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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.”