30 January 2015

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Newspaper ‘raided by special branch over paedophile story’

A former weekly editor has claimed his newspaper’s office was raided by Special Branch in the 1980s after it began working on a story about politicians involved with a paedophile group.

Don Hale was editor of the Bury Messenger in the early 1980s when he was handed a dossier on political figures who allegedly supported the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).

The dossier was handed to him by the late Labour MP and MEP Barbara Castle and, says Don, listed around 16 high-profile politicians who were supportive of PIE’s aims.

However when Don attempted to obtain official reaction to some of the claims, he says a high-level operation kicked into gear to silence them.

First, he received a visit from the then Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith, now widely believed himself to have been a notorious paedophile.

Recalled Don:  “Cyril tried to persuade me that it was ‘all poppycock’.

“He said Barbara had her ‘knickers in a twist’ since leaving the House and had become bored with wine lakes and sugar mountains in Europe. He played down the whole episode and wanted an assurance that I wouldn’t run anything.

He added:  “I couldn’t give that and he went away very disappointed.”

However Don says the offices of his paper, then owned by Eddy Shah but since merged with the Newsquest-owned Bury Times, were then raided by Special Branch.

He claims officers warned him of imprisonment if he failed to hand over the secret papers obtained from Mrs Castle, saying any publication of the story could constitute a threat to national security.

Said Don: “I was sworn to secrecy by Special Branch at the risk of jail if I repeated any of the allegations.”

Don’s revelations, which were published in this week’s Daily Star Sunday, follow claims of a cover-up of another dossier detailing a Westminster paedophile ring, which the late Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens had handed to the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan.

Baroness Castle of Blackburn was a Cabinet minister in Harold Wilson’s Labour government before leaving Parliament to become an MEP in 1979.

Don, who went on to edit the Matlock Mercury, added:  “I had got to know Barbara very well and she was a real firebrand and when she got the bit between her teeth she would not let it go.

“We had talked about a potential paedophile ring with MPs before but she said no one would listen and the national papers didn’t want to know so she asked me if I would take a look and run a story from her point of view.

“When I met Barbara again, she apologised for the ‘hassle’ caused and reluctantly admitted she was fighting a formidable foe.”


  1. eh

    Hmmm, i’m sure another newspaper close by would surely have heard about this and began to look in to it as well?

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  2. Colin J Smart, South Shields

    This is an important story which needs to added to those from media which have made and are making major contribution to understand what happened and why

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  3. Idle Rich

    So let me get this straight. Cyril Smith went away disappointed that Don would not agree to spike the story, but Special Branch called and demanded Don’s silence on pain of jail. Is that the way the law works in this country? Er, no, it’s not.

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  4. hacker

    Idle Rich – you don’t live in the real world, do you? Don Hale incidentally exposed a case of wrongful imprisonment, thought to be the longest miscarriage of justice in British legal history while at the Matlock Mercury. Some people who had reason to try to ward him off the story almost ran his car off the road one night. But he persisted and was named Journalist of the Year by What the Papers Say. Hardly someone to give up lightly on a story.

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  5. Idle Rich

    I know all that Hacker. Respect to him for that, of course. This story still doesn’t add up. Why did he spike the story under a meaningless threat of jail from police? I’m guessing it’s because he couldn’t stand it up. Different now that any named people are dead. By the way, have any of the quality papers picked this up?

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  6. johnners1712

    I fully believe this could have happened as I worked on a weekly paper in the 1970s when we were given a “tug” by Special Branch because we had the audacity to want to write a story about a Tory MP.
    In this case, all he had done was to park his Rolls-Royce on a double yellow line in the town centre. All hell let loose when he found out we were going to run a light-hearted diary piece on it.
    The issue went right up the company hierarchy to the managing director, who, being a non-journalist, caved in and ordered the story not to be run.
    As for the warden, who issued the ticket and was a right jobsworth, he was never seen again. Perhaps some good did come of the incident?

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  7. don hale, North West

    Message to Idle Rich – or should I say Doubting Thomas? The story was work in progress and I did what every journo should do and check the facts. The names and details were genuine and came from Barbara. It was spiked because the spooks took the contents away because I could make it stand up. On the other point see Roy Greenslade’s piece in yesterday’s Guardian and today’s Daily Mail.

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  8. Idle Rich

    Great story. Warden who has the guts to issue a ticket to local big wig loses job because of it. Pity the paper didn’t have the balls to run it. No MD could ever order me not to run a story. One asked once.

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  9. Ian Young, London

    D Notices are a voluntary convention and I’d be interested to know what Special Branch (taking time off from the war in Ireland) said to convince Hale that Smith’s activities were a threat to national security. More likely a chat over a good malt with the local provincial great and good down the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social club persuaded Don Hale OBE to drop the story.

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  10. Idle Rich, The beach bar, Turkish med

    Still doesn’t add up Don. Why would you 1 Allow any two bit police operation (Special Branch, pah!) to take away “evidence” provided to you by an MP -if they took it by force (illegally), then your firebrand MP would raise the outrage in parliament, thus giving that part of the story the privilege you need). If you handed it over voluntarily, well….why? Because they threatened you with jail? 2. Why wouldn’t you run a basic story anyway from the local angle of your MP? Without naming names, naturally. Although, if you say the story stood up…..then why didn’t you write it?

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