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Local press 'gagged' over child sex abuse scandal

Fresh claims have emerged that local newspapers were gagged over attempts to investigate the Westminster child abuse scandal in the 1980s.

Earlier this year HTFP reported claims by former Bury Messenger editor Don Hale that special branch raided his office after the former Labour minister Barbara Castle handed him a dossier on the suspected Westminster paedophile ring.

Now another former local press editor has come forward with allegations of an establishment cover-up over the scandal.

Hilton Tims, editor of the Surrey Comet from 1980-88, told The Observer that a D-Notice was slapped on his paper after one of his reporters tried to look into goings on at Elm House, a guest house in South London allegedly used by the paedophile gang.

Hilton, now 82, recalled: “One of the reporters on routine calls to the police learned that there was something going down at the guest house in Barnes.

“It was paedophilia, although that wasn’t the fashionable phrase at the time, it was ‘knocking up young boys’, or something like that.

“The reporter was told that there were a number of high-profile people involved and they were getting boys from a care home in the Richmond area. So I put someone on to it, the chief reporter I think, to make inquiries.

“It was the following day that we had a D-notice slapped on us; the reporter came over and told me. It was the only time in my career.”

However it has also emerged that the D-Notice archives for the period in question are incomplete, meaning the claims by both Don and Hilton are now impossible either to prove or disprove.

Rochdale MP, whose book Smile for the Camera exposed the child sex abuse of the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith, said it was a matter of deep concern that D-notice correspondence had disappeared.

He told the Observer: “There are clearly questions to be answered as to why these documents were destroyed. They issue very few of them – where was the need to destroy correspondence?

“It feels like just another example of key documents from that period going missing. We need to know more about what has happened. The journalists who have said that D-notices were issued are respected people with no reason to lie.”

Now called DA-Notices, the advisory notices are issued by the secretariat to the defence, press and broadcasting advisory committee (DPBAC) as warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security.

A spokesman for the secretariat said: “I cannot believe that past D-notice secretaries would have countenanced the destruction of any key documents. I can only repeat that while any attempted cover-up of this incident might have been attributed to a D-notice the truth would be that it was not.”


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  • November 24, 2014 at 11:14 am

    D-notices are only supposed to be used in the interests of national security. How can protecting VIP paedophiles from the law ever be in the interests of national security? Did nobody question the use of a D-notice at the time?
    How this country misses the News of the World. Whatever your views on the paper, it never lacked courage. I am certain that the NoW would now be pursuing this VIP paedophile ring. Sadly our entire newspaper industry lacks bottle in situations like this and nothing is likely to change.

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  • November 24, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    As a former editor I would like to make two separate points:
    1. As far as I have ever understood it, D Notices are advisory notices issued usually by the MoD and sometimes the Home Office. They are not (and never been) enforceable directly. To enforce the notice the Government would have to issue a statutory injunction.
    2. I have every sympathy with Don as I have been similarly leant on very heavily with both overt and subtle threats to my career and freedom on what the State regard as “sensitive issues”. Over the years these threats were made on different stories by the Conservative Party, by a Cabinet Minister, by the Lord Advocate and, in a most sinister fashion, by the Atomic Energy Authority. In two of these cases we had proof that our phone lines were also being tapped – once by the police and at another time by an unknown agency.

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  • November 24, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Since there seems to be some confusion about the status of Defence Advisory notices, and the DPBAC, I have reproduced here the introduction on the DA-Notice website.

    “The Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC) oversees a voluntary code which operates between the UK Government departments which have responsibilities for national security and the media. It uses the Defence Advisory (DA)-Notice System as its vehicle. The objective of the DA-Notice System is to prevent inadvertent public disclosure of information that would compromise UK military and intelligence operations and methods, or put at risk the safety of those involved in such operations, or lead to attacks that would damage the critical national infrastructure and/or endanger lives”

    The important facts to note are: the five DA Notices are “standing notices” and there is no longer any question of anyone “slapping a D Notice” on anything. Advisories about particular stories (issued under one of the Notices) are sent to editors by the Secretariat (not the committee) and, as mentioned above, the system is voluntary – although the British mainstream media generally adheres to it.

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  • November 24, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    The misuse of a D-notice umpteen years ago is a bit of a red herring.
    What really matters now is that these allegations are investigated vigorously and the findings made public before next year’s general election.
    The evidence points very powerfully at a massive cover-up to protect senior politicians and other establishment figures from exposure as deviants who sexually abused – and possibly even murdered – vulnerable children for their own gratification.
    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that these claims are true. I also believe that several of the offenders are still alive, and I think it would be most unfortunate if they were allowed to go their graves (like Savile) without having to account for their actions.
    I knew Geoffrey Dickens MP reasonably well. Though he was an enthusiastic self-publicist, I believe his handing over of a dossier of alleged paedophiles to the Home Office would have had the purest of motives.
    It would have offended all his instincts to know that sexual deviants were routinely abusing children for their own pleasure.
    I’m afraid some of our older establishment figures went through a (public) school system which contributed greatly to their deviant and perverted behaviour in later life.
    The bordello queen Cynthia Payne was on record as saying that many, and probably most, of her clients – especially those seeking sado-masochistic humiliation – were senior lawyers and politicians, pathetic souls whose minds were twisted by after-dark practices in their school dormitories.
    The sexual abuse of boys – often accompanied by violence – is but one variant of this kind of preference.
    We need to have the answers before next year’s poll because the electorate is entitled to know just how low the political class was prepared to stoop, not only in its lust for sexual gratification, but also in its determination to protect its own.
    We need the names not only of the sex offenders themselves – alive and dead – but also those in authority who sought to keep the people in the dark.
    The political class, whatever their party stripe, are now rightly reviled and despised. Their rehabilitation can’t begin until this shameful episode is subjected to the cold glare of public scrutiny.

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  • November 25, 2014 at 11:23 am

    @Brassington – you are quite right that DA Notices are a red herring in this case. They should only relate to matters of national security. and the DPBAC would strongly resist any attempt to use them for anything else.

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