Scotland Yard is facing fresh allegations after BBC Newsnight reported that an undercover operation that gathered evidence of child abuse by Cyril Smith was scrapped shortly after the Liberal MP for Rochdale was arrested.
Smith – who died in 2010 – was held as part of an Eighties probe into alleged sex parties with teenage boys in south London, according to a whistleblower who was familiar with the original investigation. The source added that officers involved in the case were ordered to hand over all their evidence – including notebooks and video footage – and were then warned to keep quiet or face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
Under the 1989 Act it is an offence for any member, of former member of the security service, police or civil service to disclose information about their work. Breaking the law carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine – or both.
When asked by Newsnight for a comment on the allegations the Met police said it would not comment on the details of the case. But a spokesperson did add that the force was “investigating allegations that police officers acted inappropriately in relation to non-recent child abuse investigations.”
Speaking to the New Statesman, Simon Danczuk, the current Labour MP for Rochdale, praised the journalists involved for “digging” into “yet another piece in the jigsaw” showing allegations about a cover-up against Smith and other public figures. Danczuk added that there has been “some reluctance” within the government to handle the issue, for “whatever reason”.
Danczuk has worked tirelessly to expose Smith as a prolific paedophile but added: “I don’t say this lightly: he did do some good. He was seen as an effective politician. He was seen as somebody who sorted out problems if you went to see him. He did the casework. You can’t take that away from him.”
Danczuk added that, overall, it will take two to three years for any firm results from investigations. “We’ll start to get a flavour of what they’re looking at and what they’ve found within about nine months.”
But there are three strands to the investigation:
The overarching inquiry into child sex abuse initiated by the Home Office with New Zealander, Justice Goddard, as its chair. “The good thing about that,” Danczuk tells me, “is that there’s cross-party support, so whatever the mixture of government after the general election, I think that will continue apace and get moving.”
The second strand is the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation that involves the Met police and the professional standards director looking at whether there was a cover-up. This will take a “couple of years”.
- Finally there is the investigation to be carried out by the police themselves into the criminal allegations. Danczuk says “there are a number of perpetrators still alive – a lot of prominent figures across politics and other institutions.”
The Conservatives have rejected suggestions that the law needs to be strengthened to protect police whistleblowers that fear they will be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for exposing a cover-up of a paedophile ring in the 1970’s. But Danczuk calls for a “cast-iron guarantee” from the government to say that people coming forward have immunity.
Danczuk added that people involved – whether they are police officers or survivors of historic child sex abuse scandals – are also nervous because of the “personalities” that are involved in the allegations. “These are seen as very powerful people.”