s and 1980s. This needs to be thoroughly investigated with proper resources and funding.’
How BOTH judges exposed by MoS ‘forgot’ they defended leaders of Paedophile Information Exchange
Peter Thornton represented senior PIE figure Peter Bremner at his 1984 Old Bailey trial.
Bremner was found guilty of sending obscene material in the post and jailed for six months. He was cleared of incitement to commit sexual offences with children.
Fellow PIE man David Joy was also jailed. Mr Thornton said yesterday: ‘I do not recall details about the trial of anyone called Peter Bremner.
‘Every client I represented would have been because of the professional obligation to accept any brief in a court in which I practised.’
CASE TWO: FULFORD DEFENDS SMITH, 1991
Adrian Fulford was the barrister for PIE’s last chairman, Steven Smith, in 1991. The former Home Office security guard should have stood trial with Bremner but fled to Holland and was only deported years later.
Smith finally appeared at the Old Bailey in December 1991 where he admitted publishing an obscene magazine and sending it through the post, receiving an 18-month sentence.
Last night a spokesman for Fulford said: ‘He does not recall this case but he is in absolutely no doubt that he would only have taken it under the “cab rank” rule because he was asked to. He would not have volunteered to take it.’
High Court judge withdraws from cases after MoS reveals PIE links
The top judge exposed as a campaigner for a vile paedophile group is now under official investigation for misconduct.
Lord Justice Fulford was revealed by The Mail on Sunday last week to have been a founder of a ‘defence committee’ for the Paedophile Information Exchange while it was openly calling for the age of consent to be cut to just four.
He discussed holding courtroom protests at meetings with PIE chairman Tom O’Carroll – who was jailed for two years in 1981 for conspiracy to corrupt public morals – and wrote articles claiming O’Carroll’s trial was an ‘act of oppression’ because the child sex campaigners only wanted to ‘make friends’.
Following our story, horrified members of the public made a string of complaints about the senior judge and the official watchdog for the judiciary has agreed to launch an investigation into his conduct.
Fulford, who was last year appointed to the Privy Council – an elite circle of advisers to the Queen – has offered not to sit on any criminal cases at the Court of Appeal until the investigation is completed.
If the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office finds he should have declared his involvement with the paedophile groups, or that his support for them brought him into disrepute, he could face disciplinary action from Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.
Details of the exact allegations made against Fulford are not being made public. A spokesman for the watchdog said: ‘The JCIO has received a number of complaints in relation to Lord Justice Fulford. The JCIO has started an investigation in accordance with the Judicial Conduct (Judicial and other office holders) Rules 2013.
‘Lord Justice Fulford has voluntarily refrained from sitting in criminal cases pending the outcome of the investigation.’
Lord Justice Fulford, 61, said: ‘I positively welcome that this will be the subject of a detailed and independent investigation.’
A senior QC said: ‘Fulford’s stepping down from criminal appeals is unprecedented. He was appointed for his criminal expertise and he really has no other specialisation.’