Government files reveal far more than a former PM’s interest in a paedophile group

Edward Heath
Tom Coburg

Wiltshire Police’s Operation Conifer has reported that, if the late Conservative prime minister Sir Edward Heath was alive today, he would be questioned under caution in relation to allegations of child sex abuse. But a government-archived collection of files actually flagged up, some decades back, Heath’s interest in the ‘Paedophile Information Exchange’. And many more of those files flagged up other alleged child sex abuse cases.

The allegations

A summary by The Guardian of the allegations that Operation Conifer [pdf] believed to merit follow-up includes:

  • 1961: Heath allegedly raped and indecently assaulted an 11-year-old boy during a paid sexual encounter in a private dwelling. London.
  • 1962: Heath in the company of an unknown male allegedly indecently assaulted a 10-year-old boy during a chance encounter in a public place. Kent.
  • c1964: Heath allegedly indecently assaulted a 15-year-old male during three paid sexual encounters. Sussex and London.
  • 1967: Heath allegedly indecently assaulted a 15-year-old male not known to him in private during a chance encounter in a public building. Guernsey.
  • 1976: Heath allegedly indecently assaulted over clothing an adult male during a chance encounter at a public event. Jersey.
  • c1992: Heath allegedly indecently assaulted an adult male after consent was withdrawn in what had been a paid consensual sexual encounter in a hotel. Wiltshire.

These allegations are also listed in a table [pdf, p80].

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A decision is yet to be made as to whether the allegations will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. And Wiltshire Police stated:

It is critical to stress that no inference of guilt should be drawn from the fact that Heath would have been interviewed under caution.

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Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE)

PIE was a lobby group that supported paedophilia. A 2014 BBC article described how it:

wanted the government to axe or lower the age of consent. It offered support to adults ‘in legal difficulties concerning sexual acts with consenting ‘under age’ partners’. The real aim was to normalise sex with children.

What is not generally known is that the government possessed a file on Heath’s interest in PIE. The file forms part of the notorious 114 ‘missing’ files on child sex abuse. That list can now be seen in full and provides an insight into the range of alleged child sex abuse cases the authorities were aware of.

Heath’s entry on the list is number 77. The metadata (heading) for the file shows his interest in PIE and that the file is “presumed destroyed”:

Heath reportedly attended several PIE meetings at Westminster, though the precise nature of his interest in that organisation is unknown.

Secret dossiers

A government document [pdf, p2] provides some statistics on the number of child sex abuse files for 1979-1999. A total of 2,188 (85%) of these files were either destroyed or went ‘missing’. Details of some of the inquiries are also listed [pdf, p3-4]. .

A dossier of child sex abuse allegations, including details of PIE meetings, was handed to then Home Secretary Sir Leon Brittan by Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens. Brittan later claimed he passed on the dossier to the Home Office for investigation, but that it was subsequently destroyed.

Scotland Yard also handed Brittan a second 40 page dossier, which named 16 high-profile people involved with PIE. Labour MEP and veteran MP Barbara Castle provided a copy, which included Dickens’ dossier,  to Bury Messenger editor Don Hale. Hale went on to claim that Special Branch officers raided his office and confiscated the documents, only one day after Liberal leader Cyril Smith MP visited him to demand he bury the story.

More files resurface

Another government document quotes [pdf, p9-10] a letter from Richard Heaton (Permanent Secretary and First Parliamentary Counsel) to Peter Wanless (head of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) and Richard Whittam QC, where reference is made to certain files:

  • “The first is the PREM [Prime Minister’s office] file about Sir Peter Hayman [the British High Commissioner in Canada]…”
  • “[The] second, a PREM file about Sir William van Straubenzee [Tory MP] was identified in late January 2015… On review my team noted that the file contained references to the Kincora Boys’ Home…”
  • The final group of papers about Peter Morrison [close aide and adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher], Leon Brittan, Peter Hayman, William van Straubenzee and Colin Wallace’s [former Army intelligence, Northern Ireland] allegations about Kincora were found in a separate Cabinet Office store of assorted and unstructured papers...”

Special Branch officers reportedly saw former MI6 head Sir Maurice Oldfield associating with boys from Kincora Boys’ Home. And former intelligence officer Brian Gemmell alleged that MI5 used Kincora as a blackmail lever.

The letter adds [pdf]:

In finding some other papers about Hayman we also found papers about van Straubenzee, Brittan and Morrison… we created a full catalogue of the collection, deploying a special team for this task. As a result, Roger was able to show you some other papers that largely related to Morrison, Brittan, Hayman, and Maurice Oldfield.

Thatcher implicated

There was also a National Archives report that includes a letter from Thatcher to then Attorney-General Sir Michael Havers. In the letter, Thatcher says:

So that there be no doubt, I leave to your judgment whether or not you are interviewed on media or TV about the Hayman matter.

The memo is the final entry in the file, and was released to the National Archives as: “PREM 19/588 SECURITY. Sir Peter Hayman: allegations against former public official of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects”.

In 1981, following a question raised by Dickens, the Attorney-General admitted that Hayman was a subscriber to PIE.

A former civil servant also accused the Home Office of giving tens of thousands of pounds of public money to PIE at the request of Special Branch. And according to a source with “inside knowledge of Scotland Yard in the early 1980s”, Thatcher ‘personally covered up’ child abuse allegations against senior ministers.

Other allegations

Former Conservative activist Anthony Gilberthorpe alleged he found “rent boys” for top Tory politicians, and that Thatcher knew about it.

David Cameron’s adviser on child abuse further claimed that a “Westminster Chumocracy” protected itself from paedophile allegations. Also, a former child protection manager alleged that up to 20 prominent public figures were part of a paedophile ring covering parliament and the judiciary.

Westminster scandal

Operation Conifer examined some of the allegations raised against Heath. And in response Heath’s former Cabinet Secretary Lord Armstrong of Ilminster said:

All those who knew Sir Edward Heath or worked with him are, without exception, convinced that the allegations of child abuse will all be found to be groundless.

But many more allegations of child sex abuse have been raised against other prominent Westminster figures. And government archived files and other documents raise more questions than answers.

The Canary asked the Home Office for comment, but no response was received by the time of publication.

Get Involved

– Read more in The Canary on child sex abuse.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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