Leon Brittan’s faulty memory and a ticking timebomb that could shake Westminster: Tory peer faces questions over 1980s files complied by MP Geoffrey Dickens on Westminster paedophile ring
- Geoffrey Dickens handed over a ‘40-page dossier’ alleging a ‘paedophile circle’ to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan in November 1983
- Sources close to the police who have recently investigated associated allegations say that it seems to have subsequently ‘disappeared’
- Home Office said it hadn’t been ‘retained’ and duplicate dossier held by Dickens’ late widow was destroyed because she thought it ‘toxic’
Thirty years ago, Geoffrey Dickens was one of a band of Tory backbench MPs who could be relied upon to be quotably furious on a wide range of subjects, some of which he even knew a little about.
On his death in 1995, the obituaries painted a picture of a well-liked blusterer. His support for the ‘Prevention of Television Act’ during a Commons debate on terrorism was one notable malapropism, while an honest admission of bafflement over the intricacies of the Maastricht Treaty demonstrated his intellectual limitations.
These cameos were not the extent of his ‘colourful’ behaviour. He once called a press conference to announce that he had been unfaithful to his wife with a woman he had met ‘tea-dancing’. Dickens explained: ‘I have been a naughty boy, but my philandering days are now over.’
And yet for all the ruddy-faced slapstick and red-top headlines, Dickens pursued a serious, investigative crusade throughout the later years of his political life. It concerned the protection of children from sexual abuse by adults.
One might argue that its high point came in November 1983, when Dickens handed over a ‘40-page dossier’ to the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan, which set out allegations of a paedophile circle ‘operating and networking within and around’ the Westminster elite.
Names were named, evidence presented, apparently. To those who claim to have some knowledge of the contents, it presented a timebomb under the political Establishment. Once action was taken, the Commons would have been rocked to its foundations.
And yet nothing occurred. Not even a whimper, let alone a bang.
Why? And what happened to the dossier?
Sources close to the police who have recently investigated associated allegations say that it seems to have subsequently ‘disappeared’. The Home Office confirmed that it had not been ‘retained’. A duplicate dossier held by the Dickens family was destroyed by his late widow because she thought it ‘toxic’.
This week, the Dickens dossier mystery came back to haunt the now Lord Brittan.
At the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday, the Labour MP Simon Danczuk repeated his calls for a Hillsborough-style inquiry into historical paedophile allegations involving politicians.
Mr Danczuk, who helped to expose the extent of the child sex abuses committed by the late MP Cyril Smith this year in a brilliant book — serialised in the Daily Mail — told the committee: ‘I do think it would be helpful for Leon Brittan to share his knowledge of how he dealt with these allegations that were made at the time.’
Mr Danczuk said that the dossier contained information about the involvement of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which was established in 1974 to promote and lobby for the legalisation of sexual activity between minors and adults.
Yesterday, Lord Brittan responded to the challenge with a statement. He said: ‘As I recall, [Mr Dickens] came to my room at the Home Office with a substantial bundle of papers. As is normal practice, my private secretary would have been present at the meeting.
‘I told Mr Dickens that I would ensure that the papers were looked at carefully by the Home Office and acted on as necessary. Following the meeting, I asked my officials to look carefully at the material contained in the papers provided and report back to me if they considered that any action needed to be taken by the Home Office.
‘In addition, I asked my officials to consider a referral to another government department, such as the Attorney General’s department, if that was appropriate. This was the normal procedure for handling material presented to the Home Secretary. I do not recall being contacted further about these matters by Home Office officials or by Mr Dickens or by anyone else.’
And yet a letter uncovered last year by a Home Office-commissioned independent review into what information the department received about organised child abuse between 1979 and 1999 suggests Lord Brittan’s memory is faulty.
On March 20, 1984, the Home Secretary wrote to Mr Dickens saying: ‘You drew my attention to a number of allegations concerning paedophilia when you called here on November 23 and in subsequent letters.
‘I am now able to tell you that, in general terms, the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions is that two of the letters you forwarded could form the basis for inquiries by the police and they are now being passed to the appropriate authorities.
‘In other cases there either seems to be inadequate evidence to pursue prosecution, for example the lady who wrote about PIE advertising but did not secure any example of the material complained of, or they have already been dealt with in some way by the courts or the police.’ Dickens — who spent much of the first eight years of his life in foster care — had been an amateur boxer who had sparred with the celebrated Henry Cooper, and he took his natural pugnacity and bulk into the political arena, where the Paedophile Information Exchange became one of his favourite punch bags.
PIE had used the gay liberation movement in an attempt to present its members as just another sexual minority. PIE was even affiliated for a number of years to the Left-leaning National Council for Civil Liberties, at a time when the latter was being run by such future Labour Party big-hitters as Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey.
After a campaign by this newspaper, Ms Hewitt eventually apologised for the links, but Harman and her husband Dromey remain obdurate.
PIE’s strategy of seeking maximum publicity backfired. It not only attracted public opprobrium, but the close attentions of the police and people like Mr Dickens, who scented an Establishment cover-up.
In October 1978, a PIE member calling himself ‘Henderson’ was arrested, after a quantity of extreme pornography addressed to him was found on a bus.
His Bayswater flat was searched and Obscene Publications Squad officers found there what one described as ‘one of the most revolting collections of pornographic material’ he had ever seen. And yet ‘Henderson’ was merely cautioned and told not to send such material through the post again. But his name wasn’t really Henderson. He was, in fact, Sir Peter Hayman KCMG, CVO, MBE.
Between 1970 and 1974, Hayman had been Her Majesty’s High Commissioner to Canada. He had previously held top posts in the Ministry of Defence and the UK delegation to Nato. As such, his private activities were a significant security risk to the UK at the height of the Cold War. He was an obvious target for blackmail attempts.
The matter might have been quietly buried there, if it were not for the 1981 Old Bailey trial of several other PIE members, including the organisation’s former chair, Tom O’Carroll.
Shortly before the case began, Private Eye magazine alluded to a ‘senior civil servant’ being part of the same ring.
During the trial a former PIE member told the jury that members discussed their sexual experiences with babies; O’Carroll admitted having approached 100 convicted child molesters in an effort to boost membership.
Following a retrial, he was jailed for two years for conspiracy to corrupt public morals. But while Hayman was alluded to in court, his identity was still protected. It seemed the ‘cover-up’ had succeeded. Dickens was outraged and took a radical step.
He used parliamentary privilege, which affords legal protection from libel, to name Hayman in questions to the then Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers.
He further demanded that Hayman should be prosecuted and asked: ‘How did such a potential blackmail risk come to hold highly sensitive posts at the MoD and Nato?’
Sir Michael defended the decision not to prosecute Hayman, on the grounds that he had not been on PIE’s executive committee and therefore was not part of the conspiracy.
The story was reported around the world, and when Hayman was eventually jailed for unrelated child sex offences, Dickens said it was the ‘proudest day’ of his life.
But Dickens also claimed his highly unusual use of privilege to name Hayman had won him few friends among his Westminster colleagues. One of these, of course, was Sir Cyril Smith, Liberal MP for Rochdale and serial child sex abuser.
It is now known that Smith, who died before his true nature was revealed, thanks to repeated cover-ups by friends in high places, had been a visitor to Elm Guest House in South-West London.
This was a gay-friendly hotel run by a German woman called Carole Kasir and her husband. It was alleged that the property was also used by a number of paedophiles from the worlds of politics and entertainment. It is claimed that boys who were living in a local care home were taken to the guest house to be abused.
Elm Guest House closed in 1982 following a police raid, during which an under-age boy was removed from the property. Mrs Kasir died eight years later.
An inquest returned a verdict of suicide but others claimed she was killed for what she knew. A former lover recently told this newspaper that she kept a box of incriminating photographs of the rich and famous, including Cyril Smith.
In August 1983, Geoffrey Dickens claimed in an interview with the Daily Express that he had given the names of ‘eight prominent figures’ to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He told the paper: ‘I’ve got eight names of big people, really important names, public figures.’ He said that, unless action was taken, he would ‘expose them in Parliament’.
He added: ‘One of these people is a friend of mine, but you have to be merciless protecting the young. These people must not be allowed to get away with it just because they are important in public life.’
In November, he handed his dossier to Leon Brittan. Among the allegations contained in the information that Dickens allegedly gave to Brittan was a link between Buckingham Palace and PIE.
Dickens continued to campaign but complained in 1985 of the consequences to himself: ‘The noose around my neck grew tighter after I named a former high-flying British diplomat on the Floor of the House,’ he told the Commons.
‘Honourable Members will understand that where big money is involved and as important names came into my possession, so the threats began.
‘First, I received threatening telephone calls, followed by two burglaries at my London home. Then, more seriously, my name appeared on a multi-killer’s hit list.’
Whatever the truth of these claims, Dickens lived to fight on. In 1991, he told a party conference of his solution to the paedophile problem: ‘Castrate the buggers.’
Two years ago, police finally began to look in detail at matters relating to the Dickens dossier, Elm Guest House and connections between Westminster and organised child abuse.
Officers from Operation Fernbridge, launched after Operation Fairbank, have since investigated allegations that Cyril Smith and a senior Tory politician were among those who had sex with under-age boys at Elm Guest House.
A former rent boy told detectives that he gave Smith ‘dirty massages’ at the property. But the same officers have not been able to find any conclusive proof that the Tory politician, whom the Mail is not naming for legal reasons, abused another boy there.
Yesterday, the Mail spoke to Barry Dickens, the late MP’s son. Though he described Lord Brittan’s statement as ‘too little, too late’, he welcomed it as the start of the rehabilitation of his father’s ‘good name and reputation’.
The 53-year-old told us: ‘I’m very pleased and grateful for the pressure Simon Danczuk has brought to bear. Thirty years have passed since my father raised these issues, and they are no less important.
‘After my father outed the paedophile diplomat Sir Peter Hayman in the Chamber of the Commons in 1981, an insidious campaign was started against him in the House.
‘Certain dishonourable Members began to hound him at every turn. They would ridicule him, seeking to make him a figure of fun. In that way, I suppose, they hoped to trivialise his dossier on the child abusers stalking the corridors of power.
‘Now we know my father was right. He was right about Cyril Smith and he was right about Jimmy Savile, who I believe were both named in his dossier.
‘After he’d named Hayman, my father was seen as a crusader for the rights of the abused, and many young people who’d been abused approached him. My father was a good man and they trusted him and he listened to their harrowing stories for hours. Those stories and the names that came with them were the basis for his dossier, which he gave to Leon Brittan in 1983.’
Barry Dickens said that his mother had destroyed the duplicate dossier.
‘Last year, two detectives from the Yard came here and asked to see anything at all related to my father. I got the feeling they were clutching at straws, and that they’d already trawled the Home Office files.
‘I would like to be assured that Lord Brittan has given police the names of those officials to whom he handed the Dickens dossier. I would like the public to know that every avenue is being followed.
‘I find it incredible that Leon Brittan, who was Home Secretary, could simply hand that file over to departmental officials. Why wouldn’t he want to follow that up?’
A senior Home Office source said of the missing dossier: ‘The only thing police can be sure about is that it has disappeared. Whether it was weeded out routinely, or destroyed for more sinister reasons, is also unclear.’
Has the timebomb that never exploded started ticking again?
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2678576/Leon-Brittans-faulty-memory-ticking-timebomb-shake-Westminster-Tory-peer-faces-questions-1980s-files-complied-MP-Geoffrey-Dickens-Westminster-paedophile-ring.html#ixzz3HpWNmuVs
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