Posted: January 25, 2015 Filed under: Abuse, Conservative Party, Geoffrey Dickens, History, NCCL, PIE, Politics, Westminster | Tags: brighton bombing, cathy massiter, clive ponting, cnd, communist party, don hale, duncan campbell, guy adams, harriet harman, harrods bombing, hilda murrell, irish republican army, joan ruddock, john cox, leon brittan, libyan embassy siege, national front, nccl, nick davies, paedophile information exchange, patricia hewitt, paul foot, ronnie white, special branch, tam dalyell
An article in today’s Mirror by Don Hale, former journalist and confidante of the late Labour politician Barbara Castle, claims that Leon Brittan, when Home Secretary, treated Special Branch as his own personal ‘Gestapo’, which would monitor fellow MPs, according to Castle’s own account (Don Hale, ‘Leon Brittan: Ex-Labour MP Barbara Castle said former Home Secretary was man ‘she could not trust”, Mirror, January 24th, 2015). Castle claimed Brittan was the ‘last person you would want to give a file of the nature [the dossier given to Brittan by Geoffrey Dickens] to’; Hale himself said that files on sexual abusers at Westminster given to him by Castle, when he was editor of the Bury Messenger, were seized by Special Branch operatives and police in September 1984; this would have been three months after the rash of newspaper stories alluding to child abuse allegations against a cabinet minister, who was revealed to be Brittan, though the stories were deemed false by all the journalists who reported them. Hale’s article also includes the remarkable new claim that Castle had told of a second internal inquiry by Brittan to find out who knew about allegations of child sexual abuse, and that she came across a range of papers which ‘had Leon Brittan’s fingerprints all over them’, relating to people involved in meetings to speak about support for PIE, funding opportunities, and so on, including details of wealthy backers and subscribers to Magpie magazine; there were also allegations against friends and political associates of Brittan, including Rhodes Boyson, who was identified as a speaker and fundraise for PIE.
These claims are quite incredible. I wanted to look back on reports specifically on Special Branch during Brittan’s tenure at the Home Office (from June 11th, 1983 to September 2nd, 1985). Brittan appears to have used the occasion of an IRA bomb which exploded in Harrods in December 1983 as a justification for scaling up police anti-terrorist operations, including Special Branch. In early 1984, Special Branch used heavy-handed methods to remove a wide range of documents from the journalist Duncan Campbell, who had written about intelligence operations, police surveillance, and more, whilst Brittan pushed a new Police Bill through Parliament at a time of allegations that the RUC Special Branch were involved in criminal conspiracies. Special Branch gained a higher profile as they became involved with deportation of Libyans and a time of maximum hostility between the UK government and the regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi, following the siege of the Libyan Embassy in London in April 1984, in which a police officer, Yvonne Fletcher, was shot dead by Libyan agents, and later also with deportation of Syrian citizens said to have connections with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. At the time of the Brighton Bombing in October 1984, which event provided the primary pretext for a scaling up of intelligence and surveillance operations, it was revealed that Margaret Thatcher was personally guarded by three Special Branch officers. After this, Special Branch’s activities were backed up by a new Home Office liaison committee, anticipating their merging with the Anti-Terrorism branch of the Metropolitan Police in 2006. But soon afterwards, a Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry was set up into Special Branch’s activities following the revelation that they had visited a woman who had written to a newspaper opposing cruise missiles (which sounds very similar to the visit described by Don Hale). As Special Branch became a deeper part of a surveillance state, Brittan was forced to deny in Parliament in late 1984 that they had been involved in tapping the phones of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, after claims to that effect by chair (later Labour MP) Joan Ruddock, but the revelations on the Channel 4 programme 20/20 Vision by former MI5 officer Cathy Massiter gave a different picture of the intelligence services’ infiltration of this group. Prior to this broadcast, during the course of the inquiry, Brittan published Special Branch guidelines which made clear that monitoring trade unionists (counted amongst ‘subversives’) was within their remit (this was extremely potent as the guidelines were published while the miners’ strike was ongoing). A combination of industrial strife, IRA bombings and an increased profile for CND were all being used by Brittan as reasons for beefing up the role of Special Branch; this would have been more than a little convenient if he wanted them to act to protect high-level abusers of children as well. This hardly inspired confidence when it became clear that Special Branch were involved in the investigation of the murder of 78-year old anti-nuclear activist Hilda Murrell, allegedly at the hands of intelligence officers (see also Nick Davies, ‘The mysterious death of Hilda Murrell’, The Guardian, March 1994). When the interview with Massiter was finally broadcast in March 1985, it became clear that not only CND, but a wider range of trade unionists, journalist, lawyers and others, with Brittan himself having personally authorised the tapping of John Cox, vice-chair of CND and Communist Party member; furthermore, a Ronnie White appeared in the programme to detail how he had infiltrated the National Front at the behest of Special Branch, which involved him becoming directly involved in violent assaults upon black citizens. The report of the inquiry was widely thought to be something of a whitewash, with several Labour members of the committee wishing to distance themselves from it, claiming that it was flawed because they had not been allowed to interview various key officials.
There is no doubt that Special Branch did gain significant new powers and authority whilst Leon Brittan was Home Secretary, and as such Barbara Castle’s alleged claims about his relationship to the organisation are perfectly plausible.
I do not rule out the possibility, as argued by Paul Foot and more recently by Guy Adams, that the claims about Brittan having himself been an abuser were part of a dirty tricks campaign. But if so, would this campaign not be a prima facie case of ‘to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy’ as presented in January 1985 by Brittan himself to the Home Affairs Select Committee? After the June 1984 allegations were published, what were Special Branch doing to investigate this type of plot?
Furthermore, as there were clear revelations of the intelligence services infiltrating the National Council of Civil Liberties and in particular their General Secretary Patricia Hewitt and legal officer Harriet Harman, what did they find concerning this organisation and individual’s relationship to the Paedophile Information Exchange? All of this information should be placed in front of the national inquiry.
Cathy Massiter was never prosecuted, despite her revelations following close on the heels of the (unsuccessful) prosecution of Ministry of Defence civil servant Clive Ponting for passing information to Labour MP Tam Dalyell concerning the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands’ War. In 2001, Richard Norton-Taylor pointed out that Massiter’s claims had never been disproved (Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Truth, but not the whole truth’, The Guardian, September 11th, 2001 – the date of this article indicates why it would have been mostly overlooked at the time). Why did Brittan and the government not prosecute Massiter, considering how damaging her revelations were? Is it possible that she might have found out other, more fatally damaging, information about the government, Westminster, and/or Brittan himself, which might come out in the event of her prosecution?
United Press International, December 19th, 1983
Britain today ordered 700 extra police on the streets and a 24-hour bomb watch following the Irish terrorist bombing of Harrods department store that killed five people and wounded 91, most of them Christmas shoppers.
Earlier, a businessman offered a $375,000 reward for information leading to capture and conviction of the bombers.
Home Secretary Leon Brittan, in a grim statement to Parliament, announced the capital’s toughest anti-terrorist operation ever and denounced the outlawed Irish Republican Army’s attempt to disclaim responsibility for Saturday’s car bombing as ”utterly contemptible.”
”What has happened is that the IRA has found that the action taken by its members has caused universal revulsion and condemnation,” he said. ”It is a piece of nauseating hypocrisy for them now to try and disown it and to claim that some kinds of brutal murder are legitimate and some are illegitimate.”
Brittan, after meeting with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, told Parliament that special police crews would patrol London streets in vehicles around the clock to respond instantly to threats or warnings of a terrorist attack.
In addition, over 700 extra police — ranging from detectives to Special Branch officers and dog handlers — will be on duty on central London, he said.
On Sunday, the IRA said it bombed the department store, but apologized for the civilian casualties, saying police did not take advantage of a warning the bomb was about to exploded at the luxury store.
Scotland Yard rejected the IRA expression of regret as ”contemptible” and said the group’s warning prior to the bombing had been ”an invitation to death” because it was not specific and came too late.
”I can confirm that an unnamed businessman has offered a reward of a quarter of a million pounds for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the bomb,” a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said.
The IRA said its members had planted the bomb outside Harrods, but that Saturday’s attack had not been approved by the group’s leadership.
”The Harrods operation was not authorized by the army council of the Irish Republican Army,” the statement said, admitting that IRA ”volunteers” have been operating in Britain during the past week. It said the IRA ”regretted” the civilian casualties.
”We have taken immediate steps to ensure there will be no repetition of this type of incident,” the statement said.
A policeman and policewoman were killed in the attack and 14 officers injured. Three civilians were killed, including Kenneth Salvesan, 28, an American living in London. His hometown was not available.
The IRA said the police had been given a 40-minute prior warning, but had not cleared the area due to ”inefficiency or failure.”
A spokesman for Scotland Yard rejected the IRA statement, saying, ”had they given an index (license) number of this (boobytrapped) car, or even color or make, and had they not maliciously misled by adding false locations, five families would not now be tragically bereaved and 91 people would not have suffered injuries, scarring them for the rest of their lives.”
The spokesman said the IRA call ”was not a warning, it was an invitation to death.”
As Harrods prepared to reopen today, Aleck Craddock, Harrods’ chief executive, said his company would review security in the store.
Police searched rooming houses and appealed for public help in hunting down the IRA guerrillas responsible for the bomb.
Cmdr. William Hucklesby, head of the C-13 anti-terrorist squad, said the bomb consisted of 25 to 30 pounds of explosives — much larger than originally believed — and was packed inside a 1972 blue Austin GT 1300 parked outside Harrods on the heaviest shopping day of the Christmas season.
”We certainly mustn’t assume this is the end of it,” Home Secretary Leon Brittan warned the public. ”Those who have done what they have done have absolutely unlimited capacity for evil. We must track them down and every conceivable effort will be made to do that.”
The Associated Press, February 16th, 1984
‘No Inquiry Into Police Action Against Journalist’
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government Thursday refused a demand by the opposition Labor Party for an inquiry into the search and seizure of documents from investigative journalist Duncan Campbell.
Home Secretary Leon Brittan, the cabinet minister in charge of police, said anyone who thinks police powers have been exceeded can go to court.
Gerald Kaufman, Labor’s chief spokesman on such matters, retorted: “Tell the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that this is England and not South Africa.”
Campbell, 31, who works for the leftist weekly New Statesman, has embarrassed authorities for years by revealing intelligence gathering operations, telephone tapping methods, police surveillance details and secret plans for Britain’s defense in nuclear war.
In 1977, he was convicted under the Official Secrets Act, but was conditionally discharged on payment of legal costs.
The latest trouble began when he fell off a bicycle last week and was knocked out for five minutes. He later found all the documents in one bicycle basket container had been kept by police, as well as his contacts book, diary, wallet and a list of future writing projects. Police have still not released the items.
Police of the Special Branch, which conducts political surveillance, then obtained a search warrant, searched his north London apartment for nearly seven hours and took away more documents, Campbell said Thursday,
“Nothing, not even the potted plants, was left undisturbed,” the journalist wrote in an article in the latest New Statesman.
He said he assumed police interest was roused by one document on his bicycle about civil defense planning marked “Restricted.”He said the Greater London Council gave it to him officially since he was a committee member.
Guardian Weekly, March 4th, 1984
Jimmy Brown (Remand prisoner), Crumlin Road Prison, Belfast, ‘An Ulster law unto themselves’
There are numerous problems affecting the people of these islands, not least the right-wing governments of London and Dublin. However, one issue common to all is that of the law.
In London Leon Brittan is busy negotiating the Police Bill through Parliament in the face of growing opposition; in Dublin the Justice Minister, Mr Michael Noonan, is hoping to reinforce the status quo with his Criminal Justice Bill.
With these debates in mind, I urge a closer look at the law and its abuses — perceived or otherwise — as it applies to Northern Ireland.
During the heyday of the British Empire its supporters made much of its laws, equality, and freedoms. Few of these principles appear to be evident in Northern Ireland today, when one looks at how the supergrass system operates. Its critics span both Protestant and Catholic communities, and range through the clergy and trade unions to respected legal and political figures, including many MPs.
Consider the various disparities in the law as applied in Belfast and in London. The British Attorney-General is known to have issued instructions to the DPP for England and Wales not to proceed in cases where the alleged evidence of a supergrass is not corroborated by independent evidence.Yet in Northern Ireland the same Attorney-General permits the charging and trial of people solely on the basis of uncorroborated evidence.
For those who still feel safe in the belief that no such travesty could occur in England and Wales, the recent “conspiracy” case in Cardiff may prove illuminating. During this trial, it was stated that one of the accused had been asked to implicate the Welsh nationalist MP, Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas, in a conspiracy to cause explosions. There was no evidence except that offered by the investigating police officers to one of the accused. When the jury’s verdict resulted in the acquittal and vindication of the men involved, an inquiry was set up into police handling of the case.
In Northern Ireland it is possible to see not only evidence of such police tactics on a grand scale, but also the total disregard for any need for inquiry into the RUC’s handling of supergrass investigations.
During the Cardiff trial some of the accused were held on remand for up to 10 months. On average people in Northern Ireland are held for between 15 and 18 months.
But three men currently on remand in Belfast have just completed 2 years in custody. Thomas Power, Gerrard Steenson and John O’Reilly face charges on the uncorroborated word of their fifth supergrass. So far the allegations of three supergrasses have been withdrawn, and those of a fourth dismissed when the court found the RUC’s star witness to be a “habitual and psychopathic liar”.
They now await trial again on the uncorroborated word of Jackie Grimley, who is servicing a “life” term for the murder of five policemen and security force members.
Grimley has admitted under oath that the RUC instructed him to “set up an attempt to implicate Steenson and others” in any crime possible; and claimed that the RUC Special Branch had entered into a number of criminal conspiracies, including armed robberies.
Yet calls for a public inquiry have so far been ignored. Mr Thomas should be grateful that such practices are not yet perfected by the police in England and Wales.
United Press International, July 27th, 1984
Britain has secretly arrested and deported another Libyan reputed to be an associate of Col. Moammar Khadafy, Foreign Office and police sources say.
Special Branch detectives arrested the 39-year-old man July 13 while he was living under an assumed name as an agricultural student at Reading university some 40 miles west of London.
On the orders of Home Secretary Leon Brittan, he was held until July 20 at the Reading police station and put on a flight to Tripoli, police sources said.
The Home Office confirmed Thursday that a Libyan living in the Reading area had been deported under immigration rules, but refused to give further details.
News reports said, however, the man that enrolled at Reading University’s Department of Agriculture was known to security services as Saleh Al Wali. The reports also said he had strong links with Khadady’s inner circle.
A police source said the deportation was a direct result of inquiries into the Libyan embassy siege in April in which policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was shot and killed. The two nations broke diplomatic relations in the wake of the siege.
The deported man’s pregnant wife was not included in the order to leave but she voluntarily left with her husband.
Earlier this month, two Libyan diplomats were ordered out of the country for ”activities incompatible with their status.”
Reports said they were trying to force Libyan students to return home against their will for an ”ideology purification” seminar.
The Guardian, October 13th, 1984
Paul Brown, Colin Brown, Peter Hetherington, David Hearst and Gareth Parry, ‘Cabinet survives IRA hotel blast / Brighton bombing during Conservative Party conference’
An investigation into the security breach which allowed the Provisional IRA to attempt the assassination of the Prime Minister and most of her Cabinet at their Brighton conference hotel began last night.
The bomb brought tons of rubble cascading through seven floors of the Grand Hotel, Brighton, miraculously missing Mrs Thatcher but killing the Conservative MP for Enfield South, Sir Anthony Berry.
Also believed to be dead are Mrs Roberta Wakeham, wife of the Government chief whip, Mr John Wakeham, and Mrs Jeanne Shattock, wife of the president of the South-West Conservative Association, Mr Gordon Shattock. Mr Eric Taylor, chairman of the North-West Area Association was missing.
Mrs Thatcher’s bathroom was demolished two minutes after she had left it, but two of her senior ministers, the Industry Secretary, Mr Norman Tebbit, and Mr Wakeham were trapped in the rubble. Mr Tebbit was brought out after four hours and Mr Wakeham after six. Both men underwent operations in hospital. Mr Wakeham has serious leg injuries.
The Prime Minister insisted that the conference should continue as normal and went on to deliver her keynote speech. The bombing, she said, was ‘an attempt to cripple our Government – and that is the scale of the outrage.’
She and her colleagues had been surrounded by close personal protection for more than two months because of a tip-off about an IRA assassination squad.
Three Special Branch officers guard her personally and other officers were posted on the first, Second and third floor landings.
The American FBI had warned that a Provisional ‘sleeper squad’ had been reactivated and was planning a winter terrorist offensive. This underlined British intelligence information already gained.
The tip-off was lent extra weight two weeks ago when an FBI tip-off led to the arrest of five alleged IRA gunrunners and the capture of the trawler Marita Anne off the Irish coast.
Recent succeesses against the IRA meant that they had to seek to re-establish their credibility by a spectacular action.
At the scene, police officers confessed their amazement that so many had escaped death. This may have been due to the strength of the Regency building absorbing some of the blast.
The chief constable of Sussex, Mr Roger Birch, asked for an independent inquiry into the security arrangements to be conducted by the deputy chief constable of Hampshire, Mr John Hoddinott.
Commander Bill Hucklesby, head of the anti-terrorist squad, went to Brighton to help with the investigations being carried out by the Sussex police, led by Detective-Chief Superintendent Jack Reece. Also involved are Assistant Chief Constable David Scott and Chief Superintendent Dennis Williams.
Experts estimated the bomb at 10 to 15lb. but – with the dead and critically injured still trapped in the rubble – the Provisional IRA in Dublin issued a statement claiming responsibility and saying the bomb was 100lb.
The statement, addressed to Mrs Thatcher, said in part: ‘Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no war.’
After her speech to the conference, in which she again emphasised her refusal to be moved by the bombers, Mrs Thatcher went straight to the Royal Sussex Hospital, where she spent two hours with the injured.
She said the 18 victims she spoke to had one defiant message for the Provisional IRA – that she should not give in.
It was a miracle that even more people were not injured in the explosion, she said. Mr Tebbit and Mr Wakeham were both asleep during her visit.
She said some of the victims were asleep when the bomb went off. ‘They found themselves way outside their rooms, there were people several storeys down, it is unbelievable. There was a great deal of rubble, then a great deal of dust and a lot of water.’
Mr Birch, the Sussex Chief Constable, refused to speculate about the size or nature of the bomb. There were rumours that it was timed to go off when ministers would be in their rooms and had been planted in a front bedroom. The impact of the bomb appeared to have been concentrated on the fifth floor, collapsing lower floors and ripping off the roof.
Debris was scattered over the promenade and the beach. Forensic scientists are expected to take some days to piece together information about the device.
At a press conference, Mr Birch took complete responsibility for the security arrangements in the town but he insisted that they were adequate.
He said: ‘I feel a great sense of sadness that it should have happened. I am still of the opinion that the arrangements we made were appropriate to the occasion.
‘To guarantee 100 per cent security, particularly from an explosive device, would call for the sort of security arrangements which so far have or would prove quite unacceptable to the community, and therefore you would have to have a total split between the people like ministers in residence and other people sharing the hotel.’
The bomb, which went off at about 2.54 a. m., could have caused greater mayhem in the hotel had the main bar on the ground floor not closed promptly at 2 a. m.
All those staying at the hotel yesterday had to register at the conference centre to help the police to establish who was missing, and to reclaim property. Many lost their clothes. Marks & Spencer opened their store to replace them.
The blast also scattered Government papers and Cabinet documents, with their red boxes which were collected quickly by the rescue teams and driven away in a police Land Rover, but some remained buried in the ruins.
Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Foreign Secretary, was occupying rooms next door to Mrs Thatcher and Mr Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary, was next to him.
As well as Mrs Thatcher’s bathroom, Sir Geoffrey’s study was also demolished. Mr John Gummer, who was helping Mrs Thatcher to put the finishing touches to her conference speech, had gone across the corridor to collect some papers when the blast occurred. He was unhurt.
Mr Paul Boswell, aged 59, the hotel manager, said that if the blast had gone according to plan ‘it would have meant that the whole lot would have come down on Mrs Thatcher.’
Mr Boswell, who handed in his notice on Thursday ready for retirement, was in his flat on the second floor when the bomb went off.
In the hotel bar, Mr Ron Farley, aged 40, the Tory group leader of Bradford City Council, was still in evening dress when the explosion occurred.
‘Everyone was showered with glass and I told them to get down,’ he said. ‘I shouted to the people to join hands. There were about 30 or 40 of us who linked up and we slowly made our way through the back. Some of the people were crying or sobbing. I went back to try to help the injured.
‘There was one policeman lying on the floor, covered in rubble. We pulled away all the dust and rubbish. He was injured, I don’t know how badly.
‘Then I found this poor old dear, a 70-year-old lady, can you believe? She had one eye missing. It was terrible.’
Two bodies were recovered, perched and dangling from joists in the gaping hole in the front of the hotel.
Firemen had to pick their way downwards, taking off the beams and joists one by one.
After two hours, Mr Tebbit’s foot was seen poking through the beams. Fireman Tony Hayward said: ‘He was in quite a bit of pain but he did not show it. He is really a strong guy.’
The Tory party organiser, Mr Harvey Thomas, who was rescued after 1hr 45min under the rubble, left hospital to listen to Mrs Thatcher’s speech.
His wife brought him some clothes from London. He said he had thought he was going to die, but after an hour he heard firemen’s voices.
‘The firemen were terrific. They worked for an hour, during which time we were freezing cold and the water was pouring over us. I had been on the seventh floor and I was pulled out of the fifth, so I must have fallen two floors. I am very thankful. My wife is expecting a baby today.’
The Associated Press, October 22nd, 1984
The government announced a new intelligence effort Monday to combat Irish terrorism, and security measures were stepped up around Parliament as legislators returned to work after the summer recess.
Home Secretary Leon Brittan told the House of Commons he had ordered “new arrangements centrally for countering the Irish terrorist threat” following the bomb explosion that killed four people Oct. 12 in the Brighton hotel at which Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet were staying.
He said the aim was to concentrate “the widest range of experience in assessing Irish terrorist intentions” and “coordinate the counter-measures required to meet them.”
He denied a weekend press report that the investigation of the Brighton bombing, for which the Irish Republican Army took responsibility, was being hampered by poor relations between different police forces. But his statement was seen as an attempt to make the country’s security agencies work more closely together.
The domestic news agency Press Association said an interdepartmental government committee was being established to assess data on terrorism and decide what measures were needed.
Britain has no national police force or equivalent of the American FBI. Its Special Branch, founded in 1870 to combat Irish subversives, and the present-day C13 anti-terrorist squad, are attached to Scotland Yard, which is responsible for policing the Greater London area.
The bombing probe in coastal Brighton is the responsibility of the local county constabulary.
To cries of “Hear, hear!” Brittan assured the Commons: “We will not be bombed into boltholes (hiding places) by terrorists.” But the security measures imposed in London were evident.
Video cameras, roadblocks and extra police were posted around the Houses of Parliament, and access to Mrs. Thatcher’s official residence at 10 Downing St. was severely restricted.
Mrs. Thatcher’s Conservatives are already consulting with police to plan their next annual party conference, in the northwest resort city of Blackpool. Brittan advised all party organizers to contact police well in advance to make their meetings secure.
He said total security was impossible because it would deny the public its customary accessibility to British leaders. But, he said, “Immediate attention has been given to the assessment of other potential targets and the provision of proper protection for them.”
Conservative legislator Peter Bruinvels introduced a motion calling for an early debate in the House of Commons on restoring the death penalty for terrorist crimes. Hanging was abolished in 1969, and last year a motion to restore it was defeated handily.
The Guardian, October 23rd, 1984
Colin Brown, ‘Parliament: Intelligence unit to combat Irish terror / Home Secretary Brittan on the Brighton bombing’
The Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, yesterday announced the setting up of an intelligence unit at Scotland Yard to counter the Irish terrorist threat, following the Brighton bombing which resulted in four dead and 32 injured.
In a statement on the bombing to the Commons on its return after the summer recess, Mr Brittan said: ‘We will not be bombed into bolt holes by terrorists.’
His message won united support from all sides of the House, including Mr Gerald Kaufman, the Shadow Home Secretary, who said: ‘Let it go forth that an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us – we shall resist that attack and we shall win.’
The Commons joined with Mr Brittan in expressing sympathy for the families of the victims.
Mr Kaufman, in expressing the sympathy of the Opposition, was cheered when he said Labour MPs hoped soon to see the Industry Secretary, Norman Tebbit, restored to health and returning to the Commons ‘in his usual rude health.’ Mr Tebbit and his wife. Margaret, are also still in hospital.
The Home Secretary told MPs that the explosion had no less a purpose than ‘to strike a blow at the heart of our democracy by killing the majority of the Cabinet.’
Praising the police. and the security services, Mr Brittan said: ‘The task of obtaining evidence about the bomb itself was formidable and the police were not yet in a position to describe it more fully beyond that it was believed to have been about 20 pounds of commercial explosive.’ A total of 31 skips and 750 dustbins full of debris had been removed from the Grand Hotel and 228 police officers were engaged in this task.
More than 200 police officers were engaged in a pursuit of inquiries about the bombers. Mr Brittan said that it would be wrong to anticipate the conclusions of the police report on security at the conference. ‘I shall, however, to the extent that this does not prejudice security, report them to the House in due course.’
Mr Brittan assured the Commons that new measures to improve security in the Palace of Westminster were in hand.
‘The Brighton bombing also demonstrates the vulnerability of party political engagements, This applies locally as well as nationally. Local party organisers should be careful to contact the police about arrangements well in advance,’ said Mr Brittan.
New arrangements for countering the Irish terrorist threat had been set in hand centrally. The aim, he said, was to bring to bear the widest range of experience in assessing Irish terrorist intentions and capabilities and to advise on, and coordinate, the counter-measures required to meet them. These would supplement the continuing role of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch.
Mr Brittan said: ‘Total security is impossible in a free, democratic society. Political and other leaders are vulnerable because they must be accessible. Everything which can be done, will be done to prevent such outrages and protect their targets. But we will not be bombed into bolt holes by terrorists.’
Mr Kaufman, for the Opposition, said: ‘This was no random act of violence. It cannot be compared and should not be compared with any other act of violence, great or small, which takes’ place in our society.
‘This was a deliberate attempt to destroy the Government by mass murder.
‘That Government is a Conservative Government with which we have the most serious differences. But it is the democratically elected government. It is the British Government and let it be said in the plainest terms, the only way to get rid of a Government in Britain is by the ballot box.
‘Terrorism and assassination have no place whatever in the political process in this country.
‘We utterly and unanimously reject it and will fight with every fibre of our being against it. With Voltaire, we say to the Government we disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.’
Mr Kaufman called for an examination of the whole question of security surrounding the Government and parliament.
He added: ‘But while we here are obvious targets for terrorist action and it is important to ensure the maximum possible security compatible with the right of the people to have access to their elected representatives, let us be clear that our security is no more important than that of the whole of the population who are at risk from the foul gangsters.’
Just because politicians have chosen to take part in public life, they could not expect greater safety than those caught up in the Harrods bomb, the Regents’ Park atrocity or those in Northern Ireland, civilians and troops, who face these dangers every day.
‘We are all in the front line. We must face these risks unitedly together.’
Mr David Steel, the Liberal leader, on behalf of the Alliance, said the IRA had misunderstood both public and parliamentary opinion. ‘We are one family in this House and when one member of that family is attacked, the only effect is to unite all members of the family. We will not bow to terrorism.’
Mr Julian Amery (C Brighton Pavilion) protested about the very unfair criticism of the police force before any inquiry had taken place.
Mr Andrew Bowden (C Brighton Kemptown) protested about an article in the Sunday Times claiming that there were serious differences between the Sussex police and the Metropolitan police. He said it was totally and completely untrue and one of the most scurrilious pieces of journalism he had seen.
‘They have printed the names of witnesses when they were specifically asked not to do so by the Assistant Chief Constable. Is that not impeding his inquiry and making it more difficult to bring the guilty to book?’ he said.
The Home Secretary said it was important to make it absolutely clear there was no truth at all in the suggestion of differences of opinion between the forces investigating the murder nor any truth in the suggestion of inadequate resources being available.
Mr James Molyneaux (OUP. Lagan Valley) told Mr Brittan that in seeking the cooperation of the Republic of Ireland in the battle against terrorism, the Government should avoid paying any price which concede the objectives of the terrorists either in whole or in part.
Mrs Jill Knight (C Edgbaston) said the IRA could not continue their campaign of anarchy without help from their two major sources of supply for money and arms – the Soviet Union and the United States.
The Guardian, November 22nd, 1984
Stephen Cook, ‘MPs suspect whitewash in special branch inquiry / Inquiry into police special branch’
Opposition MPs suspect that the Government has devised a strategy to play down the controversial aspects of the inquiry into the police special branch.
The inquiry, by the Commons home affairs committee, opens on Wednesday with evidence from the Association of Metropolitan Authorities.
They believe that their anxieties over the balance in special branch operations between the safety of the state and civil liberties will be brushed off by government and police witnesses either as ignorance or police-bashing.
It is the notable change in he Government’s attitude towards the inquiry which leads Labour MPs to think that attempts are being made in the political lobbies and through the media to limit the potential damage from the inquiry by playing down its significance.
When it was first mooted – following the news that special branch officers had visited a woman in the West Midlands who had written to a newspaper opposing cruise missiles – the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, warned that it might end up ‘in a blind alley’.
Now that the committee has decided to go ahead, the Government is making much of the fact that all evidence will he given in public, and suggesting there is nothing to hide. Although the committee has powers to make witnesses give evidence it cannot make them answer questions.
The Labour MPs on the committee, chaired by Sir Edward Gardner, QC and Conservative MP for Fylde, are particularly keen to clarify the reasons why certain people are subject to listing by the special branch, whose primary job is to liaise with M15 to gather political intelligence.
The Guardian, December 11th, 1984
‘Phone taps on CND illegal / Home Secretary on alleged phone-tapping of anti-nuclear group’
Security services could no have legally tapped the telephones or intercepted the mail of CND members, the Home Secretary, MrLeon Brittan. told MPs yesterday.
Mr Brittan made it clear that CND was a legitimate organisation, despite its opposition to government policies on defence, and could not have its communications intercepted legally under the guidelines set out in a 1980 white paper.
Warrants for interception under the guidelines can only be granted for the police to assist them in the detection of serious crime or if there is a subversive, terrorist or espionage activity that is likely to injure the national interest.
His assurance that the CND Members and their organisation did not fall within this category is bound to lead to speculation that interceptions took place illegally when the National Council for Civil Liberties presents a series of complaints by CND to the home affairs select committee of the Commons tomorrow in its review of the Special Branch.
CND has complained that its mail has been tampered with and it has noticed irregularities with telephone calls – in one case a conversation was played back. The Post Office has paid compensation to the organisation.
Mr Brittan told the former Labour Home Secretary, Mr Merlyn Rees, that something had gone wrong.
But Mr Brittan suggested that until the Post Office’s inquiries were complete the only two things that the Commons could be sure had gone wrong were a Post Office machine and the quality of CND packaging.
He firmly ruled out a government inquiry into the complaints by CND, which were raised by the shadow home secretary, Mr Gerald Kaufman.
Mr Brittan also surprised MPs by refusing to give any categorical assurance that they were not having their telephones tapped, whether or not they were members of CND.
Mr Eldon Griffiths, parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation, said last night he had investigated tampering with his own mail and clicks on the telephone which suggested that it might have been tapped by the security forces, because he lived near USAF and RAF bases.
But he said the letters had been opened and re-sealed as a result of machinery going wrong and had been delayed by incompetence or industrial action. Interference on the telephone had been caused by trees outside his home coming into contact with telephone wires.
Mrs Joan Ruddock, chairman of CND, commented later: ‘The Home Secretary’s failure in the House of Commons to condemn any form of telephone and mail interference, authorised or unauthorised, does no credit to the government of a supposedly free and democratic society.’
The Guardian, December 15th, 1984
Stuart Wavell, ‘Weekend people: The chief prepares to quit the field of battle / Joan Ruddock considers stepping down as CND chairperson’
As the staff of CND reportedly debate an appropriate financial inducement for the successor to Monsignor Bruce Kent as general secretary, Joan Ruddock is giving serious thought to stepping down as the organisation’s chairperson.
Mrs Ruddock, who was recently re-elected to her fourth term of office, told me this week that while she has no immediate plans in mind, her job possessed an inherent limit that was ‘not too far away.’ She admitted that she is attracted to the idea of returning to politics (she stood unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate in Newbury). ‘Whether I would find a constituency that wanted to adopt me is another matter,’ she said.
She explained that part of her dilemma stemmed from CND’s reluctant compliance with the media’s desire that its message should be projected by a couple of individuals (her and Mgr Kent).
‘The danger is that these people, their personalities and characteristics, become more important than the policies they convey,’ she said. ‘That is why there has to be some limit to the amount of time that anyone stays in that very high profile position. I won’t say at this time what I expect to do, but you will gather from what I am saying that the limit should not be too far away. Just as Bruce chose to carefully time and phase his departure, I would have the same concerns.’
She also mentioned the strain on her personal life. She works part-time for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Reading, devoting weekends and most spare time to CND activities. But it is not clear from all this how serious she is. Last year she told Weekend People that if she had known what the job had entailed she might not have taken it on, yet she has stood twice since then.
I asked whether a contributory factor was a distaste for CND’s cumbersome decision-making apparatus spelled out recently by Mgr Kent. The conference structure of CND, he wrote in the New Statesman, favoured those who lived ‘in a world of resolutions, amendments, points of order and points of information.’
She replied that this was sometimes boring and frustrating, but that she did not know of a better system nor of any other such organisation which established policies by democratic means. CND’s membership, she pointed out, was probably larger than those of the Labour Party and the SDP.
Well, did she agree with Mgr Kent’s complaint that a not insubstantial section of CND seemed content with pushing into the Labour Party’s manifesto as many of CND’s ultimate aims as possible without much interest in converting the electorate?
She did, up to a point. She said that CND had achieved as much with Labour as they had a right to expect, and that Labour’s defence document still needed some revision.
Converting the electorate, however, was not CND’s job. ‘The Labour Party can’t sit back and say ‘ We have got the policy and that will do.’ That will not do. They have got to dispel the myth that removing nuclear weapons will leave Britain defenceless. We are not doing something that will translate into votes for us. We cannot do it for them; they must do it themselves. So far we have seen little sign of their being prepared to do so.’
The reason for this interview had been to elicit more information about what is bugging CND – part of the current investigation intoSpecial Branch activities undertaken by a Home Office select committee. Appropriately my telephonic approach to CND was greeted with a fruity selection of crackles.
All par for the course, notionally normal but down-right suspicious, Mrs Ruddock believes. Engineers probing disconnections and loss of dialing tone had been mystified. And there was Mrs R’s own unique experience. ‘I was trying to regain the dial tone by pressing the receivers. I heard my voice repeating a portion of the conversation I had just had. Some people conclude it’s a form of harrassment.’
She found Leon Brittan’s statement that the security forces could not have legally tapped CND’s phones or intercepted its mail to be disturbingly ambiguous. Developments would be viewed with scepticism, she said. His remark about the quality of CND wrapping was at odds with the fact that envelopes had been cleanly slit open.
She first suspected Special Branch surveillance some years ago, when she was the relatively unknown co-ordinator of the Newbury Campaign Against Cruise Missiles. Photographers with telephoto lenses had snapped the crowd outside a Newbury meeting addressed by Francis Pym. At Greenham, where she had helped to set up a peace camp before the advent of the Cardiff women, car numbers had been taken overtly.
‘One day I went up there by myself. There wasn’t a soul around. I turned my car round and stopped. Suddenly a police car rushed up. The policeman wound down his window and said ‘Hello Mrs Ruddock, can we help you? ‘
Since when she believed the taking of car numbers and photographic surveillance has become standard. And now phone-tapping, brought to the attention of the National Council Civil Liberties because of the volume of complaints from CND members.
‘Because of these inexplicable instances I work on the assumption that a third party is listening. I object very strongly.’
She and her husband live outside Reading in the village of Burghfield, home of a Royal Ordinance Factory which is believed to manufacture and rearm nuclear weapons. Wasn’t that rather like moving to Brands Hatch and complaining about the noise? She laughed.
‘I went there in oblivion, not knowing that the ROF was a weapons plant. If I had known I wouldn’t have lived there.’
Most of the villagers work for the Ministry of Defence. ‘I understand – and they know I understand – that it’s uncomfortable for them to be associated with me. I don’t accuse anybody of anything. I know they have no choice, although I want to have a choice. I have never had a bitter argument with any of them.’
Mrs Ruddock will be getting some new neighbours soon. Building work is in hand at Burghfield to accommodate American servicemen from Greenham Common. Eye contact, one imagines, will be a ticklish daily hazard.
The Guardian, December 20th, 1984
Stephen Cook, ‘Brittan bans bugs in telephone boxes / Home Secretary orders tighter restrictions on police surveillance’
Police must stop putting devices to tap telephone conversations in public call boxes and must tighten procedures for authorising and recording the use of surveillance equipment, the Home Secretary announced yesterday.
But it is clear from Mr Leon Brittan’s statement that all police forces now use a wide range of equipment to observe and listen to people in public and private places, including people’s homes.
In a Commons written reply he said that no information is to be made public about these devices and how they are used. Nor will statistical information on their use be gathered at the Home Office. HM Inspectors of Constabulary are to check that they are only used where necessary.
Mr Brittan was referring to new guidelines to police forces drawn up after a review prompted by a case in North Wales where officers were seen placing a listening device in a telephone kiosk.
He said: ‘The guidance issued in 1977 recommended that records should be kept of the use of aural surveillance devices, and the new guidelines will require records to be kept for both aural and visual devices.’
Under the guidelines – which apply to Special Branch and the CID – only a Chief Constable may authorise the covert use of listening, recording, and transmitting equipment. If a member of the public is cooperating with an operation authority can come from an assistant chief constable.
But in the case of covert operations the Chief Constable must be satisfied that the investigation concerns serious crime that other methods have failed or are unlikely to succeed, and that there is good reason to anticipate an arrest and conviction or the prevention of terrorism.
The authorising officer must be satisfied that the degree of intrusion into people’s privacy is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.
‘Where the targets of surveillance might reasonably assume a high degree of privacy, particularly in their own homes, listening devices should be used only for the investigation of major organised conspiracies and of other particularly serious offences, especially crimes of violence,’ the guidelines say.
Chief officers are reminded that telephone tapping can only be done with a warrant from the Home Secretary, but the use of a listening device should not be ruled out simply because it might pick up or end of a telephone conversation.
If cameras are to be used to observe a person in a private place – private homes, or hotel bedrooms – the same procedures should be observed as for listening devices.
Where there is general surveillance or surveillance of an individual in a public place, a Chief Superintendent can give permission.
Use of binoculars telescopes, and night vision equipment should be controlled by an officer with a rank of at least Inspector. In exceptional urgency, a Chief Superintendent can give permission normally reserved to a chief officer
The Home Office said last night that it would be illegal for police to place a device inside a person’s home or otherwise to tamper with his property without his permission.
The Guardian, December 21st, 1984
Stephen Cook, ‘Special Branch guidelines published / Home Office guidelines on countering terrorism and monitoring subversives’
Home Office guidelines to police forces about the role of the Special Branch in countering terrorism and monitoring people it considers to be subversive were unexpectedly published for the first time yesterday by the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan.
The appearance of the guidelines, which confirm much common knowledge about Special Branch activities, was claimed as something of a coup by some members of the Commons select committee on home affairs, which is halfway through an inquiry into the branch.
Earlier this year Mr Brittan, who is due to give evidence to the committee next month, said that the inquiry would face a blind alley. But its members feel that it is making some progress, and some want it prolonged to take evidence from junior as well as chief police officers.
Mr David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, who pressed for the inquiry, said yesterday: ‘One can only rather cynically conclude that this is a pre-emptive strike by the Home Secretary. But the guidelines provide too wide a framework and need to be tightened up.’
The guidelines say that Special Branch duties include assessing whether marches meetings, demonstrations and pickets pose a threat to public order, and helping the security services to guard against espionage, sabotage, and the actions of persons or organisations inside or outside the country ‘which may be judged to be subversive to the state.’
Another duty is armed protection for people thought to be at risk, and the monitoring of anyone ‘who may plan to harm prominent individuals for political reasons or because of mental disturbance.’ Special Branch officers keep watch and gather information at airports and seaports, and may help with immigration or naturalisation inquiries.
The Metropolitan Police Special Branch has national responsibility for matters relating to Irish terrorism, the guidelines say, and for protection for the Royal Family, Government and former ministers and diplomats. A national joint unit at Scotland Yard coordinates inquiries and applications for exclusion orders under prevention of terrorism laws.
Intelligence should be released only to people with ‘a particular need to know,’ say the guidelines. They warn: ‘Data on individuals or organisations should not under any circumstances be collected or held solely on the basis that such a person or organisation supports unpopular causes or on the basis of race or creed.’
Mr Winnick said that the guidelines were so ambiguous as to leave it to the discretion of Special Branch officers to decide on their targets. They did not forbid the kind of operation in which Mrs Madeleine Haigh, a CND member in the West Midlands, was visited by Special Branch because she wrote to a newspaper to oppose cruise missiles.
‘The manner in which they are required to keep tabs on demonstrations and marches is also a bit disturbing,’ he said. ‘I feel that not enough is being done to give Special Branch proper training in the processes of political democracy. It is quite easy for them to think that anyone who challenges the existing order is subversive.’
Mr John Wheeler, Conservative MP for Westminster North and another member of the committee, said: ‘Our inquiry makes it necessary to produce this kind of information, and I think the more we expose what is done, the more reassuring it all is. Most Special Branch officers are engaged on boring and routine duties.’
He added: ‘Flexibility is a most important aspect of their work, but there is clearly a question about whether they are wasting resources investigating people who don’t count and don’t matter. This is something we have yet to put to the police. It was the nub of the evidence given to us by the National Council for Civil Liberties.’
The Guardian, December 22nd, 1984
David McKie, ‘MPs protest at role of Special Branch / Labour MPs protest over Special Branch guidelines on industrial disputes’
Labour MPs protested yesterday over the guidelines for Special Branch activity unexpectedly published late on Thursday by the Home Secretary, MrLeon Brittan.
The main target of their complaints and their demands for further information was the role which appeared to be given to the special branch in industrial disputes.
The Labour employment spokesman, Mr John Prescott, wrote to Mr Brittan yesterday asking for further clarification. ‘As you will appreciate,’ he said, ‘this is a most sensitive area which involves the rights of our citizens, and in particular trade unionists who, in the judgment of some government ministers, are considered to be and are treated as the enemy within.’
Mr Prescott said the guidelines had produced the first public acknowledgement that the special branch was monitoring union activities which might be judged subversive, though he accepted that the guidelines said the information must not be passed on to employers or other organisations.
Mr Prescott asked whether the definition of subversive activity related solely to possible acts of a criminal nature, or whether it also involved the branch in making political judgments.
He said he knew of Special Branch activity in photographing disputes and pickets, and introducing reports on the movements of individual trade unionists. He asked for more to be said about how such information was used and asked if people approached by the Special Branch on the basis of such information and requested to identify individuals, had the right to refuse.
Mr Prescott said yesterday that the Government’s definition of ‘subversives’ was a threat to trade unions and trade unionists.
Tony Heath writes: A call for an independent judicial inquiry into the activities of the Special Branch was made yesterday by the president of Plaid Cymru, Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas, MP, who claimed that political policing was intensifying, particularly in Wales
Speaking at Dolgellau, in his Merionnydd Nant Conwy constituency, Mr Thomas said: ‘In a democracy the police have a duty to protect the right of those who disagree.
‘Instead, the Special Branch guidelines published this week indicated that unaccountable public servants are free to act on any whim, fancy, or piece of misinformation. They equate democratic dissent with subversion.’
Plaid Cymru had been collecting evidence of political policing for almost a year. The miners’ strike had given rise to over-reaction by police on and off the picket line, Mr Thomas said. Interfering with activists’ telephones was common-place.
Plaid Cymru’s initiative was welcomed by the Welsh Language Society.
The Guardian, December 22nd, 1984
Leading Article: ‘Guidelines into a very grey area / Guidelines for police Special Branch’
For 101 years, part of the British police force has been solely engaged in political surveillance. In 1984 as in 1983, one of its principal targets is Irish republicanism. But gradually the net has widened from Fenianism. The Special Irish Branch has become the Special Branch pure and simple and it now concerns itself with a far wider range of oppositional activities. Some idea of how wide that net is now cast emerges from the guidelines on Special Branch work released this week by the Home Office. Today’s Special Branch deals with firearms and explosives crime, immigration and nationality inquiries, port and airport surveillance, armed protection for VIPs and checking on the movements of foreign diplomats. But the guidelines also highlight two further major responsibilities: the Branch are the legmen for MI5 in dealing with terrorism and subversion and, in the bland language of the new document, they gather information about threats to public order.
Nothing of what we now know about the Special Branch has emerged without outside public pressure. Until recently, there was no public information whatsoever. MPs who tried to put down questions on the subject were simply refused answers. No local police force (and each has its own Special Branch) gave any information to its police authority. This changed in the dying years of the Callaghan government, after the furore about the Agee and Hosenball deportations and the ABC official secrets case. After pressure from Mr Robin Cook MP, the then Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees, allowed a brief adjournment debate, in which he acknowledged that the Branch concerns itself with ‘subversive activities which threaten the safety or wellbeing of the State, and which are intended to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means.’ Since then, most local police forces have given brief and anodyne annual details of their Special Branch. Even so, it has taken the brave decision of the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee to mount an investigation into the Branch to prise out the latest details. This week’s release of the guidelines is designed to cushion Mr Leon Brittan’s unwilling appearance in front of the committee in the new year.
The new guidelines beg vital questions. In finally admitting what many already assumed, that the police ‘provide assessments’ about marches, demonstrations, meetings and pickets, they fail to say how far and by what methods the police routinely keep tabs on wholly legitimate political activity. The elastic definitions of subversion allow police to gather information on legal as well as illegal activities. Recent revelations about the surveillance of the CND and of the miners’ union are only the tip of this grey area iceberg. An inquiry in South Australia in 1977 by Mr justice White into a Special Branchwhich was set up by British police on the British model revealed that almost every protest movement, trade union and socialist group (including the Labour Party which formed the elected state government) had been considered systematic fair game. It is probable, at the very least, that the BritishSpecial Branch employs similar criteria in its file-keeping, and there is nothing in the new guidelines which seriously dents that suspicion. When Mr Brittan sees the select committee, someone should ask him how many Special Branch files exist on members of the Labour Party and how many on the Conservative Party.
Every state has a right to prevent its overthrow and to stop terrorism. The British state has long had laws giving it those powers. But the civil liberties of those who oppose the government are no less vital, and they have no such legal support. At present, the publication of the guidelines serves to legitimate current dubious police practice rather than to protect the right to oppose. Even the guidelines, inadequate though they are, have no force. What is needed is legislation to put the security services, the Special Branch and their methods on a statutory basis which can at least be challenged in the courts.
The Guardian, December 24th, 1984
Paul Keel, ‘Labour wants Brittan to lead inquiry into the Murrell death / Allegations surrounding the murder of Miss Hilda Murrell in March 1984’
The Labour front bench has now entered the controversy over the murder of 78-year-old Miss Hilda Murrell with a call for Mr Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary to head personally an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her death.
Attention was focussed on the murder inquiry last Thursday when Mr Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP for Linlithgow, claimed in the House of Commons that the elderly anti-nuclear activist had died as a result of a violent encounter with British intelligence officers at her home in Shrewsbury last March.
He said that they were searching for supposed sensitive documents relating to the sinking of the Belgrano because her Nephew, Mr Rob Green, had been a naval intelligence officer at the time of the Falklands conflict.
West Mercia police, who are heading the murder investigation, have said that there is no evidence whatsoever to support Mr Dalyell’s allegations.
But yesterday Mr Alf Dubs, the MP for Battersea and a Labour shadow spokesman on home affairs, said that so many apparent discrepancies were emerging.
‘What is required is for the Home Secretary himself to take personal charge of the inquiry and to make the findings public, otherwise there will be the feeling that a cover-up is taking place,’ he said.
It emerged at the weekend that, contrary to initial statements by the investigating police, the Special Branch had taken part in the early stages of the murder inquiry.
Mr Dalyell asked yesterday why this branch of the police force would have taken part in in investigation into the murder of an elderly spinster unless there was more to the crime than has since been suggested.
The Guardian, January 23rd, 1985
James Naughtie, ‘Brittan sets up team to foil bombers / Home Secretary announces plans for new security at party conferences’
A committee of senior police officers, security officials and representatives of the political parties is to draw up plans to counter terrorist attacks at party conferences.
Announcing the measure yesterday, Mr Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary, said the police were not responsible for security lapses leading to the Brighton bombing on October 5 last year – but he disclosed that his own suite in the Grand Hotel had not been searched before the explosion.
He told the Commons that the team under the chairmanship of Sir Lawrence Byford, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, would help significantly to provide ‘a firm framework.’ But he was accused by Mr Gerald Kaufman, the Shadow Home Secretary, of having made an ‘inadequate and complacent’ statement.
He complained that the Government had refused to allow senior opposition figures in all parties to see the report on the Brighton bombing prepared by Mr John Hoddinott, the deputy chief constable of Hampshire.
Mr Merlyn Rees, the former home secretary, said that confidential access to such reports had been provided in the past and it is clear that there is strong feeling in the Opposition that Mr Brittan should have provided full details on Privy Counsellor terms, assuring confidentiality.
Mr Brittan told MPs that the bomb which killed five people in the Grand Hotel had contained between 20 and 30lbs of explosives and it had been placed behind a bath panel in Room 629. It was almost certainly detonated by a long-delay timer, he said. A person who stayed in the room about three weeks before the explosion had given a false address.
The most startling information revealed by the Home Secretary was in answer to Mr Alex Carlile, the Liberal home affairs spokesman, when he agreed that of the rooms on the first floor which had been searched before the conference, his own had been omitted. Mr Brittan is one of the most closely guarded ministers in the Government.
Although he said the police were not to be criticised for not discovering the bomb, many MPs last night were expressing surprise at the failure to search the hotel adequately. Mr Brittan said the failure was because of the absence of a ‘clear allocation of responsibility within the Sussex police.’
He then announced the establishment of a permanent working group to co-ordinate police activities with the Home Office and including representatives from M15 and the army. Mr Brittan said that central arrangements for assessing terrorist intentions set up after the bombing had already proved of value.
The essence of Mr Hoddinott’s report as revealed by the Home Secretary, was the need for better co-ordination between the Metropolitan Police special branch, other security authorities and local police forces, which would continue to carry much of the responsibility for specific counter measures against terrorist attacks.
However, he made no secret of the Government’s view that there was a limit to the security arrangements which were acceptable in a democratic society.
He said of Mr Hoddinott’s report: ‘He did not criticise the police for failing to control and search each person enter ing the hotel during the period of the conference. He concluded that the hotel and those wishing to use it would not have accepted such an arrangement and that, given the assumption of free access to the hotel, the numbers involved would, anyway, have made it impracticable.’
The Guardian, January 24th, 1985
Leading Article: ‘Thinking hard among the Grand debris / Security and terrorism’
When a shattering outrage like the Brighton hotel bombing takes place, the instinctive reflex is to demand a sweeping and ferocious response. Last October, this instinct produced two reactions. The first was to find a scapegoat. The second was a demand for wholesale tightening of preventive security in order to stop the unthinkable from happening again. Initial responses of this kind are understandable and natural. But they are psychologically complex. Retribution and guilt sit cheek by jowl with rational effectiveness. And such instincts have almost always proved an unreliable basis for long term policy and law-making.
A decade ago, within days of the Birmingham pub bombings, the Wilson government pushed a temporary Prevention of Terrorism Act through Parliament. That law remains not without its occasional legitimate uses, but also providing a large and convenient fig-leaf for some highly dubious police trawling within the Irish community. It was not a healthy precedent and, as the Grand Hotel bomb showed, it has not prevented the determined terrorist. No subsequent government has publicly accepted this argument. But, to judge by the tone of his remarks in the House of Commons this week, this lesson has been well learned by the Home Secretary, Leon Brittan. On Tuesday, in his statement to the house on the Brighton bomb and on the findings of the inquiry by Mr John Hoddinott, deputy chief constable of Hampshire, Mr Brittan offered no legislative panaceas. Indeed, in unlikely agreement with the urgings of Mr Tony Benn, Mr Brittan went out of his way to state that the balance between security and the exercise of civil liberties should not be lightly altered. ‘Nothing that I have said,’ the Home Secretary emphasised, ‘indicates the slightest readiness to slide over civil liberties.’ Words to remember.
Having said which, there are some very unsatisfactory and unresolved aspects of the Home Secretary’s report. One has to be a mite cautious about making these criticisms, since the text of the Hoddinott report has been kept secret. Mr Brittan only gave MPs the gist of the findings. He has even refused to reveal the full report in private, on ‘privy councillor’ terms, to Opposition front benchers. This suggests an element of bluff in Mr Brittan’s relatively low profile public response. Nevertheless, the Grand Hotel bomb came close to obliterating the Cabinet. Judged against the magnitude of that act, the Hoddinott report exposes two exceptionally serious areas of failure. The first is in the police’s physical preparations. Mr Hoddinott has given his Sussex colleagues a pretty easy ride. Their plans were ‘proper and reasonable.’ They carried them out ‘competently and professionally.’ This is a lot to swallow. The fact is that the Brighton conference area (which included the Grand Hotel) was cordoned off for the week of the Conservative conference. Nevertheless it was pretty easy to get through the barrier and, once through it, access to the Grand was straightforward, at all hours. Searches of the hotel were clearly inadequate, judged not merely by the fact that the bomb went off, but by the admission that not all rooms were searched and by the ease with which it was possible to move around the hotel.
The second big question is whether the police really understood enough about the threat which they faced. Mr Hoddinott says that they had access to the relevant intelligence. Perhaps so. But did they know how to draw lessons from it? Clearly not. Information is one thing, and the Special Branch has plenty of that. Knowledge based on that information is quite another matter. And there is plenty of accumulated evidence that the Special Branch and MI5 do not know how to make sound deductions from the mass of information at their disposal. The Special Branch gets off particularly lightly from what Mr Brittan told the Commons on Tuesday and that may well be because he wishes to protect them from criticism while they are under investigation by the Home Affairs Select Committee. Nevertheless, Mr Brittan is setting up a new improved counter-terrorist liaison group to advise on future threats. Liaison is naturally, blandly welcome. But no amount of liaison is a substitute for improved and better focused methods of intelligence interpretation.
The Guardian, January 29th, 1985
James Naughtie, ‘Brittan guidelines ‘give special branch carte blanche’ – Labour / Home Office guidelines for the special branch’
Mr Leon Brittan the Home Secretary, was accused yesterday of writing ‘a spies’ charter’ for special branches throughout Britain in the Home Office guidelines on their activities.
Mr John Prescott, Labour’s employment spokesman, said Mr Brittan’s interpretation of the guidelines in a letter to him yesterday revealed the freedom given to special branch officers as ‘carte blanche.’
Mr Brittan is due tomorrow to appear before the Commons select committee on home affairs, which is considering the role ofspecial branch officers.
In his letter to Mr Prescott, Mr Brittan said that the special branch must not be prevented from ‘looking into the activities of those whose real aim is to harm our democracy, but who for tactical or other reasons, choose to keep (either in the long or the short term) within the letter of the law in what they do.’
He denied that this definition allowed special branch officers to make political judgments about alleged subversive elements in industry or other aspects of national life. He emphasised that the functions of the special branch in relation to public order were quite different from its functions in relation to subversion.
Special branch officers should only concern themselves in industrial matters to the extent necessary to maintain law and order and protect the state against subversion. Special branches were not interested in trade unionists as such.
Mr Prescott reacted angrily to the letter, claiming that it showed the wide discretion given to the special branches attached to each police force in deciding what constituted subversion or a threat to law and order. ‘They can do more or less whatever they like under the guidelines.’
He argued that, for example, special branch officers could photograph miners under suspicion that they might travel to a picket line, although chief constables now admitted that the tactic in the pits dispute of stopping cars of pickets on motorways well away from picket lines had sometimes been unwise.
Mr Brittan said in his letter: ‘Picketing would be of no interest to special branches if it were always conducted peacefully and within the law. But where picketing may pose a threat to public order it is entirely right that a chief officer should have access to any relevant information that his special branch can provide to help him determine an appropriate level of policing.’
The right of an individual to cooperate with a special branch officer in providing information or to refrain from answering questions were the same as in any other case where the police sought the assistance of a member of the public.
Mr Prescott said that many individuals approached by the special branch as potential informants felt it more difficult to refuse than they would in more normal circumstances, and that greater safeguards were therefore needed.
The Guardian, January 30th, 1985
David Pallister, ‘Hit-squad suspects deported to Syria / Four men deported from Britain’
Four men with Syrian passports who were arrested in a London hotel on Sunday by Special Branch officers on suspicion of being an anti-PLO hit squad were deported to Damascus yesterday.
Their removal from Britain was personally authorised by the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, under the Immigration Act, as people ‘not conducive to the public good.’
It is believed that they were travelling on diplomatic passports without being accredited to the Syrian embassy in London.
The police feared that one of their targets may have been the PLO representative in London, Mr Faisal Aweida. He left last week for a trip to Tunis, the headquarters of the mainstream Fatah PLO organisation.
The police moved in on the men at the Cumberland Hotel. Five were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, but one was later released.
It is not known whether the police had any evidence with which to charge the men with offences in Britain. Even if they had, the Home Office considers that deportation, before a substantive offence is committed, is preferable to a politically explosive trial.
With Syria backing the dissident faction of the PLO, all Syrian nationals arriving in Britain are liable to Special Branch surveillance.
The Guardian, January 31st, 1985
Stephen Cook, ‘Brittan defines Special Branch targets / Home Secretary speaks at Commons investigation committee into the Special Branch’
The Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, last night offered political activists and other campaigners a do-it-yourself method of working out whether thespecial branch might have marked them down as subversives and put them under surveillance.
Such people should ask themselves two questions, he told the Commons home affairs committee inquiry into the special branch. Did they intend to harm the safety or well-being of the state, and did they intend to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy?
The answer to both questions had to be yes if they were to fall within the official definition of subversion and become legitimate targets of the special branch, Mr Brittan said. If the answer to only one question was yes, the person should not be a target.
It was not necessary for someone to have committed or be contemplating a criminal offence to be classed as a subversive, Mr Brittan said. It would be wrong to prevent the special branch investigating people whose real motives, under a cloak of respectability, were to harm our democracy.
He denied that this meant that anyone could be classed as a subversive at will by the special branch, and refused to elucidate how judgments about people’s motives might be made. But he agreed with committee members that special branch officers had a different difficult and sensitive task, and might sometimes make mistakes.
Mr Brittan said that he was broadly happy with the current double-headed definition of subversion, first drawn up by the Labour government in 1975. However, he would be glad to consider any new definition which the committee might come up with in their inquiry, which has now finished taking oral evidence.
The Home Secretary said that the present Government had been more liberal on special branch matters than any predecessor, and had tightened and published the guidelines under which it worked. Rules on record keeping, in particular, had been made more rigorous.
He argued that there was less public disquiet about the special branch than was sometimes claimed.
‘Hundreds of innocent people have been saved from the bomb because of special branch information.’
He encouraged chief constables to week unnecessary information from their special branch files, and urged them to publish as much as possible aboutspecial branch work.
Mr Brittan rejected the suggestion of Mr David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall, that there must be hundreds of thousands of people like Mrs Madeleine Haigh of Sutton Coldfield, who was apparently considered by some special branch officers to be a security risk.
Mrs Haigh, who was visited by special branch after writing to a paper opposing cruise missiles, was being repeatedly cited to fill a gap in evidence, Mr Briitan said. A mistake had been made and admitted in her case.
The Guardian, February 1st, 1985
Paul Brown, ‘MPs bar seamen / Parliamentary select commitee not to hear evidence’
Mr Jim Slater, general secretary of the National Union of Seamen, who wanted to give evidence to a Commons select committee of alleged Special Branch infiltration of his union issued an angry statement yesterday when he was told that it would not be allowed.
The home affairs select committee decided that it would take no more witnesses after hearing Mr Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary on Wednesday. Mr Slater said that the committee had heard evidence from the minister and chief constables.
A spokesman for the committee said that if Mr Slater would submit written evidence it would be circulated.
The Guardian, February 21st, 1985
David Hearst, ‘Kent, Scargill and Gostin ‘targets of MI5′ / Telephone tapping of dissident group alleged’
Allegations that leaders of the CND and the National Council for Civil Liberties had been subjected to surveillance were made by Cathy Massiter, a former MI5 intelligence officer, in a Channel 4 documentary banned from the screen last night.
Another former officer claimed that senior trade unionists had their phones tapped regularly.
Ms Massiter gave the names of leaders who, she said, were scrutinised by M15 in the 20/20 Vision programme, MI5’s Official Secrets. which the IBA ordered should not be shown.
The list included Mgr Bruce Kent, general secretary of CND, Barbara Egglestone, national organiser of Christian CND, Larry Gostin, general secretary of the NCCL, as well as former general secretary Patricia Hewitt, who is now an adviser to Mr Neil Kinnock and the NCCL’s former legal officer Harriet Harman, now a Labour MP.
In 1981, Ms Massiter, who had been recruited from a university library 11 years earlier, said she was put in charge of the surveillance of CND, even though the organisation was taken off the MI5’s list of subversive organisations
Ms Massiter said in the Channel 4 programme: ‘It was perceived as more than ever necessary that we had to be able to answer very precisely whatever questions we were asked about CND and its subversive penetration, which meant that our study had to be perhaps rather closer than it certainly would have been otherwise.’
To do this MI5 got one of its agents, Mr Harry Newton, a respected lecturer in trade union law and life-long activist in left wing political groups, to join CND in 1982. Newton, who died last year, had been the treasurer of the Institute for Workers’ Control, a left wing think tank supported by prominent trade union officials like Jack Jones and Alex Kitson and had been recruited by MI5 in the 1950s.
Newton filed regular reports about the workings and activities of CND headquarters. Ms Massiter said: ‘He (Newton), had a strong opinion that Kent might be a crypto-communist. I personally saw no justification for this whatsoever, but that certainly was the view that he expressed.’
She said that Newton’s reports were entered on MI5 files and the view that CND was controlled by extreme left-wing activists was passed on to Mr Michael Heseltine, the Defence Secretary, even though she found no evidence to support this view.
Confronted by the revelation that Mr Newton was an MI5 agent, and that he told M15 that Kent was a ‘crypto-communist,’ Mgr Kent said: ‘Well they have overpaid him in that case. I am not a crypto-communist. I don’t know what crypto means, I’m not a communist.’
Cathy Massiter also alleged that material gathered by MI5 was passed on to a counter propaganda unit set up by Mr Heseltine in March 1983 to combat the CND’s unilateralist line. The unit is known as DS19.
Instructed by her superior Ms Massiter passed on nonclassified information on any extreme left-wing affiliations of CND leaders. The passing of information from MI5, a security organtsation, to DSI9, a political body may be seen as a direct breach of MI5’s own code of conduct, known as the Maxwell Fyfe directive.
It states that it is essential that ‘the Security Service should be kept absolutely free from any political bias ‘or influence.’ Cathy Massiter said: ‘It did begin to seem to me that what the Security Service was being asked to do was to provide information on a party political issue.’
Shortly after DS19 received MI5’s report, Cathy Massiter was told that the MI5 would ‘consider favourably’ an application to tap the phone of a communist target in CND.
Mr Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary had said that the ‘lawful campaigning’ to change the mind of government about nuclear disarmament was an entirely legitimate activity, which did not fall within the criteria of the 1980 white paper on the role of the security forces. But in spite of these assurances, the programme said, Mr Brittan, authorised MI5 to tap the home telephone of a leading CND official in August 1983, two months after the general election.
The target chosen was John Cox, vice-president of CND and a number of the Communist Party. From him, MI5 obtained information about Bruce Kent, Joan Ruddock on ‘a wide range of topics that were concerning CND at the time.’ Cathy Massiter questioned whether John Cox posed a subversive threat to the state.
In 1963 Lord Denning wrote: ‘The Security Services are to be used for one purpose only, the defence of the realm.’ The Channel 4 programme also interviewed another former agent of MI5. whose identity in a closed guarded secret, who confirmed that senior trade unionists had their phone tapped regularly.
The agent said: ‘Mick McGahey, a prominent communist and mineworker’s leader and a member of the Scottish TUC was subjected to extensive surveillance, including the tapping of his home telephone. This gave rise to an office joke about the girls who had to listen to Mrs McGahey’s interminable telephone conversations with friends and relations, but we were able to get information from her chatting about his movements which he himself was careful to conceal.’
The MI5 bugged Arthur Scargill’s phone during the seventies. The agent said: ‘Scargill himself would occasionally shout abuse into the phone at the people who were tapping him.’ Asked whether Scargill’s phone was being tapped now, during the miners’ strike, Cathy Massiter said: ‘I would think it very likely, highly likely, in view of his particular history and his known political views.’
The programme also alleged that MI5 tapped prominent members of the Fire Brigades Union during the firemen’s strike, and a Ford union telephone during key pay negotiations. The purpose of these telephone taps was to find out what the union leader’s ‘bottom line’ was in the pay talks.
Another man, Mr Ronnie White, interviewed on the programme, claimed that he had been used by the Special Branch to infiltrate the National Front. As an SB agent he said he broke into the homes of selected targets and beat up blacks to establish his bone fides with the National Front.
The Guardian, February 22nd, 1985
James Naughtie and David Hearst, ‘DPP studies film report on MI5 / Director of Public Proscecutions Hetherington to view TV documentary on surveillance targets’
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Thomas Hetherington, yesterday launched an investigation into the Channel 4 documentary on the surveillance targets of M15, which the IBA banned because it feared prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
The DDP has asked to see the film, but said that any further action would depend on its contents. A spokesman for the DPP said the inquiry was prorapted by an IBA statement, expressing fear that screening the film would be a criminal offence.
The Government stonewalled attempts by Opposition MPs to hold an emergency debate on the programme’s allegations, and refused to answer allegations that senior ministers had misused the security services for their own party political purposes.
Mr Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary, refused to discuss individual telephone taps, which it was alleged had been placed on Mr Arthur Scargill and Mr Mick McGahey, president and vice-president of the NUM, or claims that leading peace campaigners like Mgr Bruce Kent, general secretary of CND, had been been targets of M15 surveillance.
In a letter to Mr Steve Norris, Conservative MP for Oxford, Mr Brittan said it was still policy – as it had been under previous Governments – neither to confirm nor deny whether interception had taken place in any particular case.
He stressed that any telephone tap approved by ministers had to satisfy two demands – that the subject was engaging in activity threatening the safety or well being of the state and at the same time was seeking to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means.
However, he stopped short of repeating the statement he made to the parliamentary select committee on home affairs which was investigating thespecial branch. At a hearing on January 30, asked whether the CND fell within the category of a subversive organisation, he said: ‘No, CND does not attempt to undermine parliamentary democracy.’
In his letter, Mr Brittan said he was ‘fully satisfied’ that the security service was ‘absolutely free from any political bias or influence,’ but gave no reasons to support his view.
His remarks came as Opposition MPs reacted furiously to claims made in the Channel 4 documentary. Ms Harriet Harman, Labour MP for Peckham, who was named as the subject of an M15 surveillance, wrote to the Prime Minister demanding to see her MI5 file, asking what form the surveillance had taken, and who had access to her file.
She said: ‘It is very sinister if I have been subject to surveillance because I have argued for civil liberties. As a Member of Parliament I demand to see my file.’
Mr Larry Gostin, general secretary of the NCCL, whose offices had also been the subject of surveillance, it is alleged, wrote to Mr Brittan demanding to see his file, and asking for a full judicial inquiry into the security services.
Labour MPs challenged the Government to respond to the allegations made in the film but the indications last night were that there will be no change in Ministers’ traditional refusal to discuss the operation of MI5.
Instead, Mr Brittan pointed to the forthcoming bill on the interception of telecommunications and mail, and said proposed independent tribunal to study complaints would guarantee full investigation to anyone who believed there had been improper interception.
Relatives and friends of the late Mr Harry Newton, said by the programme to have infiltrated CND, were shocked and saddened by the allegations. In a statement they said: ‘Those who have indulged in this should now produce proper evidence, or withdraw their allegations and apologise for the distress they have caused.’
The Guardian, February 22nd, 1985
Leading Article: ‘Who polices the secret policemen? / MI5 and Special Branch political surveillance’
As the official denials grow ever more emphatic, so the evidence about MI5 and Special Branch political surveillance gets furiouser and curiouser. Time after time during the last ten years, Home Secretaries, junior ministers and sometimes even Prime Ministers have delivered weighty but essentially obscure statements to Parliament. ‘Difficult area. As frank as I can. Cannot go into detail. Dedicated public servants doing a vital job. No evidence of abuse. Minsters in complete control.’ And then, deep in the forest, a whistle blows. Sometimes a strangled cheep-cheep. Occasionally a stentorian reveille. And, once again, the dog-eared old brief is dusted off and is thrust into the hands of yet another minister of unimpeachable integrity. ‘Difficult area. As frank as I can ..’
There comes a time when the old platitudes won’t work any more. It is early days yet, but it looks as though that point has been reached with the as yet unbroadcast revelations of two former MI5 operatives about political targetting under this Government. The evidence of Ms Cathy Massiter and her unnamed former colleague is potentially the most important blow ever delivered to the credibility of the internal activities of the British national security state. As always with such revelations, there is a cynical, worldly-wise voice which says that there’s nothing here that we didn’t know and there’s not a lot that can be done about it anyway. But that won’t quite do, this time. Just look at the allegations of substance in the Channel 4 documentary. First, that trade unions, the peace movement and the National Council for Civil Liberties, all of which are legal, freely supported bodies, are designated subversive and are subjected to routine infiltration and surveillance. Second, that particular individuals in these movements are specifically targeted because they either are Communists, or were once, or might be, or have friends who are, were or might be Communists. Third, that such ground rules as do exist, whether public or secret, about who or what to watch and bug are flouted at the whim of the watchers and buggers. Fourth, that Mr Michael Heseltine knowingly used the security services and the Special Branch to spy on his political adversaries, in this case members of the CND, some of whose members are Tories. Fifth, that the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, somehow misled MPs in an answer about phone tapping of CND members.
Any one of these charges would be serious enough on its own. Added together, though, they are an exceptional indictment of this country’s internal surveillance practices. But they are not exceptional when compared with revelations in two jurisdictions where the policing and parliamentary systems are closely modelled on British methods. In South Australia, in 1977, a judicial investigation of the state Special Branch concluded that it had consistently concealed its activities from the state government. The inquiry found that the Branch’s files were based on ‘the unreasoned assumption that any persons who thought or acted less conservatively than suited the security force were likely to be potential dangers to the security of the state.’ The files were ‘irrelevant to security purposes and outrageously unfair to hundreds, perhaps thousands of loyal and worthy citizens.’ Is that not exactly what Ms Massiter is saying, too? Then also, in Canada in 1981, the McDonald Royal Commission on the internal security activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found a similar situation. ‘The perception of threats to security and the concept of subversion were gradually extended to encompass a wide spectrum of groups associated with radical dissent, political, social service surveillance was not directed by any explicit government policy or guidelines. Nor was there explicit authorisation for a number of the investigative and countering activities developed over the years by the RCMP.’
In South Australia and Canada, the revelations destroyed the security services. New machinery was created, strictly limited to combatting genuine threats to the state, accountable to parliament. But it took major judicial inquiries to achieve it. What has Britain got to offer? A heavily circumscribed select committee inquiry into the Special Branch is now nearing completion. It hasn’t been allowed to look at the files and its recommendations will have no effective force. MI5, by contrast, does not even exist officially. Nothing is revealed about its structure, aims and methods save by a few dogged journalists and, as now, by the all too rare whistle blower. Additionally, there is now a Government bill to legalise telephone tapping. The bill, which creates and confines as many problems as it solves, comes up for second reading shortly. The Channel 4 programme’s allegations raise fresh doubts about the bill, because they imply that either the Home Secretary is misleading parliament about the true uses of communication interception, or else that he is himself being misled by the agencies which the bill purports to regulate. Either way, the bill will need drastic revision. And beyond that, there is now a compelling need for a full public inquiry, along royal commission lines, into internal national security surveillance by both the Special Branch and MI5.
The Guardian, February 23rd, 1985
James Naughtie and David Hearst, ‘Brittan challenged on phone-taps / Government urged to allow investigation into improper tapping by MI5’
The Government was challenged last night to allow a committee of senior Privy Councillors to investigate allegations of improper telephone tapping by the security service. MI5.
Mr John Cartwright, SDP MP for Woolwich, wrote to the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, expressing dissatisfaction with ministerial assurances about the extent of phone tapping.
He said Mr Brittan should make an early statement to the Commons on the allegations made by former M15 officers in the documentary made for Channel 4’s 20-20 Vision programme, but not shown because of an Independent Broadcasting Authority ban.
Mr Cartwright said there should also be an investigation by Privy Councillors into the allegations that organisations and individuals were put under surveillance though they were no threat to national security.
The Attorney-General, Sir Michael Havers, was also pressed last night to give an assurance that Miss Cathy Massiter, the former M15 intelligence officer whose allegations formed the heart of the television documentary, would not be prosecuted under Section 2 of the Officials Secrets Act.
Mr David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North and a member of the select committee on home affairs which has investigated the Special Branch, said he would ask the Attorney-General about the likelihood of a prosecution, which could be used to muzzle debate in the Commons.
A senior legal official of the Director of Public Prosecutions viewed the film yesterday. A spokesman said that investigations were continuing.
The film’s producers said they were considering hiring a public theatre in London, so that the film could be shown to the public. Claudia Milne, co-producer of the documentary, said they intended to go on tour around Britain showing the film in big towns.
In his letter, Mr Cartwright was responding to a letter from Mr Brittan in which the Home Secretary reiterated the ground rules for telephone tapping by MI5 and repeated that he was fully satisfied that the security service was ‘absolutely free from political bias and influence.’
Mr Brittan stuck firmly to the Government’s refusal to confirm or deny whether any interception had taken place in a particular case. But he made a clear distinction between the surveillance of individuals and organisations in response to the allegations that trade unions and CND had been subject to surveillance.
‘I have made clear on a number of occasions that peaceful political campaigning to change the mind of the Government or people generally about political issues cannot constitute subversion.
‘This is particularly relevant because a number of the allegations have been in connection with CND. Similar considerations apply in relation to trade unions and their members,’ he said.
No individual need fear surveillance unless his or her options or intentions brought him within the strict criteria set out in the guidelines – a threat to the safety of the state, and an intention to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy.
Mr Cartwright said such a reassurances were not adequate in the light of the detailed allegations made in the programme, which has been seen by MPs. ‘Had I never seen the programme I might have been prepared to accept the Home Secretary’s assurances,’ Mr Cartwright said.
‘The evidence of the programme is that reassurances about the past activities of the security service had not been adequate. I cannot see why such reassurances should be blindly accepted for the future.’
Either guidelines had been broken without ministerial knowledge, or MI5 had been used for political purposes.
Mr Brittan said in his letter that he was anxious to assure MPs that telephone tapping was designed to deal with genuine threats to the state or from the actions of those people or organisations ‘which may be judged subversive to the state.’
Ministers will be questioned further about the programme next week. Many Opposition MPs are determined to try to force the Government to be more specific in its assurances, though there is determination in Whitehall to resist such invitations.
The traditional refusal to discuss in detail the operations of any of the security or intelligence agencies appears as strong as ever.
However, an opportunity for detailed discussion of the issues raised by the programme will come in the debate on the bill to regulate the interception of communications which is likely to have its second reading the week after next.
The committee stage of the bill, in particular, will give MPs a chance to discuss in detail the guidelines under which interception is authorised by ministers. The Government is proposing a tribunal to handle complaints about unauthorised interception.
According to the white paper on the interception of communications in the UK published earlier this month, 235 warrants for telephone interceptions authorised by the Home Secretary or the Scottish Secretary were in force at the end of last year.
A further 98 warrants signed by the Foreign Secretary were still in operation. During the year, 538 warrants had been signed, the white paper said.
The Guardian, February 26th, 1985
Ian Aitken, ‘Ministers avoid MI5 trial / Case of Cathy Massiter who gave information to Channel 4 TV on phone tapping’
The Government is unlikely to invoke the notorious section two of the Official Secrets Act against Miss Cathy Massiter, the former M15 intelligence officer who has alleged breaches of surveillance guidelines by the security services.
The signs last night were that law officers are not inclined to prosecute Miss Massiter for her disclosures in a banned Channel 4 programme about telephone tapping by M15 and the Special Branch. They are regarded as a breach of her undertakings as a government employee but her superior officers treated her reservations about her surveillance duties as a matter for a psychiatrist rather than a disciplinary officer.
Yet another prosecution under section two of the act, following so closely on the collapse of the prosecution of Mr Clive Ponting in the Belgrano case, would open the Government to further charges of heavy handedness in protecting state security.
Efforts to have the matter debated in the Commons; or to persuade ministers to answer Commons questions on the subject, were stonewalled at Westminster yesterday.
The Speaker rejected an Opposition application for an emergency debate on allegations in the programme, which was banned on security grounds by the Independent Broadcasting Authority.
The Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, declined to respond to demands for a ministerial statement on the allegations or to agree to answer a private notice question on the subject.
It was clear in Whitehall yesterday that the Government intends to dismiss the row as a matter of interest only to limited groups like readers of the Guardian and Observer newspapers. It was insisted last night that the Prime Minister knew nothing about the controversy. since she had been visiting Washington at the time of the ban.
However, further efforts were being made at Westminster last night to ensure that as many MPs as possible are made aware of the allegations by two former M15 officers about the extent of surveillance of radical and leftwing organisations.
The film, which was to have been screened on the 20-20 Vision programme, will be shown for a third time in a Commons committee room today.
The Opposition demand for an emergency debate on the allegations was put to the Speaker yesterday by Mr Gerald Kaufman, the shadow home secretary. He described the claims as ‘of the utmost importance for freedom in a democratic society’ and condemned the IBA’s ban as ‘craven and sycophantic.’
Mr Kaufman said that everyone who was alarmed at the prospects of a big brother state wanted the allegations cleared up.
The Speaker rejected the application for a debate, arguing that it did not fall within the terms for emergency discussion laid down in Commons standing orders. He said that there would be a further opportunity to debate the matter when the Government’s bill to control telephone tapping was considered again.
David Hearst adds: The producers of the Channel 4 programme yesterday asked the IBA to reconsider the ban and give the reasons for it.
The IBA said last week that it had been advised by counsel that it would be committing a criminal offence under the Official Secrets Act if the programme were broadcast.
The producers of the programme, Ms Claudia Milne and Mr Geoffrey Seed, said last week that according to the legal advice Channel 4 had received the programme could be broadcast.
The Guardian, March 1st, 1985
‘Agenda: The spymasters who broke their own rules / Excerpts from banned TV documentary on the MI5 and Special Branch’
Although the two former MI5 employees, both women, are covered by the Official Secrets Act, they have decided, in the public interest, to talk about their work.
They don’t know each other. But during their service, they each became alarmed at the extent of MI5’s clandestine operations in Britain, spying on political parties, trade unionists and pressure groups like CND whose views are dissenting but not illegal.
One of the women was an MI5 clerk. She wants to remain anonymous but has sworn a long, detailed statement, revealing how MI5 targets certain trade union leaders and taps their telephones. She said:
‘I think it is totally unjust and immoral to direct these surveillance techniques and operations against decent and law abiding trade unionists and members of legitimate political parties and organisations like CND.’
The second woman, Cathy Massiter, was an intelligence officer who actually ran MI5’s investigation into CND. She’s left MI5 a year ago. She’s taken the unprecedented step of speaking publicly because of her worries about MI5’s secret operations against CND. She said:
‘We are violating our own rules. It seemed to be getting out of control. This was happening not because CND as such justified this kind of treatment but simply because of Political pressure; the heat was there for information about CND and we had to have it.’
In 1970, Cathy Massiter was a dissatisfied librarian. She went back to her university appointments board, seeking a new career. She explained:
‘They were aware of a job going with M o. D which they understood was to do with processing information. They knew very Little about it they couldn’t give me any details.
‘I got a letter from B branch, the personnel branch of MI5. not of course identifying themselves as such but saying could I come for an interview. Suddenly, I found myself a member of the staff of MI5.’
Most of MI5’s work isn’t glamorous – it’s painstaking and tedious. Cathy Massiter spent many years in F branch, which, among other things, studies left wing subversives in industry.
Much information about trade unionists is supplied by Special Branch officers, the policemen who work most closely with M15. Britain’s 1500 Special Branch officers investigate terrorism, espionage, sabotage and subversion. New Home Office guidelines published last December state: Subversive activities are those which threaten the safety or well being of the State and which are intended to undermine or overthrow Parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means.
The programme dealt with two cases of Special Branch infiltration of legal organisations. One was by a man named White, recruited by the Special Branch after he became a member of the National Front. On the programme White admitted taking part ‘in beatings and burglary to protect his cover within the NF.
The other was described by a man named Mackie, a Manchester councillor, who explained that someone he knew infiltrated Friends of the Earth for theSpecial Branch. Councillor Mackie’s contact confirmed that he did work for Manchester Special Branch but refused to be interviewed about why he was monitoring FoE and also the National Council for Civil Liberties.
The Home Office guidelines go on: Data on individuals or organisations should not under any circumstances be collected or held solely on the basis that (such) a person or organisation supports unpopular causes.
They don’t say ‘unpopular’ with whom. However, NCCL was certainly unpopular with M15. During the mid 1970s, under a Labour government, an assistant director at M15 personally had NCCL targeted as a subversive organisation.
Cathy Massiter explained: ‘Anyone who was on the National Executive of NCCL, who worked for NCCL, or who was an active member to the degree of being, say, a branch secretary of NCCL, would be placed on permanent record and the routine enquiries would be instituted to identify such people and police inquiries were sought.’
Q What would you ask the police to do?
A’The police were actually sort of asked to identify branch secretaries in their area and report on the activities of the NCCL.’
Q Did the police or Special Branch have agents, as such, inside NCCL?
Cathy Massiter remembers some of the many NCCL officials that MI5 recorded:
‘People Like Patricia Hewitt (presently an adviser to Neil Kinnock) who used to be its general secretary. Harriet Harmom (Labour MP) who used to be its legal officer. They would be put on record as communist sympathisers. Hewitt because of her close association, with somebody who was at the time a member of the Communist Party, a close personal association.’
Q But she’s now in close political association with the leader of the Labour Party.
Q But she’s done nothing wrong, nothing illegal with her political activity.
Q Yet MI5 has a file on her.
Q Do you think that’s right?
A’No, I don’t.’
Q But MI5 clearly do.
Q But how did it happen that an assistant director at MI5 was personally able to have NCCL targetted in this way?
A’What seems to have been the deciding factor was his own view that NCCL’s attacks on certain institutions such as the police um were deliberate attempts to undermine these institutions.’
Tapping telephones and infiltrating trade unions is carried out by MI5’s ‘F’ branch, now considerably expanded since the early 1970s. In her statement, the other former M15 employee, a clerk, says they tapped the phone of Duncan Campbell, a prominent writer on the defence and intelligence matters. They wanted to trace his sources. Left wing trade unionists were tapped too.
During the 1977 firemen’s strike, officials of the Fire Brigades’ Union were convinced that telephones at their strike headquarters in Leeds were tapped.
Soon after the firemen’s strike ended in 1978, the MI5 witness joined the Security Service as a clerk and began attending training sessions. She said:
‘A woman Lecturer told us, rather boastfully, that MI5 had long-term moles inside certain trade unions so deep that even their own families didn’t know their true purpose.
Cathy Massiter did not know the clerk but she began her Security Service career on the industrial desk in 1970. She confirms that MI5 does have moles inside trade unions:
In her sworn statement, the former M15 clerk reveals the names of some left-wing trade unionists targetted by the security service for telephone taps and even a break-in.
Margaret Witham of the Civil and Public Services Association:
Mick Duggan of the same union:
Derek Robinson, then a British Leyland shop steward:
Mick Costello, a Morning Star journalist and a Communist Party official:
Bill Dunn ‘and Gerry Cohen, two other Communist Party officials: and John Deason of the Socialist Workers Party.
Cathy Massiter was also aware of phone taps on trade unionists deemed subversive by MI5.
‘Whenever a major dispute come up, er, something at Fords or the mines, or Post Office, there was a big Post Office strike while I was there, immediately it would become a major area for investigation: what were the communists doing in respect of this particular industrial action and usually, an application for a telephone check would be taken out on the leading comrade in the particular union concerned.’
But according to the former MI5 clerk, certain telephones were tapped in the late 1970s, irrespective of any industrial dispute. She said:
‘Mick McGahey, a prominent communist and mineworkers’ leader and a member of the Scottish TUC, was subjected to extensive surveillance, ‘including the tapping of his home telephone.’
She learned that MI5 bugged McGahey’s London hotel and a cafe where he met other trade unionists. Arthur Scargill’s phone was tapped too during the late seventies: ‘Scargill himself would occasionally shout abuse into the phone at the people who were tapping him.’
Was it likely that Arthur Scargill’s phone would have been tapped during the latest miners’ strike? Cathy Massiter:
‘I would think it very likely, highly likely, in view of his particular history and his known political views.’
In late 1978, the Labour government was fighting for its life. Its ability to contain the unions and enforce its pay policy turned crucially on what happened to pay negotiations at the Ford Motor Company.
Syd Harraway, a communist, was then key shop stewards convener at Ford’s car plant in Dagenham. His phone was permanently tapped and the MI5 clerk transcribed his calls:
‘This seemed to be economic information from within a legally constituted trade union organisation which the Security Service and the government had no right to know.’
We asked Cathy Massiter to speculate on why such economic information might have been sought.
‘Well, I can only assume that it was requested because the Department of Employment was seeking in some form, this information. It surprises me in a way it was dome so blatantly.’
The only published document governing MI5’s conduct is called the Maxwell Fyfe Directive, named after the Home Secretary who issued it in 1952. It says:
‘No inquiry is to be carried out on behalf of any government department unless you are satisfied that an important public interest, bearing on the defence of the Realm .. is at stake.’
We asked Cathy Massiter if it would be legitimate for MI5 to pass on information about union pay negotiations, obtained via a phone tap, to a government department:
‘I would say not and it highlights very clearly, this extreme ambivalence between what the security service is there to do, what it perceives itself as being there to do, to study subversion, and what actually happens in practice which is in effect to broaden the study quite a long way beyond those basic guidelines.’
In her sworn statement, the former MI5 clerk says she was told that MI5 broke into the home of Ken Gill, a communist, general secretary of TASS, the white collar section of the engineering union, and a member of the TUC,s general council. His home telephone was tapped but he got even closer scrutiny during the 1970s when TASS, the draughtsmens’ union, planned to merge with the engineers, she said:
‘His home had been broken into and a bug placed inside a room to monitor talks between Mr Gill and other trade unionists prior to or during the merger. ‘I found This a sinister intrusion into a person’s civil rights and privacy.’
Ken Gill has confirmed to us that important meetings regarding the unions merger were held in his home during this period.
In 1981, Cathy Massiter was chosen to take over MI5’s investigation of leftwing subversive influence within CND. She felt such limited study of CND was legitimate. But she says increasing political pressure meant she ended up studying the organisation as a whole, and led to the Security Service breaking its own rules:
‘You couldn’t just concentrate on the subversive elements of CND, you had to be able to answer questions on the non subversive elements and the whole thing sort of began to sort of flow out into a very grey area.’
Q This is the dilemma presumably of not knowing someone as a subversive until you monitor him?
A’Yes there is some truth in that, but in that case you know they’re going to be monitoring all of us, aren’t they?’
Her first job was to read MI5’s files on CND. In the mid sixties, CND had been classified as a subversive organisation active members were recorded as communist sympathers and went into MI5’s records. MI5 has two thick files on Bruce Kent, CND’s general secretary. And Barbara Egglestone, national organiser of Christian CND, is on file, too.
Q She’s neither a communist nor a communist sympathiser. And yet MI5 has a file on her? Does that disturb you or anything?
A Very much, yes.’
People like Barbara Egglestone were filed as Communist sympathisers when CND was treated as a subversive organisation. But by the time Cathy Massiter began her study in 1981, CND itself was no longer on the subversive list.
According to the rules, that should have meant that active investigation stopped, and that membership of the organisation was no longer enough to make someone a subversive. MI5’s interest in CND should have been limited to studying the influence of Communists and Trotskysts within it. But the practice was different from the theory.
Cathy Massiter believed this was because of increasing political pressure.
By 1981, the peace movement had become a mass movement, mounting the biggest demonstration ever seen in Britain. A year later, MI5’s need for more inside information on CND became urgent.
Cathy Massiter said:
‘I think it was perceived as more than ever necessary that we had to be able to answer very precisely whatever questions we were asked about CND and its subversive penetration which meant that our study had to be perhaps rather closer than it certainly would have been otherwise.
‘One of the means that was used was the introduction of an agent, a chap who had worked for MI5 for many years, 20 or 30 years all together, into CND headquarters.’
The agent was Harry Newton, a 60-year-old lecturer in trade union studies and a life-long activist in left wing political groups. He’d been recruited by MI5 in the 1950s when he was a member of the Communist Party.
He became treasurer of the Institute for Workers’ Control, a left wing think tank supported by prominent trade union officials like Jack Jones and Alex Kitson and MPs such as Tony Benn.
Harry Newton joined CND in 1982 and his first job for MI5 was to attend CND’s annual conference.
Cathy Massiter said:
‘We sort of regarded it as very important to know as soon as possible after the conference who the new people on the national council were so that we could make our usual breakdown of how many subversives were on it and could sort of pass the information along to the interested parties at Whitehall. After that he became involved in CND headquarters.
‘What tended to come across was very general information about what was going on in CND headquarters. It was fairly low level stuff. I mean, he was able to chat to people like Bruce Kent, this sort of thing.
‘Harry was still very caught up in the idea of the international Communist conspiracy and therefore had a bit of a tendency to see the hand of the communists everywhere.
‘I mean, he, he had quite a strong opinion that Kent might be a krypto Communist, um, I personally saw no justification for this whatsoever but that certainly was the view that he expressed.’
Q That’s something that might find its way on to Bruce Kent’s MI5 file?
Harry Newton died in 1983. Cathy Massiter says there were other agents inside CND, put there by Special Branch around the country. Such infiltration reflected the State’s concern about the peace movement both ‘in terms of its susceptibility to political manipulation and as a public order issue. That concern was most acute in 1983, election year. In January, Michael Heseltine had taken over as Defence Secretary.
In March, Mr Heseltine set up a special unit called Defence Secretariat or DS19, to combat CND’s unilateralist propaganda.
Cathy Massiter became concerned after a senior official from the counter propaganda unit DSI9 approached her boss at MI5.
Cathy Massiter said:
‘What they appear to have requested was information about the subversive political affiliations of leading members of CND including members of the national council and people working for CND.
‘It seems to have been part of erm what DS19 felt, that they required in order to fulfil the brief that they had been given by the Defence Minister Mr Heseltine and they appeared to feel that MI5 were the best people to supply this information.’
After the approach from DS19, Cathy Massiter was instructed by her superiors to go through MI5’s files, extracting non-classified information on any extreme left wing affiliations of CND’s leaders. She did so, and wrote a report Which was passed on to DS19. But why was she concerned by this episode?
‘It was a very important party political issue.
‘Unilateral nuclear disarmament had been adopted as a policy by the Labour Party, a general election was in the offing and it had been clearly stated that the question of nuclear disarmament was going to be an important issue there. It did begin to seem to me that what the Security Service was being asked to do was to provide information on a party political issue.
Q Do you think that’s a legitimate function of MI5 and someone like you, an intelligence officer?
A’It’s clearly not a legitimate function because it directly contravenes the charter.’
The Maxwell Fyfe directive says that it is essential that ‘ .. the Security Service should be kept absolutely free from any political bias or influence.’
Cathy Massiter said:
‘I did express my concern on this issue and I know other people did so too, who were aware of the work that I was doing. The difficulty is that having expressed one’s view, there is no way of taking it any further. If your view is not accepted you’re simply left with the option of accepting the situation or of course ultimately resigning, if you feel that strongly about it.’
Before a Home Secretary signs a phone tap warrant for MI5 he has to be sure the case involves:
Major subversive, terrorist or espionage activity:
The information gathered must relate directly to the defence of the Realm:
Normal methods of investigation must have been tried and Failed or be unlikely to succeed.
CND’s allegations of phone interference caused a row. In the Commons last December, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Gerald Kaufman, pursued Leon Brittan for answers.
Mr Brittan, like all previous Home Secretaries, wouldn’t confirm or deny that a specific target had been tapped. But he did say this:
‘There is no doubt that lawful campaigning to change the mind of the Government about nuclear disarmament whether unilateral or otherwise is an entirely legitimate activity which does not fall within the strict criteria of the 1980 white paper.’
In fact, Leon Brittan did authorise MI5 to tap the home telephone of a leading CND official in August 1983, two months after the general election.
Cathy Massiter says the possibility of tapping a Communist CND official’s phone was first discussed at MI5 the previous April:
‘We were prepared to go along with the tap before the general election. But it was deferred because of the election as it was felt that it it was too sensitive a matter to go ahead with at the time. In fact, it actually went on, I think, in August 1983.’
Q Why should they feel it was sensitive; if it was important for MI5 to tap someone’s phone, surely it should not be a consideration that the general election’s coming up.
A’Well, it was, as I have said, a very sensitive party political issue in a general election and if it ever did come out that a tap had been on at that time, the motivation for the tap might have been strongly questioned.’
Cathy Massiter did question the need for a tap but she lost the internal argument. So who did she choose?
‘John Cox, the vice-president of CND. He was the obvious candidate. He lived in Wales and therefore there would need to be a fair amount of telephone communication between him and CND headquarters. Cox was already well known as a member of the Communist Party. He’d been involved in CND practically since its inception.
Q So what additional information on John Cox and his activities did MI5 get from their tap?
A’Not a lot really that we didn’t already know, a hit more detail perhaps.’
Q He would be routinely in contact with Bruce Kent, Joan Ruddock and CND?
A’There was quite frequent contact yes.’
Q So to some extent, you had no need to tap their telephones?
A’Not really, no one was getting information about their attitudes on quite a wide range of topics that were concerning CND at the time.
‘I’ve never been a member of CND, I’m not currently a member. I have a lot of sympathy with CND. I don’t know that I fully accept their arguments for total unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom but I do think the issues that they raise are very important.’
Cathy Massiter left MI5 about a year ago. She’s talked publically about those aspects of MI5’s activities against alleged subversives which she feels breached the Maxwell Fyfe directive – not its work against terrorism and espionage which she fully supports. However, she’s still covered by the Official Secrets Act so Why has she spoken out?
‘Because I became very concerned during my years studying CND with this question of the definition of what is the legitimate area of study of the Security Services, particularly in respect of subversion because I think it ought to be more clearly defined.
‘There ought to be clearer guidelines and I think the only way of achieving this is to get a degree of opening up of the Security Service and some kind of Parliamentary accountability in the end, for it.’
Guardian Weekly, March 3rd, 1985
Who polices Britain’s secret policemen?
AS the official denials grow ever more emphatic, so the evidence about M15 and Special Branch political surveillance gets furiouser and curiouser. Time after time during the last ten years, Home Secretaries, junior ministers, and sometimes even Prime Ministers have delivered weighty but essentially obscure statements to Parliament. “Difficult area. As frank as I can. Cannot go into detail. Dedicated public servants doing a vital job. No evidence of abuse. Ministers in complete control.” And then, deep in the forest, a whistle blows. Sometimes a strangled cheep-cheep, occasionally a stentorian reveille. And, once again, the dog-eared old brief is dusted on and is thrust into the hands of yet another minister of unimpeachable integrity. “Difficult area. As frank as I can.”
There comes a time when the old platitudes won’t work any more. It is early days yet, but it looks as though that point has been reached with the as yet unbroadcast revelations of two former M15 operatives about political targetting under this Government. The evidence of Ms Cathy Massiter and her unnamed former colleague is potentially the most important blow ever delivered to the credibility of the internal activities of the British national security state. As always with such revelations, there is a cynical, worldly-wise voice which says that there’s nothing here that we didn’t know and there’s not a lot that can be done about it anyway. But that won’t quite do, this time. Just look at the allegations of substance in the Channel 4 documentary. First, that trade unions, the peace movement and the National Council for Civil Liberties, all of which are legal, freely supported bodies, are designated subversive and are subjected to routine infiltration and surveillance. Second, that particular individuals in these movements are specifically targeted because they either are Communists, or were once, or might be, or have friends who are, were or might be Communists. Third, that such ground rules as do exist, whether public or secret, about who or what to watch and bug are flouted at the whim of the watchers and buggers. Fourth, that Mr Michael Heseltine has knowingly used the security services and the Special Branch to spy on his political adversaries, in this case members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, some of whose members are Tories. Fifth, that the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, somehow misled MPs in an answer about phone tapping of CND members.
Any one of these charges would be serious enough on its own. Added together, though, they are an exceptional indictment of this country’s internal surveillance practices. But they are not exceptional when compared with revelations in two jurisdictions where the policing and parliametary systems are closely modelled on British methods in South Australia, in 1977, a judicial investigation of the state Special Branch concluded that it had consistently concealed its activities from the state government. The inquiry found that the Branch’s files were based on “the unreasoned assumption that any persons who thought or acted less conservatively than suited the security force were likely to be potential dangers to the security of the state”. The files were “irrelevant to security purposes and outrageously unfair to hundreds, perhaps thousands of loyal and worthy citizens”. Is that not exactly what Ms Massiter is saying, too? Then also, in Canada in 1981, the McDonald Royal Commission on the internal security activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found a similar situation. “The perception of threats to security and the concept of subversion were gradually extended to encommpass a wide spectrum of groups associated with radical dissent, political, social and constitutional change and the use of demonstrations and confrontations for political purposes,” it concluded. “Security service surveillance was not directed by any explicit government policy or guidelines. Nor was there explicit authorisation for a number of the investigative and countering activities developed over the years by the RCMP.”
In South Australia and Canada, the revelations destroyed the security services. New machinery was created, strictly limited to combatting genuine threats to the state, accountable to parliament. But it took major judicial inquiries to achieve it. What has Britain got to offer? A heavily circumscribed select committee inquiry into the Special Branch is now nearing completion. It hasn’t been allowed to look at the files and its recommendations will have no effective force. M15, by contrast, does not even exist officially. Nothing is revealed about its structure, aims, and methods save by a few dogged journalists and, as now, by the all too rare whistle-blower. Additionally, there is now a Government bill to legalise telephone tapping. The bill, which creates and confirms as many problems as it solves, comes up for second reading shortly. The Channel 4 programme’s allegations raise fresh doubts about the bill, because they imply that either the Home Secretary is misleading Parliament about the true uses of communication interception, or else that he is himself being misled by the agencies which the bill purports to regulate. Either way, the bill will need drastic revision. And beyond that, there is now a compelling need for a full public inquiry, along royal commission lines, into internal national security surveillance by both the Special Branch and M15.
The Guardian, March 5th, 1985
James Naughtie, ‘Senior Tories press PM on phone-tapping / Pressure to set up Parliamentary committee to investigate security and intelligence services’
Former ministers and senior Conservative backbenchers are putting strong private pressure on the Government to set up a Parliamentary committee to scrutinise the security and intelligence services.
The controversy about telephone tapping and the barrage of allegations of improper conduct by the authorities has convinced influential MPs with experience of security matters that the Prime Minister will have to abandon her opposition to an independent committee with access to information about the operations of MI5. MI6 and the special branch.
It is now clear that even some of Mrs Thatcher’s closest colleagues are joining former senior ministers in arguing that such a step is not only necessary to allay public anxiety, but would work in the interests of those responsible for security.
The allegations of breaches of MI5 guidelines made in the banned documentary produced for Channel 4’s 20/20 Vision programme, are the subject of a report due to be presented to Downing Street today.
Tomorrow, the Commons will debate the second reading of the Interception of Communications Bill.
The bill, which advocates a tribunal to hear complaints of improper telephone tapping of the interception of mail, will provide an opportunity for MPs critical of the existing guidelines to challenge ministers.
The Government has decided to take the committee stage of the bill to the floor of the House instead of to a small commit tee. Such a general discussion will inevitably raise more awk ward questions for ministers, but there is strong pressure for open discussion.
Mrs Thatcher and the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan have refused – like their predecessors – to divulge details of the surveillance of individuals. However, the prospect of a series of debates giving MPs an opportunity to question ministers on the operation of MI5 in particular is causing concern among senior Conservatives.
Some of them believe that the result will be the formation of a committee of senior Privy Councillors to exert some form of scrutiny on security matters. They argue that such a step is essential to curb public discussion about the operation of the security authorities.
As a result, they are presenting the same argument as many of those who have been most critical of MI5 and other organisations.
Lord Bridge’s report will deal with the specific allegations made in the Channel 4 documentary – which has been seen by many MPs in private showings – and it was said last night that it would address the question of the classifcation of individuals or organisations as subversive.
Mr Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader, wrote to Mrs Thatcher yesterday to say that he believed she was in conflict with her Home Secretary in appearing to limit the scope of the inquiry to interceptions made under the authorisation of the Home Secretary.
Mr Brittan told the Commons last week that the question of anyone being falsely classified would come directly under the inquiry conducted by Lord rige ‘as he will cover interceptions contrary to the criteria.’
In a letter to Mr Kinnock, Mrs Thatcher sai the inquiry would not cover allegations that interceptions had taken place without proper authorisation.
Mr Kinnock’s complaint that this presented an unacceptable contradiction was rejected in Whitehall last night on the grounds that Lord Bridge would investigate the allegations made in the documentary.
The difficulty for the Government is that the report is expected to deal with the allegations in general rather than specific terms, and that it will therefore raise new protests.
The Environment Secretary, Mr Patrick Jenkin, was accused last night of keeping files listing the personal, financial and matrimonial details of Labour councillors for use in the Government’s political campaign against them.
Ms Harriet Harman, Labour MP for Peckham, tabled Commons questions asking whether Mr Jenkin’s department had collected information on councillors, using civil servants, special branch officers or the security service, MI5.
She denounced such’ snooping’ and said that if the allegations passed to her were true, it was a grotesque way for the government to proceed.
One former minister familiar with the operation of the Special Branch and MI5 said last night he believed it was highly unlikely that the organisations would participate in a collection of such information for an overtly political purpose.
He added that it was probable that such files were drawn up from information gathered from purely political sources
The Guardian, March 5th, 1985
Leading Article: ‘The parts politicians can’t reach / Bridge report on phone-tapping’
Inevitably, and rightly, a Conservative government and a Conservative Home Secretary are in the dock over phone-tapping and control of the security services. It is Mr Leon Brittan who has taken temporary refuge behind Lord Bridge’s onanistic quickie inquiry into the abuse of surveillance guidelines. It is Mr Brittan who is tomorrow bringing forward an obviously ineffective bill on phonetapping. And it will be Mr Brittan, Sir Michael Havers and the Prime Minister who must now be made to face the fill seriousness of the Massiter allegations about MI5.
Nevertheless, the opposition parties start from a disadvantage as they begin this chase. All the former Home Secretaries who still sit in the Commons (Messrs Jenkins, Callaghan and Rees) repose on the opposition benches. And each of them has presided over the sale system which now threatens to come apart in Mr Brittan’s hands. In particular, the Callaghan government’s much blotted copybook was soiled by the abuses of the secret state. It was Mr Rees who, as Home Secretary, got rid of Messrs Agee and Hosenball on the basis of undisclosed and highly suspect security information. It was Mr Rees who presided over the surveillance operation against the offices of the National Council for Civil Liberties (whether or not he authorised it) that led to the arrest and prosecution of Aubrey, Berry and Campbell. And it was Mr Rees, along with Dr Owen at the Foreign Office, who deported Ms Astrid Proll.
Mr Rees has responded to the Massiter revelations in an illuminating way. He has denied, quite categorically, that the alleged surveillance of the fire brigade and Ford union leaders took place. That is to say, he has denied that it took place on his authority. Unfortunately, and this is the whole point, that is not the same thing. It does not mean that Mr Rees is a wicked man, or even a naive one. Quite the contrary. To his credit, as Home Secretary, he was the first holder of the office to allow parliamentary debate on the Special Branch (albeit only under pressure from Mr Robin Cook). Yet what Mr Rees said in those debates raised more questions than he answered. ‘The Special Branch collects information on those who I think cause problems for the state,’ he declared in March 1978. This may have been true or it could have been a top of the head folie de grandeur. Mr Brittan, being a lawyer, puts it more circumspectly when he talks about the Special Branch and MI5. The trouble, though, remains the same. Nobody, and on a generous interpretation this includes the Home Secretary, really knows the truth. A structure in which the whole of MI5 (however many people and Wing systems that includes) and the Branch are mysteriously ‘accountable’ to one individual is no structure of accountability at all. And no judge can bridge the gap either.
Both Mr Neil Kinnock and his shadow Home Secretary, Mr Gerald Kaufman have now made clear that it will all be different once they have got their hands on the levers. Well, we have, alas, heard that before. And not just from Labour leaders. The point here is not whether Mr Brittan or Mr Rees is the tougher chap, nor whether Mr Kaufman would be any better. They are all talented politicians with the credentials of adequate control. The point is that the system itself is an impossible one, imposing unworkable demands upon any individual Home Secretary. That is why, at the end of the Massiter affair, it will be necessary for any future government (or even for this one, which allowed greater frankness about security matters than its predecessors) to legislate. Legislate, what is more, on the basis of far better facts that Lord Bridge will ever provide. So far, the whole security area has been looked at piecemeal. A reform of Section 2 here (or not, as the case may be). A statute on phone-tapping there. No party has approached the subject in the round. The nearest attempt has been the Labour Party’s policy document of 1983 on the security services, which sensibly proposed a new Espionage Act to replace Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act and a Security Act to put the secret agencies and their surveillance techniques on a statutory footing. That could be a start. But all the parties still have detailed thinking to do, and all must recognise the errors of their previous ways. We have moved – and Miss Massiter has helped that movement – to some final realization that things have to be fundamentally changed. And the fundamentals of a fresh start apply right across the spectrum of politics.
The following edition of 20/20 Vision was finally broadcast on Channel 4 on March 8th 1985, and contained the revelations by former MI5 officer Cathy Massiter about spying upon members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
The Guardian, March 9th, 1985
David McKie, ‘Ministers to reinforce security service morale’
The Government is expected to use Tuesday’s debate on the Interception of Communications Bill to re-emphasise its confidence in the security services and to remind the nation how much it has owed to their unseen protection.
Senior ministers are riled by the continuing assumption that the services are now out of control, though they continue to assume that the apprehensions which have surfaced since the disclosures of Ms Cathy Massiter are confined to a relatively small and unrepresentative section of opinion.
The television programme which featured Ms Massiter, MI5’s Official Secrets, which was originally banned from transmission by the IBA, was screened last night.
Ministers claim there is little evidence of any national surge of concern in their postbags or constituency encounters. They are disturbed, however, by the effect of recent events on the morale of the security services and the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, is likely to use his speech in Tuesday’s debate to try to restore that morale.
Mr Brittan gave evidence to the home affairs select committee on January 30 about the work of the Special Branch, which has a crucial role in the work of the security services. He said then: ‘It is the individual case where something goes wrong that is drawn to people’s notice and dwelt upon by some people, but what are less known are the successes of the Special Branch.
‘It cannot be known because it cannot be proclaimed. When hundreds of innocent people are saved from a bomb because of the information the Special Branch has obtained, which enables them to step in before the bomb actually explodes. that is something I cannot talk about.’
The Liberal peer, Lord Wigoder, will be asking the House of Lords on March 20 to demand the scrapping of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act.
The Globe and Mail (Canada), March 9th, 1985
Leslie Plommer, ‘Britain’s spymasters under surveillance’
THESE ARE unhappy times for the people in charge of the security of the British realm, as suspicion, normally their own stock-in-trade, is being turned on them in an unwelcome spate of publicity.
No sooner had the prolonged debate over Government secrecy subsided after last month’s acquittal of senior civil servant Clive Ponting who leaked information to an MP in the Belgrano affair, than a sensational television documentary seized the spotlight with allegations of illegal surveillance of trade union and anti-nuclear leaders by the domestic intelligence agency MI5.
With press photographers poking their lenses through the herbacious borders at the suburban home of MI5 Director-General Sir John Jones, and senior parliamentary figures from all parties demanding closer scrutiny of the security services, the current controversy over what Liberal Party leader David Steel dubbed ‘the secret state’ comes at a bad moment for the Conservative Government.
It has led directly to postponement in Parliament this week of the second reading of a proposed law, the Interception of Communications Bill, whose critics were suddenly supplied by the television documentary with dramatic evidence supporting their fears about several of the bill’s provisions and omissions.
The proposed law codifies for the first time criteria under which four senior Cabinet ministers may authorize telephone and mail tapping, and establishes a tribunal to hear complaints by people who believe they are being improperly tapped.
In contrast to U.S. practice, it prohibits use of any information gathered in this way in court. Such interceptions are solely to assist investigations.
However, the bill has no regulation of covert surveillance using long-distance microphones or room bugs – methods that can render traditional tapping obsolete. And it omits restrictions on the scope of a ministerial warrant to tap.
Since 1980, roughly 500 such authorization warrants have been issued annually on the British mainland. What this figure conceals, however, is that one such warrant can be extended to take in various contacts or relatives of the person tapped. The bill ignores this.
The proposed law also puts economic espionage on paper for the first time.
To date, national security and serious crime have been the only publicly admitted criteria for ministers to authorize communications taps. Now the ‘well-being of the economy’ is to join the official list, meaning that the lawful conversations of oil and currency dealers can be tapped.
When the bill’s contents first became known last month, parliamentary critics were assured by Home Secretary Leon Brittan that this criterion would not be used to tap, for example, union leaders conducting strikes damaging to the British economy.
The television documentary, entitled MI5’s Official Secrets, provided evidence that this was untrue, and that the intelligence agency was also being used by Defence Minister Michael Heseltine for political purposes.
The documentary was banned just before its planned showing on the Independent Television network (ITV) on Feb. 20 when the supervisory Independent Broadcasting Authority ruled that the film could be a breach of Britain’s Official Secrets Act, the same statute under which Mr. Ponting was unsuccessfully prosecuted for leaking documents on the 1982 Falklands War.
Furious producers quickly arranged screenings for MPs and the press, and the uproar began.
In the film, two former MI5 employees made a damning series of allegations against the intelligence agency. One was unnamed. The other was Cathy Massiter, aged 37, an MI5 officer for 14 years who from 1981 until her resignation in 1983 headed the agency’s surveillance unit monitoring the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) – an old and broadly based British protest group that opposes nuclear weapons.
Miss Massiter – who says she was sent to a psychiatrist after expressing concerns to her superiors about MI5 actions in several areas – accused the agency of breaking its own charter by tapping telephones of peace-movement leaders to provide ministers with political ammunition.
Falsely labelling some of these people as ‘subversive’ to get permission to tap them.
Creating hundreds of ‘illegal’ files on CND activists, in co- operation with the police Special Branch.
Expanding surveillance greatly in the ’70s to include new ‘soft’ targets such as lawyers, journalists and pressure groups.
Miss Massiter and her anonymous colleague said in interviews that surveillance included not only CND leaders and officers of the National Council for Civil Liberties, against whom there was no evidence supporting a ‘subversive’ label, but also trade union figures. During trade union disputes in the ’70s, the unnamed agent said, MI5 tapped the phones of Scottish miners’ leader Mick McGahey, a Communist, and militant Arthur Scargill, now president of the National Union of Mineworkers, to learn their strike strategies and bargaining positions.
Mrs. McGahey’s ‘interminable telephone conversations with friends and relations’ became something of an MI5 office joke, while ‘Mr. Scargill would occasionally shout abuse into the phone at the people who were tapping him.’
During the same period, it was alleged, MI5 tapped the striking Fire Brigades Union in 1977; a union convenor’s telephone during Ford Motor Co. pay negotiations in 1978; officials of a civil service union; a British Leyland union shop steward; and Shelter, a housing pressure group.
Asked whether Mr. Scargill’s phone was tapped during the recent year-long British coal strike, Miss Massiter said: ‘I would think it very likely, highly likely, in view of his particular history and his known political views.’
With the television documentary – whose accusations cover former Labor governments as well as the present Conservative one – following hot on the heels of the Ponting secrets acquittal, state machinery was forced into action.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered an inquiry into the television allegations by Lord Bridge of Harwich, head of the Security Commission.
His brief report, submitted this week, provoked a Commons outcry that forced the Government to delay debate for a week on the phone-tapping bill for fear of chaotic parliamentary scenes.
‘I am satisfied, after full examination of all the relevant documents, that no warrant for interception has been issued in contravention of the appropriate criteria,’ the former Lord Justice of Appeal reported.
Echoing the views of many MPs, Labor’s home affairs spokesman, Gerald Kaufman, responded: ‘The Bridge report, if it can be dignified by such a description, is an insult and an outrage.’ Lord Bridge had been given narrow guidelines and therefore supplied an inevitable non-answer to the issues raised about MI5, Mr. Kaufman pointed out.
He had not been asked about people tapped after being falsely classified as subversives; he had not been asked about whether the political and personal lives of people in non-subversive organizations were under investigation; he had not been asked about party-political use of the intelligence service; he had not been asked about infiltration of lawful organizations.
Mr. Steel, the Liberal leader, added that the report failed to deal with unauthorized ‘freelance’ activity by MI5 or the problem of blanket warrants allowing multiple taps of a legitimate organization.
The controversy over the Bridge report has forged a powerful parliamentary alliance including many senior MPs and former ministers supported from the wings by some in the present Cabinet, which now is pressing for an independent parliamentary committee – possibly composed of Privy Councillors – to be set up to oversee Britain’s security and intelligence apparatus.
In the meantime, the legal threat against the television film has been lifted. It was screened yesterday after the Director of Public Prosecutions recommended against prosecution under the Official Secrets
The reluctance to prosecute appears to stem not only from Government concerns of more dirty laundry being aired in court, but also – according to The Times of London – because some of the program’s allegations are true.
Guardian Weekly, March 10th, 1985
Madeline Haigh, Walmley Road, Sutton Coldfield: Letter ‘When the IBA uses its umbrella in a climate of secrecy’
The revelations by Cathy Massiter about MI5 and the Special Branch confirm the gravest targets of surveillance. Her information makes nonsense of most of the answers given by Sir Philip Knights and his senior officers in response to questions on my own case, asked by me, my solicitor, and members of the West Midlands police committee.
Ms Massiter’s assertions contradict the reassurances given by serving chief constables and by the Home Secretary in evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee investigation into the Special Branch. Either the police chiefs and Leon Brittan are ignorant of the widespread breaches of the official guidelines, or they have deliberately misled a parliamentary committee.
Cathy Massiter states that Leon Brittan signed a warrant to authorise the tapping of John Cox’s telephone, even though he knew that Mr Cox did not satisfy the stated classification of “subversive.” How could this happen? — Was the Home Secretary not aware of what he was signing?
Or was he on holiday at the time?
The Guardian, March 12th, 1985
Colin Brown, ‘Special Branch ‘acquittal’ angers Labour / Inquiry into intelligence services’
Changes in an all-party select committee draft report, which gives the all-clear to the Special Branch, will be demanded by Labour MPs tomorrow.
The private meeting of the home affairs select committee promises to be a stormy affair. Labour members of the committee are angry that the draft report is so ‘anodyne’ that it will undermine their reputations.
The Labour MPs were demanding that the committee should reopen its inquiry into the Special Branch – regarded as the operational arm in Britain of MI5 – after the revelations in the 20/20 Vision film MI5’s Official Secrets.
The draft report will be considered at tomorrow’s meeting in the light of the debate on the bill on telephone tapping in the Commons today, and Labour MPs are hoping that the controversy may have changed the minds of some Tory MPs on the committee.
One of the committee members, Mr David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, rejected assurances he was given by the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, last night in written Commons answers about some of the allegations made in the film.
Mr Brittan refused to comment on the film’s allegation that Mr Harry Newton, a life-long leftwing activist, had been supplying information to the security service and Special Branch.
Asked about reports that Mr Stanley Bonnett, former editor of the CND magazine Sanity, had supplied information to Special Branch officers, Mr Brittan said the functions covering the branches were set out in guidelines published on December 19, 1984.
‘I am assured by the Commissioner that no enquiries have been initiated by the Metropolitan Police Special Branch outside the terms of those guidelines,’ he said.
‘I have made it clear on a number of occasions that peaceful political campaigning to change the mind of the government or of people generally about the validity of nuclear disarmament does not come within the definition of subversion which is given in the guidelines.’
Mr Winnick said: ‘In my view, until these guidelines are changed, it will mean such activities will continue even though we find them distasteful.’
Mr Winnick said the Home Secretary’s response was like the Lord Bridge inquiry into telephone tapping – it did not answer the core questions which had been raised.
David Hearst adds: Mr Roy Jenkins, MP, a home secretary in two Labour governments last night said he was ‘sceptical’ of the value of MI5’s role in monitoring political organisations.
Mr Jenkins said he was quite happy to allow Lord Bridge to see the papers relating to his two periods as home secretary, from 1965 to 67 and 1974 to 76. Lord Bridge’s report, which Mrs Thatcher ordered in response to allegations by Miss Massiter, cleared successive government of breaking the rules on telephone tapping.
Mr Jenkins refused to discuss specific allegations, in keeping with the practice of home secretaries never to talk about details of MI5’s role. However, he did say that he now questioned MI5’s role in monitoring political organisations.
Its controversial F branch, for which Miss Massiter worked, checks the activities of political parties and trade unionists.
The Guardian, March 13th, 1985
Leading Article: ‘Tapdancing your way out of a jam / Allegations of criminal activities by the security services’
Yesterday afternoon’s speech by the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, on telephone tapping and the security services positively groaned with reassurances. There was Lord Bridge’s report to rely on. That had shown that all the authorised warrants since 1970 were authorised warrants. Thank you, Lord Bridge, for that. But there was more. Mr Brittan himself had found time in a busy schedule to carry out his own inquiries. He had looked to see if the security service had been tapping anyone without authorisation. And he has found that they had not. The net effect of these assurances is, therefore, that MI5 and the Special Branch are in the clear as far as the Home Office is concerned. And yet what appear at first sight to be a watertight set of assurances is, on closer examination, distinctly unseaworthy. The inference from Mr Brittan’s speech is that all the phone tapping carried out in this country by the security services is done under warrants and, in turn, that all the warrants are issued in accordance with the definitions which ministers have repeatedly endorsed over the past decade. That brings the argument back to the definition of subversion first published by the Callaghan government, namely of activities which ‘threaten the safety or well being of the state and which are intended to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy by political industrial or violent means.’
Put that definition together with the allegations in the 20/20 Vision Programme, MI5’s Official Secrets. There we were told that Mr Brittan himself had authorised the tapping of the phone of Mr John Cox, a Communist Party member who is also the vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Yesterday, Mr Brittan again went out of his way to say that peaceful opposition to the Government’s defence policies, i. e. being active in CND, is not a tappable offence. But he also said that membership of a campaign, or a trade union, could not confer an immunity from tapping. Result,you can tap Mr Cox’s phone because he is a member of the CP and, hey presto, you are plugged into the phone conversations of Monsignor Kent, Mrs Ruddock and the rest of them. And, as a result, you also swell what 20/20 Vision described as the ‘two thick files’ on Mgr Kent. Thus the assumptions about Communists are the key which unlocks the door to the files of CND. And not just of CND. Take also the example of the National Council of Civil Liberties. Its fonner general Secretary, Ms Patricia Hewitt, lives with Mr Bill Birtles, who was a Communist for some years. Result, the Communist connection is used to justify the keeping of files on Ms Hewitt and, in all probability, to sanction the occasional phonetapping of the NCCL’s headquarters.
All this is quite acceptable to most Conservative backbenchers. These MPs, who so often proclaim their devotion to individual freedom, have sat on their hands ever since the 20/20 Vision allegations were made. There are some exceptions, such as Mr Steven Norris, who deserve credit for their independence. Yet of those who dutifully went through the lobbies in support of Mr Brittan last night, all but a few treat the issue with indifference. The comments of Sir Anthony Kershaw, one of those anonymous influential senior Tory backbenchers who bob up in Westminster reports, are not unrepresentative. ‘If he is not watching these people, I want my money back.’ That also seems to be the approach of the Tories in the Home Affairs Select Committee. Their love of liberty is currently on display in the way they are stifling the committee’s investigation of the Special Branch and seeking the production of a bromide report. There’s nothing wrong, they all cry. Even if there were a few rule benders, they whisper in clubland, MI5 is so bureaucratic that nobody would be greatly harmed by the over-enthusiasm. If there was a problem we would get to hear of it. But that is just what has happened, isn’t it? That is precisely why the 20/20 Vision programme is so important. The former MI5 officers have made allegations which are not being denied and which remain the central issue in spite of all Mr Brittan’s clever legal footwork. Nothing that Mr Brittan said yesterday, or that Lord Bridge said last week, has laid a glove on Ms Massiter’s allegations. That’s why Mr Roy Jenkins is right to thunder from the Chilterns. And that is also why, away from the limelight, Mr Brittan is currently planning a private shake-up of the security services that, intrinsically, gives the lie to yesterday’s bland reassurances.
The Guardian, March 26th, 1985
The Day in Politics: ‘MI5 chief will not be quizzed by MP’s’
The Prime Minister last night ruled out any possibility of the Director General of MI5, Sir Antony Duff, or other members of the security service, appearing before a Commons select committee,
Mrs Thatcher was asked to explain the Government’s policy on allowing the Director General to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee by Mr David Winnick one of its Labour members,
The committee has been considering a draft report on the Special Branch, but Labour members were demanding the reopening of its inquiry following the allegations in the Channel Four 20-20 vision film that the Special Branch was being used by MI5 in breach of the guidelines laid down on telephone interceptions. Labour members of the committee feel that Sir Antony should be brought before them, in camera if necessary, to enable their report to be completed properly.
The Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, yesterday declined to expand to Labour MP on how he had gone about his recent review of security operations following the Channel Four allegations.
The Opposition will be stepping up their demands for a Select Committee to be appointed to oversee the operation of telephone tapping and to make the security service answerable to Parliament for the first time, by amendments to the committee stage of the bill on telephone tapping.
Courier Mail, May 11th, 1985
Patricia Morgan, ‘The MI5 Spy who had a conscience’
The gardens around the moated ruins of 14th century Scotney Castle, in Kent, are among the most romantic in England. Ex-spy Cathy Massiter, now a trainee gardener, is happily at work there. At 37, she is through with espionage. For the rest of her life she intends to cultivate only things that flourish in the open. “”I am extremely relieved that I am not sitting in prison,” says the young woman whose obedience to her conscience, and not the Official Secrets Act, has made her notorious. An intelligence officer for 13 years, she spoke out recently because she could no longer be part of the phone-tapping abuses of MI5 which were in contravention of its own charter. She became deeply disturbed over the thousands of people being put on file without being remotely subversive, including Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) leaders, trade unionists, civil liberties people and even a pressure group for the homeless. “”What has happened has made all the risks worthwhile,” she now says. The political storm that blew up over what was the third successive security leak to embarrass Whitehall has been reverberating ever since. Cathy Massiter was convinced she would follow Sarah Tisdall, the civil servant jailed for six months last year for publicly divulging Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine’s secret date for arrival of cruise missiles. Then top civil servant, Clive Ponting, was charged under the Official Secrets Act for leaking facts over the Falklands Belgrano affair, but acquitted. Following that Cathy announced her bombshell. “”It had begun to seem to me that what the security service was being asked to do was to provide information on a party political basis. It was tapping phones and using undercover agents to satisfy politicians demands for intelligence on the peace movements.” The service’s code of conduct requires it to be kept absolutely free of political bias or influence. Lord Denning laid down that the “”security service should be used for one purpose only, the defence of the realm”. She went to her superiors, first to head of section, then assistant director, and finally the personnel branch, complaining that she could see MI5 giving in to persistent political pressure. “”I was told to consult a psychiatrist,” she explained on a TV program which aired her exposure to a disturbed nationwide audience and an embarrassed Government. The “”shrink” she saw had a security clearance to deal with the personal problems of MI5 officers. “”They were not really concerned about my mental health or they would not have let me carry on working, but the upshot of it all was that they made it very clear that I had to go,” she said. “”I had already decided to resign anyway and had told them so.” The Government allowed her retraining facilities, and within a few months she will finish her gardening course at Scotney Castle. “”I have not got the faintest idea what the future holds in store for me,” she told me, answering my questions through Geoffrey Seed, co-producer of 20/20, the TV program which unleashed the MI5 bombshell. She has refused a deluge of requests for interviews. Apart from the fact that she is still bound by the Official Secrets Act, she has said and done what she set out to say and do. She did not even seek the TV exposure. Geoffrey Seed and the other co-producer, Claudia Milne, found her. Like many a secret, it emerged innocently. There had been a letter published in the magazine New Scientist about the pressures on spies _ in this case relating to Michael Bettaney, who is now serving a long term for trying to give secrets to the Russians. Already deeply troubled, Cathy Massiter wrote a letter to the magazine saying, “”in the course of my own career I became increasingly at odds with myself about the nature of the work and its justifications”. The alert 20/20 team scented a story. “”We met her in July, 1984, and it was October before we did our first bit of film. We had many meetings but we could not put pressure on her. The risks of prison were very real,” explained Seed. Both he and his partner, Claudia Milne, are married, each with three children, and neither relished a spell in prison either. They are in their mid-30s. Cathy Massiter is a deeply serious woman, with an expression of serenity that seems to suggest a contemplative religious order, rather than the world of espionage. She is in fact very devout and is a deaconess of the Church of England. She took an English degree at London University and after graduating in 1968 did some social work in Liverpool and was finally a university librarian when MI5 recruited her, in 1970. In 1981 she was put in charge of surveillance of CND, even though the organisation had been taken off MI5’s list of subversive organisations. “”It was presented as more than ever necessary that we had to be able to answer very precisely whatever questions we were asked about CND and its subversive penetration, which meant the study had to be closer than it certainly would otherwise have been,” she said. The upshot was that MI5 got one of its agents, Harry Newton, a lecturer in trade union law and a life-long activist with Left-wing political groups, to join CND in 1982. Newton, who died least year, filed regular reports on the activities of CND headquarters, among them the opinion that Monsignor Bruce Kent, the general secretary, was a “”Crypto communist”. “”I saw no evidence to support this view,” said Cathy Massiter. She sympathises with some CND ideas but is against its arguments for unilateral nuclear disarmament and has never been a member. Monsignor Kent has subsequently denied being any kind of communist, Crypto or otherwise, and said MI5 overpaid Newton for his snooping. It bothered Massiter when the material MI5 was gathering was passed to a counter-propaganda unit, known as DS19, set up by Defence Secretary, Michael Heseltine, in March 1983, to combat CND’s unilateralist line. She felt the instructions to her by her superiors to pass non-classified information to a political body breached MI5’s code. Shortly after DS19 received the MI5 report, she was told MI5 would strongly favor the application of a tap to the phone of a communist target in CND. It bothered her that Home Secretary Leon Brittan, then authorised the tap, although he had said the campaign to change the Government’s thinking on nuclear disarmament was an entirely legitimate activity, which did not fall within the concerns of the security services. The phone tapped was that of John Cox, vice-president of CND and a member of the Communist Party, she said in the TV program. She questioned whether Cox met the proper criteria for phone tapping. “”We knew from our coverage of the Communist Party that he was not getting up to anything in CND,” she said. Under its charter, MI5’s domestic surveillance should be limited to subversives _ defined as those who threaten the State or seek to undermine Parliamentary democracy. Information was also obtained through tapping CND chairman Joan Ruddock. “”It was fully recognised that she had no subversive affiliation but now she was chairman they wanted a file opened,” she said. “”The problem of a category to fit Mrs Ruddock was solved when she gave an interview to a Soviet journalist based in London. The journalist was actually a KGB officer. Joan Ruddock did not know that, but it provided the ground for recording her as a contact of a hostile intelligence which was ridiculous.” Many other names of phone-tap victims spilled forth from Massiter’s exposure, which was backed up by another MI5 officer, whose identity has remained a secret. Barbara Egglestone, national organiser of Christian CND was bugged, so was Larry Goslin, general secretary of the National Council of Civil Liberties, Patricia Hewitt, former NCCL general secretary and now press and broadcasting officer to Opposition leader, Neil Kinnock. The other former MI5 agent said trade unionist’s phones were regularly tapped. Miners’ leader Arthur Scargill used to shout abuse at his “”listeners” during the 70s. His deputy Mick McGahey’s phone was bugged, too, but Mrs McGahey’s interminable chatter to friends and relatives had to be endured to discover information about him. Cathy Massiter was ordered to spread her investigation from CND’s national organisation to its regional structure and attended a series of Special Branch conferences. “”I think the Special Branch were confused about what we wanted. I’d get up and say we were only interested in real subversives. Then I’d speak to them later and say “well in fact we’d like quite a bit more than that’. “”It is impossible to say how many files there are on CND members who are not subversive but there are certainly thousands of them around the country. MI5 itself has 200 or 300 files on CND members who are not subversive under official definition.” The Housing Pressure Group shelter was monitored. And a new task was looking at graduate trainees starting work at the BBC, as well as any journalists in politically sensitive posts. Harriet Harman, a Labor MP who was also bugged, demanded information in a stormy debate in the Commons. But the Home Secretary has stuck to the line that authorisation of security surveillance is never denied or affirmed. Massiter is the only one to have gone public from inside MI5 while remaining in Britain. Peter Wright did it last year, but from the safe distance of Australia. The abuses she exposed were well aired during Commons debates on a Bill which creates a new offence of unauthorised tapping, establishes a tribunal to which aggrieved persons can take complaints and provides for unlimited damages if their complaints hold up. It now has to go to the Lords and could be law within months. As for Cathy Massiter she is taking stock of her own life. “”All I regret are the wasted years,” she says. “”From a personal point of view I am gratified the program has been taken very seriously in high places. “”It is wonderful to be free of the double life. When you are a spy you can never tell people what you do. You can’t say “I’m spying on the peace movement’. I am completely relieved I am no longer in MI5. “”But the way public attention has been focused on the problems that existed and still exist in MI5, and especially the scrutiny of phone tapping, makes the risks I ran under the Official Secrets Act worthwhile.” CATHY Massiter . . . out in the cold. It is wonderful to be free of the double life. I’m completely relieved. SCOTNEY Castle, where ex-spy Cathy Massiter works as a gardener.
The Guardian, May 22nd, 1985
Paul Keel, ”Whitewash’ claims on special branch / Criticism of report by Commons home affairs committee’
A House of Commons committee which gave a clean bill of health yesterday to the activities of the police special branch was last night being accused of a whitewash by civil liberties spokesmen. Labour members of the inquiry team dissociated themselves from its findings.
The home affairs committee, which began its investigations into the special branch last November, concluded in its report yesterday that there were no grounds for public anxiety. It suggested that recent fears about the activities of such police officers in the areas of political and industrial disputes were due to a basic misunderstanding of the role of the special branch.
Presenting the report at tbe House of Commons yesterday, the committee’s chairman, Sir Edward Gardner, Conservative MP for Fylde, was clearly aware of the criticism which would greet the report. ‘This inquiry has not been abortive. It is not a whitewash, it was never intended to be a whitewash. It was intended to be and was an earnest and active inquiry into the special branch.‘
But the four Labour members of the committee, who produced a minority report calling for an independent investigation into the role of the special branch, said that their seven Conservative colleagues on the committee had never seriously sought to examine the issue.
One of the Labour members, Mr David Winnick, MP for Walsall North, said that the committee’s decision not to take evidence from individual special branch officers had seriously inhibited its inquiry. Two others, Miss Clare Short (Birmingham Ladywood) and Mr Robin Corbett (Erdington) complained that the committee had refused to take evidence in several cases where allegations had been made of the special branch exceeding its guidelines.
Miss Short said that these included people involved in trade union, political and peace activities, such as Mrs Madeline Haig, from Sutton Coldfield, who was the subject of inquiries by West Midlands special branch after she wrote to a local newspaper protesting at the siting of cruise missiles in Britain.
Sir Edward acknowledged yesterday that his committee had been restricted in its inquiries by the need not to disclose anything which might damage national security.
But, he said, it was worth repeating the words of Mr Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary, who had told the committee that it was the individual cases where something went wrong that tended to come to the public’s attention: ‘But what is less well known is the success of the special branches. It cannot be known, because it cannot be proclaimed.
‘When hundreds of innocent people are saved from a bomb because of the information that the special branch have obtained, which enables them to step in. before the bomb actually explodes, that is something that I cannot talk about and the special branch officers cannot talk about. ‘However it happens, and it happens frequently. There are many people in this country who are alive but who would be dead if the special branch did not exist.’
But Sir Edward’s observations failed to convince the opposition parties in the Commons yesterday or critics outside the House, Mr Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader, accused the Consevative majority on the committee of a copout and said their inquiries had failed to answer any of the questions, including the essential one of how the special banch defined subversion. ‘We still stick with the idea that if you organise a strike you can be held to be subversive and investigated by the special branch.‘
Mr Alan Beith, the Liberal Chief whip and MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, said the committee’s findings were complacent and unconvincing. ‘the committee’s report has failed to tackle the key problem of controlling the special branch – that is, how to ensure that they are properly accountable whilst still being able to carry out their essential work.’
The National Council for Civil Liberties said that the committee’s report was meaningless because it had specifically excluded from its enquiries special branch work dealing with the security service and it had excluded individual complaints.
Ms Marie Staunton, the NCCL’s legal officer, said last night: ‘The committee received disturbing evidence that the special branch kept unnecessary records on local MPs, councillors, members of CND and Friends of the Earth.
‘In order to reassure the public about personal privacy and ensure an efficient special branch, the Government should set up a commission of persons with security clearance to carry out an inquiry into these matters similar to that completed in South Australia.’
The Guardian, May 22nd, 1985
Paul Keel, ‘MP’s split on restricted special branch review / Results of investigation by Commons’ home affairs committee’
The bounds of national security restricted from the start MPs’ inquiries into the activities of the police special branch, the Commons committee on home affairs says in the introduction to its report.
Within such strict limits – as the Conservative majority on the committee described their terms of reference, and which their Labour colleagues complained had defeated the object of the exercise – the inquiry set out to examine the grounds for suspicions that the special branch persecuted harmless citizens for political reasons, acted in nefarious ways to assist the security services, and was a threat to civil liberties.
In their majority report yesterday the Conservative members concluded that many of the suspicions derived from a serious misunderstanding about the nature and purpose of the work carried out by the 43 divisions of the Special branch in England and Wales.
As defined by Home Office guidelines, the report noted that the special branch operated in two areas; the fight against subversion and terrorism and the job of helping to preserve public order. Both functions involved the gathering of information likely to assist these objectives.
On public order, the committee said that the special branch did not concern itself with opinions of individuals or with the merits of any particular industrial or political dispute. It accepted evidence from the Home Secretary and the Association of Chief Police Officers that the sole object of such inquiries was to gather intelligence about the necessary levels of policing and whether there were any persons who would seek to exploit disputes for subversive purposes.
‘We are satisfied that such public concern as may exist about special branch investigations in relation to public order is unfounded, and we hope that the clear statement of the functions of special branches in this matter contained in the (Home Office) guidelines will dispel it,’ the report said.
As for subversion, the definition provided by Lord Harris of Greenwich in 1975 – then a Labour government minister at the Home Office – remained adequate to outline those who would be the proper subjects of investigation.
Such persons were those ‘threatening the safety or well-being of the state,’ and ‘intending to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means.’ The report concluded that it agreed with the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, that the definition stood the test of time.
The guidelines were sufficiently narrow- not to encourage unnecessary inquiries and broad enough to enable the security of the realm to be adequately protected.
On the keeping of special branch records, the report expressed confidence that individual police forces would – if only for reasons of convenience and efficiency – delete old and irrelevant material about individuals. Referring to evidence from the Home Secretary, it stated: ‘We accept his view that there is no point in a special branch dealing with a lot of inaccurate and wasteful material.’
With the caveat that evidence had been restricted and that the committee reserved its right to return to matters relating to the special branch, the report said: ‘We are satisfied, on the basis of the evidence which we have received, that the special branches of the police forces in England Wales do not justify public anxiety.’
ln a minority report, the Labour members oalled for a change in the present definition of ‘subversive,’ saying it gave too wide a discretion to the special branch. They also called for a ‘thorough inquiry into the practices and records of the special branch’ to be conducted by an independent commission of inquiry.
Complaining about the overall lack of parliamentary scrutiny of the security services in Britain, the minority report said: ‘We do strongly recommend that the work of the special branches should be debated from time to time in the House, and although some doubt was at the time expressed on grounds of security about the present inquiry, no one has now argued that the country has been endangered as a result of our investigations.’
The Guardian, June 15th, 1985
Harold Jackson, ‘Big Brother’s invisible men / Focus on the work of the Special Branch of the police’
The Home Office revelation of the size of police records should hardly have come as a surprise to any MP in the habit of reading the fine print. The inexorable expansion of police files has been implicit in a number of official reports over the past decade.
Eight years ago, the Callaghan government disclosed that some 24 million people were already listed in the computer system, with many more waiting to be entered from the old files. The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, however, was unwilling to explore what goes on record during the first Parliamentary investigation ever mounted into the operations of the Special Branch – Britain’s most controversial compilers of personal data.
In the words of the committee’s chairman, Sir Edward Gardner, ‘It is the policy of this committee not to investigate specific cases’ – a decision which seems to have stopped the inquiry studying a substantial body of evidence from witnesses who believe the Special Branch may not be as well-ordered as the Conservative majority on the committee judged it.
There has been a steady flow of incidents down the years suggesting that the secret records kept by the branch can contain highly inaccurate or questionable details of people’s political, trade union, and other legitimate activites. A few were aired by MPs on the committee, but the bulk remain in the files of local authorities and private groups.
It has been estimated that, in addition to the main police records, there are some 2.5 million individual files in the Branch’s own system. These records not only include such factual information as name, address, age and physical description, but data officially defined as ‘intelligence’ – suspect activities, known associates, and other less checkable nuggets.
For most of the century it has been in existence, of course, the Special Branch kept its records on bits of paper, with a card index cross-reference. Many of its files are still in that form but, like the rest of the world, computerised records (now called databanks) are taking over.
Nearly all information about the computer system is as highly classified as are the details of its contents. In the words of the head of Scotland Yard’sSpecial Branch, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Hewett, ‘We put a lot of people on record. They are not all computerised although we use the computer a great deal.’
The Police Review commented of one system: ‘Much of the information is valid intelligence. A substantial proportion is unchecked bunkum.’ The former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, Mr JC Alderson, said that he had discovered Special Branch files on local MPs, councillors, anti-nuclear power campaigners, members of CND, and of Friends of the Earth.
‘I found that officers, often with the best of intentions, had made records of things about people which I thought were totally unnecessary. They had nothing to do with criminal affairs at all but in their view were sufficiently of interest to the Special Branch and probably the security services to warrant being recorded. A very high proportion of the records were either out-of-date, useless or of the kind one would not want to keep.’
The Police National Computer can be accessed from about 500 terminals installed in police stations throughout the country. It allows all police forces to call up the index to the five million personal files of the Criminal Records Office, the index to 3.5 million sets of fingerprints, the details of every vehicle in the country with 35 million owner’s names and addresses, the list of 350,000 stolen and suspect vehicles, of 300,000 disqualified drivers, and of some 110,000 wanted and missing persons.
The Lindop Committee on Data Protection reported that the Home Office had acknowledged that the CRO records ‘were not entirely accurate or complete.’ The committee commented that ‘the linking of factual personal information about an identifiable individual with speculative data about criminal activity could pose a grave threat to that individual’s interests.’
And there is unquestionable evidence that this has happened. The police computer system allows what is known as ‘flagging,’ through which comments can be entered into the national vehicle register or other records. The Lindop Committee found, for example, that one car record included a note that the vehicle was believed to have been used in a bank robbery. It is not clear how authentic such information must be to get on to the file.
Much will depend on the judgment of the police collator, the officer responsible for processing and recording data for the files. In addition to normal criminal information – arrests, convictions, and the like – there is also the collation of ‘occurrences.’ This covers almost anything a constable may enter into his notebook, regardless of its immediate relevance.
The decision to include the encoded date of birth on British driving licences was in the interest of police computerisation since it is the key to the data bank files. There may be 10,000 John Smiths, but not many of them were born on the same day. The moment one of them produces his driving licence there is enough information on it to allow a patrolling policeman to call up his file.
The centralisation of the files and the capacity of the police computer to carry out multi-factor searches has significantly changed the nature of the records. It is now possible to ask for the record of any fair-haired male of 26 who owns a green Chrysler registered in Liverpool. Within moments the inquirer will have been offered a selection of records with whatever flagged notes may have been added to them.
And the quality of these comments is impossible to guess. The observation that bill Brown was probably the wheels man in a recent smash-and-grab could be the shrewd observation of a seasoned detective. But what is one to make of the notation in one of the Devon files that the subject ‘had lunch with Wedgwood Benn’?
There have been enough authenticated cases of misinformation to raise legitimate worries about what may be on file about individuals. The most startling in recent years was probably that of Ms Jan Martin, listed in the files as an associate of the Baader-Meinhoff terrorist group. She was only able to discover this because her father was a former chief superintendent at Scotland Yard.
It eventually transpired that the note was based on the supposed resemblance of her husband to one of the German terrorists, reported to the Dutch police by a witness in an Amsterdam restaurant. Without her father’s influence, presumably, she would never have been able to discover what had been recorded against her.
According to the Home Office, there are now 1,249 Special Branch officers in England and Wales, roughly six times as many as there were 20 years ago. But they are not members of one force – each of the 52 separate police forces in Britain has its own branch. By far the largest is that of the Metropolitan Police which has been given specific responsibility for dealing with Irish terrorism.
Some country forces have no more than a handful of officers seconded to the Special Branch on a rotating basis.
The Met’s Special Branch was the first to be formed in 1883, as a response to the Fenian campaign for Irish independence. Two years later it became part of the Criminal Investigation Department and was limited to between 15 and 20 men. That had swelled to well over 100 by the end of the second world war and to 225 by the time Harold Wilson became Prime Minister.
Now it has 379 officers, and there is a Special Branch unit in each of the capital’s 24 police districts. The greatest proportion of the officers, according to their commander, regard their membership of the branch as their career and will stay in it for their whole service. At any given time, 73 of them are assigned to Heathrow or the Port of London and another 67 are acting as armed bodyguards. The Irish Squad numbers about 70 members and there are some 100 officers in the Anti-Terrorist Squad. The current cost of the Met’s Special Branch operations is about pounds 15 million.
Government guidelines require each Special Branch to gather information about threats to public order; assist the security services to combat espionage and sabotage; provide information about extremists and terrorists; keep restricted diplomats (mainly Soviet) and foreign officials within bounds; protect the royal family and other public figures; maintain surveillance at airports and seaports; deal with immigration and naturalisation inquiries; and examine all incidents involving firearms and explosives.
The relationship with the security services – principally MI5 – is both obscure and complex. One of the constitutional oddities of British military intelligence is that its officers have no official status: they can no more execute warrants or arrest suspects than can any other citizen. Officers of the Special Branch, as sworn constables, have to do that for them.
It is acknowledged that MI5 helps in the training of Special Branch men. Mr Alderson told MPs: ‘The security services from time to time would run courses for the provincial forces.’ But there have been repeated allegations of a far closer relationship. In part this stems from the official requirement that the Special Branch deal with ‘subversion’ – an ill-defined concept which requires highly-political decisions and touches heavily on civil liberties.
The official notion of subversion is contained in the Home Office guidelines. They say that it comprises activities which ‘threaten the safety or well-being of the state, and which are intended to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy by political, industrial, or violent means.’ The imprecision of this formula is evident in trying to decide whether the ‘well-being’ of the state is threatened, or whether a given action is ‘intended’ to achieve an undesirable aim.
It is not at all clear how this definition evolved and it has been the subject of constant criticism by lawyers and others. It sprang, apparently unbidden, from Lord Harris of Greenwich (then a junior Home Office minister) during a House of Lords debate in February 1975. The significant departure from what had previously been taken as the norm was that Lord Harris omitted any reference to breaking the law.
In 1963 Lord Denning had described subversion as ‘contemplating the overthrow of the government by unlawful means’ but this rather precise formulation has been steadily eroded over the past 20 years. Not only has its confinement to illegal activities been dropped, but there has been a growing tendency to elide the distinction between subversion and terrorism. A clue to the reason for the official blurring may have been offered by Mr Leo Abse during a Commons debate on nuclear power. ‘As a lawyer,’ he said, ‘I know of no crime of ‘ subversion ‘ in English law.’
It has been impossible, other than in the occasional incidents which have unwittingly emerged in public, to gauge how the Special Branches choose to interpret their official instructions.
For most of the century, in fact, the Clerks’ table at the House of Commons automatically rejected members’ questions about the branch and all parliamentry discussion was virtually taboo until Mr Robin Cook, the Labour MP for Edinburgh Central, finally managed to secure an adjournment debate in 1977. It was the first time in the history of the branch that Parliament had ever been allowed to consider its activities. Mr Cook secured another debate the following year, but both tended to raise more questions than they answered.
This secrecy survives in spite of the select committee’s unprecedented hearings. In an extraordinary exchange during the evidence, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Hewett flatly refused to give MPs the slightest information about the Scotland Yard files.
Ms Clare Short MP, who had raised the point, commented ‘I am not asking for the exact magnitude or an exact number. I am asking is it 100,000 or 10,000?’ Mr Hewett responded: ‘I do not think it is in the public interest to give the number of records that we keep.’
Some – but far from all – of the mystery has been lifted by academic and libertarian researchers and some of the information was put on record in the select committee proceedings. But there is still a deep reluctance to offer any but the most grudging information.
The concerns raised by this lack of information tend to be heightened when the Government occasionally lifts a tiny corner of the curtain. In December. the Home Secretary released details of new rules governing the police use of surveillance equipment. His announcement included the comment that ‘the criteria for the authorisation and use of listening devices and of certain types of visual surveillance are considerably tightened’. Yet his predecessors had repeatedly assured Parliament that all was well and that Special Branch officers were, in the words of Mr Merlyn Rees, ‘accountable in the same way as any other police officer’.
Many critics find it hard to understand how accountability can be ensured when there is so little information on what an officer is accountable for. As Home Secretary seven years ago, Mr Rees told the Commons, ‘The Special Branch collects information on those I think cause problems for the state,’ but, like previous and subsequent holders of the office, resolutely declined to elaborate.
Last year Mr Leon Brittan gave an equally gnomic answer, declaring that ‘There is a variety of ways in which the safety of the state may be threatened and attempts made to overthrow parliamentary democracy, Tactics which are not in themselves unlawful can be used with the aim of subverting our democratic system of government.’
Across the political divide, therefore, ministers have maintained an almost impenetrable Through-the-Looking-Glass stance on the rules governing the activities of the Special Branch,
This official resistance to releasing information has obliged researchers to tum to overseas institutions known to be based on the British model – notably the police forces of Canada and Australia. They have not offered a reassuring picture. In both oases Royal Commissions appointed to examine the operation of the security services uncovered startling malpractices.
The McDonald Commission was set up by the Trudeau government to investigate allegations against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the federal force which operates in eight of the country’s 10 provinces, the steady expansion in the range of the security branch’s surveillance led the federal cabinet to draw up tighter operational guidelines. The security service director responded with a confidential memorandum to his senior staff commenting ‘while at first glance the ingredients of our guidelines appear to be strict legal precepts, they are not.’
What followed was described by the Royal Commission as ‘a breakdown in the rule of law.’ Security branch officers carried out 47 illegal break-ins, either to examine files or install unauthorised listening devices. There were 94 established cases of mail interception and other instances of unauthorised use of the personal records stored in government information banks. In the words of the report, ‘the practice of law-breaking became institutionalised within the RCMP.’
The government took draconian action, immediately abolishing the security branch and replacing it with a new civilian agency.
Certainly the Australian Royal Commission’s results were well in the same tradition. The South Australian Special Branch was administered by a former chief constable from Yorkshire, Mr Harold Salisbury, and used methods formally acknowledged to be ‘influenced by the security services of the United Kingdom.’
The branch turned out to have been secretly compiling voluminous files on senior members of the Australian Labour Party at local and national level, a number of the state’s current and former governors, members of the Supreme Court and other judges, trade union officials, advocates of divorce law reform. civil libertarians, and a huge range of others.
There were 41,000 names in the card index and dossiers containing information which Mr Justice White described as ‘scandalously inaccurate, irrelevant to security purposes, and outrageously unfair to hundreds, perhaps thousands of loyal and worthy citizens.’ The surveillance had been undertaken because Mr Salisbury defined subversive activities as ‘a deliberate attempt to weaken public confidence in the government and/or the constitution’ – a formula briskly dismissed as ‘nonsensical’ in one of the subsequent judicial reports.
But, just before he was dismissed, the South Australilan police commissioner offered an even more alarming interpretation of his official role in an interview with the state’s premier, Don Dunstan. Mr Salisbury told the premier that the Special Branch ‘had duties which I consider to the Crown and to the law, not to any political party or elected government.’ Justice Roma Mitchell described it as a statement which ‘suggests an absence of understanding of the constitutional system of South Australia or, for that matter, of the United Kingdom.’
The Guardian, July 13th, 1985
Tom Sharratt and David Pallister, ‘Council suspects MI5 of raids / Manchester council’s police monitoring committee claims illegal state activities may have occured’
MI5 or the Special Branch may have been responsible for break-ins at the offices of police research units set up by Manchester City Council and the Greater London Council, it was claimed yesterday.
A meeting of Manchester council’s police monitoring committee was told by the chairman, Mr Anthony McCardell: ‘I personally believe it is possible – it might even be probable – that there is some state agency involved.’
Personnel from both units are connected with the inquiry set up by Manchester council into allegations of police violence against demonstrators during a visit to Manchester University students’ union by the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, on March 1. Documents related to the inquiry were apparently the burglars’ main target.
The units were set up to research police activities for the councils’ police committees. They were a response to growing demands for more police accountability to local authorities.
The first break-in happened on June 25, between 9 pm and 10 pm at the London unit’s sixth floor offices in county hall.
Mr Tony Bunyan, the deputy director of the unit and a member of the Manchester inquiry, returned to the office at 10 pm to find the lights on and an internal fire door off the latch.
Mr Bunyan found that the key to a filing cabinet had been stolen as well as his notebook of the inquiry’s public hearings. The cabinet held material concerning matters outside London. The notebook reappeared in another office of the unit three days later.
The Manchester unit, on the fourth floor of St James’ Building in the city centre, was ransacked the following night. It has given administrative support to the inquiry.
Mr Steven Wright, the director told the committee that the door had been forced and drawers smashed open. An inquiry file containing the transcripts of court statements relating to the events of March I had been moved, and pounds 1 of tea money was taken.
Mr Bunyan said last night: ‘I believe that whoever it was was probably looking for the private statements which have been made to our inquiry and the photographs that were taken by the students.’
None of these have been shown to the police inquiry into the incident headed by a 12-man team from Avon and Somerset police.
The Guardian, July 15th, 1985
Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Unions challenge security ruling / Civil Service unions question definition of ‘subversion”
The new definition of subversion accepted by Mrs Thatcher gives too much scope to the security services, particularly by encouraging them to keep surveillance on trade unionists, Civil Service union leaders have told the Government.
In a letter to Mr Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary, Mr Peter Jones, secretary of the Council of Civil Service Unions, says that the definition ‘provides too ready an excuse for the security services to intrude into the daily lives of trade unionists in a way more attuned to a police state than to a western democracy.’
Under guidelines revealed in a written parliamentary answer just before the Easter recess, Mrs Thatcher said that a subversive group would be defined as one ‘whose aims are to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy .. by political, industrial, or violent means.’
Though this form of words is used by the Special Branch and in the Government’s Interception of Communications Bill, it is significantly broader than the one proposed in the 1982 Security Commission report on which Mrs Thatcher says she based the guidelines covering employees in the public sector.
The commission referred to only ‘the proliferation of new subversive groups of the extreme left and the extreme right (mainly the former) whose aim is to overthrow democratic parliamentary government by violent or other unconstitutional means.’
Civil Service unions are concerned over the guidelines’ reference to industrial action. Trade union activities are normally a peaceful and perfectly legal method of representation, Mr Jones says in his letter to
The Government has defended its definition by referring to a similar form of words used in a speech by Lord Harris, then a Labour Home Office minister, in February, 1965. Lord Harris, was making an ex parte statement unconnected with any proposed legislative or administrative change, says Mr Jones.
‘We are mystified, therefore, as to how this apparently off-the-cuff, isolated, statement has come to be elevated into an important working definition, which guides the security services in their day-to-day work in this delicate and controversial area.’
The Guardian, July 22nd, 1985
David Pallister, ‘Policemen ‘persecute students who protested against Brittan’ / Inquiry into police action during Manchester University demonstration against visiting Home Secretary’
Students who demonstrated against a visit by the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan, have been harassed and threatened by a group of policemen, it is claimed.
Allegations of violent police behaviour during the demonstration at Manchester University students’ union, in which 33 people were arrested and 40 injured, have led to an internal police investigation and an independent panel of inquiry set up by Manchester council’s police monitoring committee.
A number of students have made private statements to the panel headed by Mr John Platts-Mills, QC, claiming that they have been stopped repeatedly on the streets by policemen who make veiled threats based on information about their private lives and political opinions.
Different statements, from students unknown to each other, have mentioned in particular two plain clothes officers who drive a W registration red Ford Cortina.
One student says he was detained, stripped, assaulted and left naked in a cell for an hour, ostensibly for a drugs search, and interrogated about his politics.
Mr Steven Shaw, a 22-year-old politics and philosophy student, has also had his house broken into; the only thing missing was material for his thesis on police technology. At one stage, on the advice of his tutor, Professor Roger Williams, he was provided with safe accommodation on the university’s Whitworth park campus, paid for from the university registrar’s special fund.
These events coincided with two suspicious burglaries at Manchester and London council offices where documents relating to the students’ inquiry have been tampered with. Last week, the chairman of Manchester’s police monitoring committee, Mr Anthony McCardell, said he could not rule out the involvement of M15 or the special branch.
Mr Shaw went to the demonstration on Friday, March 1, to protest about Mr Brittan’s immigration policy and the policing of the miners’ strike. The next Monday, at a large students’ union meeting, Mr Shaw volunteered to liaise with the council police committee’s support unit to set up a defence group for those arrested and to discuss ways of holding an inquiry.
The next afternoon he returned to his home in Oldham to find the door smashed and a file of research material missing. His stereo and television were untouched. The file was marked ‘police’ on the front and ‘police technology and criticisms of’ on the back.
That evening he gave details of the burglary to Professor Williams, Mr Steven Wright, head of the police committee support unit, and to the students’ union executive.
Two days later, Mr Shaw was stopped in his car by uniformed police officers who claimed he was speeding. It was the first of five similar incidents to happen over the next nine weeks.
At first he refused to accept the form requiring him to produce his car documents and was taken to a police station. He says the desk sergeant told him: ‘You’re the one making allegations about your thesis.’
Mr Shaw says: ‘I had definitely not reported it to the police. Someone must have told them about the meeting at the union executive.’
On May 14, Mr Shaw says he was stopped by the red Cortina and invited to a police station by the two plain clothes officers ‘to help with inquiries into Leon Brittan’s visit.’
Mr Shaw says he was asked about his role in the defence group, why he had gone on the demonstration and about his political affiliations. He was refused a solicitor and a doctor and was then instructed to take his clothes off by the younger of the two officers who said they suspected him of carrying drugs. The search included an anal inspection he says.
He complained but was now allowed to dress. ‘It was at this stage that I got punched in the stomach by the younger one and slapped in the face. They both went outside and took the clothes with them. I was left naked and alone for about an hour.’
This was followed by another 90 minutes of questions. Just before he was released one of the officers said he knew the timetable of Mr Shaw’s final examinations and suggested that he may not make it to them. ‘They said: ‘When you are walking along the street, you could be stopped at any time’.’
Mr Shaw feared for his safety and, on the advice of his solicitor. left Manchester for his parents’ home in London. He returned to the city last month for exams and Professor Williams arranged the secure accommodation. Walking near the students’ union on June 7, he says a uniformed officer got out of a police van, walked over to him and said: ‘Oh, so you’re living at Whitworth Park now, are you?’
Mr Shaw’s experiences, and those of other students who have remained anonymous, prompted Mr Platts-Mills to refer to their cases at the opening of the independent inquiry on June 15.
He said that a number of students had been ‘so pursued, harried, harassed and beset’ that they had been unable to get on with their studies and had left Manchester.
Mr Platts-Mills said last night: ‘We have had firm and most unhappy evidence about interference with students by police. At least three were advised by their student body and their professors to leave the university for a time in order to finish studying for their finals.
‘We have had confirming evidence about many of the allegations made to the Guardian and are well forward with preparing our report, which is to be published in October.’
Mr Shaw and the other students have decided not to make formal complaints to Manchester police or to the 12 officers from Avon and Somerset under their deputy chief constable, Mr John Reddington, who are carrying out the internal police inquiry into the demonstration. However it is expected that their stories will be included in the report of the council’s panel.
Mr Reddington said after consulting with Manchester:
‘We have not received any complaints of this nature. they should be made to the deputy chief constable of Manchester, who I am sure will take them seriously. But I can’t imagine why any policemen would want to do these things. It will certainly have no effect on my inquiry.’
United Press International, July 29th, 1985
Ed Lion, ‘British government wants IRA documentary pulled’
The government Monday urged the British Broadcasting Corp. to cancel a television documentary featuring an interview with a suspected leader of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, saying the show would aid terrorism.
In what media analysts called an unprecedented warning in peacetime, Home Secretary Leon Brittan told BBC officials the film, scheduled to air Aug. 7 as part of a series called ”Real Lives,” was ”contrary to the national interest.”
A government spokesman said Brittan told the television executives he did not ”wish to exercise the powers of censorship.”
Brittan also stressed ”in the strongest terms that … the program appeared to be giving succor to terrorist organizations by the opportunity for public advocacy of terrorist methods of a prominent member of the IRA,” the spokesman said.
Brittan said the film ”gave spurious legitimacy to the use of violence for political ends,” the spokesman said.
But Paul Hamann, the program’s producer, said the film was balanced and gave viewers insight into political strife in Northern Ireland, where the IRA is waging a guerrilla war to wrest the province from British control.
”It is a legitimate piece of reporting,” said Hamann. ”I don’t think anyone seeing the film would feel it is helpful to the IRA.”
The BBC said its 12-member board of governors would meet Tuesday to consider the request.
The government move came two weeks after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher urged the media to voluntarily bar terrorists from obtaining publicity, and also followed her vow to ”condemn” the BBC if it screened interviews with the reputed IRA leader, Martin McGuinness.
The BBC is funded by a government tax on television users, but operates under a Royal Charter that assures its independence from the government and sets standards of fairness and balance in news reporting.
But the government has emergency powers to censor news reports in the interests of national security, as it did during the Falklands War against Argentina in 1982.
The program features an interview with McGuinness, who was convicted of IRA activities in Londonderry but is now a member of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. He is an elected — but absentee – member of the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast which acts as a consulting body to help advise on policies in Northern Ireland.
Security sources believe he is the IRA’s chief of staff, but in the documentary McGuinness refuses to confirm or deny the allegation.
”I believe for me to talk about that issue, to elaborate on it, would be to give information to the Special Branch (a British police unit) and the British military intelligence who may be watching this program,” McGuinness says in the documentary.
The Guardian, August 6th, 1985
UK News in Brief: ‘Met special branch’s new head / Appointment of Simon Crawshaw as head of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch’
Home Office approval is expected this week for the appointment of Commander Simon Crawshaw as head of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, the largest in the country. He will be promoted to Deputy Assistant Commissioner, writes Stephen Cook.
Mr Crawshaw is to take over from Deputy Assistant Commissioner Colin Hewett, head of the special branch since 1980, who was recently appointed to head the new National Drugs Intelligence Unit, set up by the Home Secretary, Mr Leon Brittan.
Mr Crawshaw, aged 42, took over the Anti-Terrorist Branch (C13) nine months ago. His latest move coincides with a plan for C13 andspecial branch to work more closely. In the past they have sometimes duplicated work and failed to share information.
The Guardian, August 19th, 1985
Leading Article: ‘Brigadier behind closed doors at the BBC / Row over vetting of broadcasting corporation staff’
The BBC seems determined to prove that, as far as its own affairs are concerned, any publicity is bad publicity. Just at the time when the Peacock committee (as its chairman hinted publicly in Edinburgh yesterday) seems poised to insert the commercial knife between the corporation’s public service shoulder-blades, the BBC has become accident-prone. First, of course, there was the disreputable saga of the on-off Real Lives documentary, whose worldwide fall-out has not yet been fully quantified. And now, displaying the unerring clumsiness of the walking wounded, the BBC is faced with the revelations about the brigadier in Room 105.
It is easy to respond with worldly wisdom when you read that behind the door of Room 105 in Broadcasting House there lurks Brigadier Ronnie Stonham, formerly of the Signals Regiment, single-handedly weeding out all pinko job applicants and making sure that the lefties don’t get promotion. Most state-financed broadcasting stations like to vet the political credentials of their journalists. Our own security services take a more than casual interest in appointments to senior journalistic posts (and not just in the BBC) especially among foreign correspondents. And, looking at it even more cynically, what kind of a thought police is it anyway that can turn up a mere eight cases – if that’s all there be – of political blocking in a period of 20 years among a staff of 30,000 people – and only two during the Thatcher years?
Easy to be worldly wise, but mistaken. You do not have to buy the full conspiracy version to sense that there is something pretty corrosive and hypocritical going on here. The tales of the brigadier don’t, in themselves, prove that the BBC’s independence, of which so much has been heard this month, is an entire sham. They do not justify the crude conclusion that Mr Leon Brittan, in his capacity as the boss of MI5 and the Special Branch, controls the whole staffing and policy of the corporation through a vetting system which extends from the governors down to anyone who has ever done a day’s work for the BBC. But they do expose the country’s principal broadcasting organisation to the charge that it has long connived in a degree of routine interference by an unaccountable and reactionary secret service that is fundamentally at odds with the principles of editorial independence and political pluralism.
One casualty of the latest revelations ought logically to be the gut belief, apparently held by all Conservative MPs, that the BBC is a nest of left-wing vipers. It is that belief which is impelling the Cabinet, through the mechanism of the Peacock inquiry, towards the fullscale destruction of the foundations on which the BBC stiil rests. The vetting revelation, however, shows that those foundations are very fragile. It further erodes the principle of editorial independence. A confident and united BBC stands some chance of resisting the government’s increasingly determined assault. But a divided and suspicious BBC is a target with very few defences.
The Guardian, August 22nd, 1985
Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Secret vetting spreads its net far and wide / Screening of public sector staff by the security services’
Sixty-six thousand people working in the public sector or in state-owned companies, such as British Nuclear Fuels, know they have been vetted. But there are many more, including those in private firms, who are vetted by the security services without being told, inquiries have revealed.
The open admission that a person will be investigated is the crucial difference between the system known as positive vetting – to which senior officials in the Ministry of Defence or Foreign Office are subjected – and the more widespread ‘negative vetting’ which the BBC operates.
Positive vetting is a formal procedure, albeit open to abuse, with the subject asked to fill in a questionnaire about whether he or she has contacts with Communist, Fascist or Trotskyist organisations, and to give the names of referees.
Negative vetting is more discreet, and is used to investigate officials at a relatively low level in the Civil Service. It also covers trade unionists in the public sector and employees in British Telecom, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Post Office and companies, notably those involved in defence and energy supply.
M15, which has 500,000 names on its files, and the Special Branch report to the Government or the relevant employer in what is described as the ‘nothing known against routine’ if the subject of the investigation is cleared.
One error on the file can ruin a person’s career. Not only is he or she unaware of the investigation, there is no right of access to personal files to check their accuracy.
Lord Bethell, the writer on Eastern Europe and Conservative Euro-MP for Northwest London, spoke yesterday of how he had been the victim of a smear campaign by M15 in 1970. He said that his requests to see the security services to point out that allegations against him were untrue were met by a wall of silence.
He resigned as a junior minister and, with Mr Leon Brittan, now Home Secretary, acting in his defence, won a libel action against Private Eye where the allegations appeared.
Lord Bethell said that M15, had not properly checked out the information it was given about him. He called yesterday for legislation, similar to that in the United States to give individuals access to files held on them and to enable errors to be corrected.
Four years ago, Ms Jan Martin, a freelance film producer was told by the construction company, Taylor Woodrow, that she would not be welcome on their premises. According to Special Branch files, she had connections with the Baader-Meinhof gang.
This false allegation was based on information passed by a cafe-owner in Holland, where Ms Martin was on holiday. The cafe-owner mistook her husband for a member of the gang. The mistake on the Special Branch file was established by Ms Martin’s father, a former detective chief superintendent at Scotland Yard.
A Home Office circular instructs police forces to give information to the relevant ‘professional or public bodies’ about a range of individuals, including magistrates, dentists, nurses, those responsible for the care of children, and youth leaders. The information is supposed to be restricted to evidence of any criminal conviction.
Since April, vetting procedures have been backed up by sweeping new powers enabling ministers to weed out employees in ‘the public service,’ the UK Atomic Energy Authority, the Civil Aviation Authority, British Telecom, the Post Office, the police, and firms engaged on government contracts.
Mrs Thatcher said that the purge procedure would be extended to anyone who is a member of a Communist or Fascist organisation, or ‘of a subversive group, acknowledged as such by the minister, whose aims are to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy .. by political, industrial or violent means.’
This is a wider definition of subversive even than that proposed by the Security Commission. Civil servants, including senior officials, believe it could lead to vetting and purges based on narrow political criteria rather than on a genuine need to protect the security of the state.
Guardian Weekly, August 25th, 1985
‘The brigadier in Room 105’
THE BBC seems determined to prove that, as far as its own affairs are concerned, any publicity is bad publicity. Just at the time when the Peacock committee seems poised to insert the commercial knife between the corporation’s public service shoulder-blades, the BBC has become accident-prone. First, of course, there was the disreputable saga of the on-off Real Lives documentary, whose worldwide fall-out has not yet been fully quantified. And now, displaying the unerring clumsiness of the walking wounded, the BBC is faced with the revelations about the brigadier in Room 105.
It is easy to respond with wordly wisdom when you read that behind the door of Room 105 in Broadcasting House there lurks Brigadier Ronnie Stonham, formerly of the Signals Regiment, single-handedly weeding out all pinko job applicants and making sure that the lefties don’t get promotion. Most state-financed broadcasting stations like to vet the political credentials of their journalists. Our own security services take a more than casual interest in appointments to senior journalistic posts (and not just in the BBC), especially among foreign correspondents. And, looking at it even more cynically, what kind of a thought police is it anyway that can turn up a mere eight cases — if that’s all there be — of political blocking in a period of 20 years among a staff of 30,000 people — and only two during the Thatcher years?
Easy to be worldly wise, but mistaken. You do not have to buy the full conspiracy version to sense that there is something pretty corrosive and hypocritical going on here. The tales of the brigadier don’t, in themselves, prove that the BBC’s independence, of which so much has been heard this month, is an entire sham. They do not justify the crude conclusion that Mr Leon Brittan, in his capacity as the boss of MI5 and the Special Branch, controls the whole staffing and policy of the corporation through a vetting system which extends from the governors down to anyone who has ever done a day’s work for the BBC. But they do expose the country’s principal broadcasting organisation to the charge that it has long connived in a degree of routine interference by an unaccountable and reactionary secret service that is fundamentally at odds with the principles of editorial independence and political pluralism.
One casualty of the latest revelations ought logically to be the gut belief, apparently held by all Conservative MPs, that the BBC is a nest of left-wing vipers. It is that belief which is impelling the Cabinet, through the mechanism of the Peacock inquiry, towards the fullscale destruction of the foundations on which the BBC still rests. The vetting revelation, however, shows that those foundations are very fragile. It further erodes the principle of editorial independence. A confident and united BBC stands some chance of resisting the government’s increasingly determined assault. But a divided and suspicious BBC is a target with very few defences.
Posted: November 20, 2014 Filed under: Abuse, Conservative Party, Geoffrey Dickens, PIE, Politics, Westminster | Tags: alistair smith, allan johnston, andrew brown, animal liberation front, anthony gilberthorpe, bertie grieve, bill hiddleston, brian docherty, carol black, carolyn gell, charlotte fairbairn, childline, clare short, colin tucker, cyril smith, david atkinson, david blair wilson, david mellor, derek donaldson, derry irvine, donald dewar, duncan campbell, edinburgh, elizabeth mackay, elm guest house, esther rantzen, fairburn, fettesgate, fiona woolf, frank doherty, Geoffrey Dickens, graeme pearson, graham power, graham robertson, grampian police, greville janner, harriet harman, henry john burnett, ian campbell dunn, irene mcgugan, jack dromey, james baigrie, james friel, jim wallace, jimmy smith, john hamilton, john smith, judy rumbold, kenneth erickson, lady butler-sloss, larchgrove boys home, leon brittan, lesley boal, lesley hinds, lord dervaird, lord hardie, lord mccluskey, lord prosser, lothian and borders police board, lucy morton, lyndsay mcintosh, magic circle, margaret thatcher, marianne stewart, mark reckless, menzies campbell, michael havers, michael matheson, michael russell, napac, national child abuse investigation unit, nazareth house, nicholas fairbairn, nigel emslie, NSPCC, olga sunter, operation cayacos, operation fairbank, Operation fernbridge, operation midland, operation planet, operation ulysses, paedophile information exchange, patricia hewitt, paul ferris, pete wishart, peter brown, peter morrison, peter righton, peter saunders, richard whittam, robert henderson, roger orr, sarah boyack, scottish minorities group, simon danczuk, steven adrian smith, susie henderson, tam dalyell, tom watson, tom wood, wanless, william crowe, william hiddleston, william nimmo smith, william sutherland
[Continued from Part 1]
The Herald, February 21st, 1996
James Mckillop, ‘Journalist receives Fettesgate apology’
SCOTTISH journalist and broadcaster Duncan Campbell has broken new ground by winning an apology from the Broadcasting Complaints Commission over a Channel 4 documentary on the so-called Fettesgate scandal.
The Scotsman newspaper will be asked to carry the apology tomorrow over its role in publishing some of the attack on the award-winning reporter.
A break-in at Lothian Police headquarters was a legitimate ground for journalistic investigation.
In doing so Mr Campbell reported the activities of criminal Derek Donaldson and as a consequence was seriously beaten up. Donaldson went to jail for the attack.
Nevertheless, Donaldson appealed to the BCC that Mr Campbell had been unfair to him and had infringed his privacy. The BCC upheld that complaint.
Campaigning journalist Campbell wrote an article in Broadcast magazine defending his role. Incensed, the BCC’s secretary, Mr Robert Hargreaves, wrote an article in reply and some of his remarks were published in the Scotsman.
The comments made by Mr Hargreaves were at the heart of a libel action that has now been settled out of court.
In an agreed statement between the parties, it is made clear that Mr Campbell was entitled to attack criticisms of him by the BCC.
In addition, the BCC will admit that Mr Hargreaves’s article in reply wrongly suggested that Mr Campbell was connected to criminals interviewed in the programme.
The apology will go on to say: “The commission also accept that it was wrong for the article to have suggested that Mr Campbell attempted to eavesdrop on Mr Donaldson’s telephone conversations.
“The article repeated critical comments about Mr Campbell’s alleged conduct towards him and his mother going beyond what could be supported by the commission’s findings in their adjudication.”
The BCC will say in its apology that the article was not intended to be an attack on Mr Campbell’s sincerity or his integrity as a campaigning journalist and that the commission regretted a contrary impression that might have been given.
Mr Campbell said last night: “The most astonishing thing is it got to this stage. It took a court case to get BCC to admit that criminal violence was wrong.”
Scotland on Sunday, March 19th, 2000
Peter Laing, ‘Police uncover plot to smear senior officers’
TWO of Scotland’s most senior police officers – one now a chief constable – were placed under surveillance by their own men in a determined plot to destroy their careers.
A handful of rogue detectives in the Lothian and Borders force, embittered by lack of promotion and what they viewed as attacks on CID, kept their bosses under close observation in a failed bid to find evidence of wrongdoing.
Scotland on Sunday can reveal that those targeted in the conspiracy were Andrew Brown, at the time Assistant Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders and now head of Grampian police, and Tom Wood, the force’s deputy chief.
There is also evidence that former deputy chief Graham Power was on the list.
Last October a detective made serious allegations of corruption against Wood which have been under investigation for the past five months by John Hamilton, the head of Fife police. Tomorrow, Hamilton is expected to tell a meeting of Lothian and Borders Police Board that the allegations against Wood are groundless.
But the inquiry has revealed that as well as individual officers unhappy with the management of the force, some conspired together in the hope they could undermine its entire management. Wood’s flat in Edinburgh was recently broken into and searched. Force insiders say the crime, for which no one has been caught, could be related.
Last night, politicians expressed shock that serving CID officers had spied on their own chiefs and called for a full inquiry into the scandal.
The plot to topple the leadership of Scotland’s second-biggest force had its origins in the 1992 Fettesgate Affair, which enveloped Lothian and Borders in scandal for months.
The force’s headquarters at Fettes in Edinburgh were broken into and a secret report on the alleged influence of gays on the justice system was stolen. Heads rolled within CID when it emerged detectives had struck an immunity deal with the intruder for the return of the report.
Bitterness within CID over the Fettesgate fall-out was compounded with the introduction, from the mid-90s, of a policy called ‘tenure’, where officers were rotated out of jobs. Many long-serving detectives were furious at being moved out of the elite to other sections in the police.
Andrew Brown was appointed head of CID in the wake of Fettesgate and later, as assistant chief in charge of the department, was blamed for much of the impact of tenure.
Wood, at the time an assistant chief, made enemies by blocking promotions and championing liberal policies on cannabis possession and prostitution.
Those two turned out to be the main targets for the renegade officers. A force insider said: “A handful of disgruntled officers decided enough was enough and it was time to hit back.
Our information is that Brown and Wood were followed as they went about their own business.”
The insider added: “What is truly disturbing about this is, if these officers are warped enough to spend their time stalking senior police officers rather than chasing criminals, how can they be trusted to protect the public?”
Neither Brown nor Wood was aware of being under observation. The operation only came to light after the corruption allegations were made against Wood. Officers came forward to say the CID men involved in the surveillance had told them about it.
Two weeks after the break in at Wood’s flat, allegations were made that he had halted a drugs operation against boyhood friend Kenneth Erickson, who served 13 years of a life sentence for murder.
After Hamilton’s report is presented in private to the police board tomorrow, it will go to the procurator fiscal for consideration.
Michael Matheson, the SNP’s deputy justice spokesman, said: “If there is evidence members of CID put Brown and Wood under surveillance, that is a matter for urgent investigation.”
Lyndsay McIntosh, Tory deputy spokeswoman on law and order, said last night she was shocked that renegade officers had been spying on their own bosses. “They have behaved worse than jealous old women when they should be chasing criminals,” she said. Lothian and Borders police refused to comment.
Scotland on Sunday, March 19th, 2000
Jeremy Watson, ‘Field Day for Scandal and Conspiracy’
THE events that became branded as Fettesgate took place during the summer of 1992, but had their roots in rumours which swept Edinburgh legal circles three years earlier concerning a ‘magic circle’ of gay judges who were somehow showing leniency to homosexual criminals.
The rumours were given momentum by the unexpected resignation in 1989 of a leading Scottish High Court judge.
Nothing was ever proved.
A bizarre breaking and entering at the Fettes headquarters of Lothian and Borders Police in July 1992 revived the affair and put it back on to the front pages of every newspaper in the country.
An intruder crept through an open window at night and stole documents from the CID offices. Animal Liberation Front slogans daubed on the walls were a cover for the real purpose of the raid – to obtain an internal police report that examined the ‘magic circle’ within the highest echelons of the Scottish judiciary. The report had been written by a senior detective who concluded that there was evidence to support such claims – a conclusion destined to be over-ruled by more senior officers including the then Chief Constable Sir William Sutherland.
That the report had fallen into the hands of the criminal fraternity was a major source of embarrassment to the force. Frantic efforts were made to recover it – leading to the downfall of some of Lothian’s top detectives.
The prime suspect thought to be behind the raid was Derek Donaldson, 32, a convicted fraudster and occasional police informant. Two detectives eventually promised Donaldson immunity from prosecution as long as the documents were returned. But once Sir William learned of the deal, he acted swiftly to veto it. Detective Chief Superintendent William Hiddleston retired. Detective Sergeant Peter Brown was put back into uniform. Other CID officers with a connection to the case were also forced to move departments.
But the embarrassment did not end there. The internal report and its controversial initial conclusion was later leaked to the Press, causing a major public inquiry. The Crown Office appointed a highly regarded QC, William Nimmo Smith, and a regional procurator-fiscal, James Friel, to investigate.
Before the report was officially published Nimmo Smith was duped into revealing his findings to a bogus journalist. The ‘journalist’ was none other than Derek Donaldson who immediately sold his ‘scoop’ to The Sun, indicating that the report had found no evidence of a homosexual conspiracy.
In May, Donaldson was jailed for assaulting a real journalist who had continued to investigate the events. But the reverberations are still being felt within a Lothian CID old guard who saw colleagues’ careers destroyed while management remained largely unscathed.
Scotland on Sunday, March 19th, 2000
Peter Laing, ‘Watching the Detectives’
IN OCTOBER last year, one of Scotland’s most senior policemen returned home to discover he had been the victim of something many of his officers spend much of their time investigating: a housebreaking.
The door to Tom Wood’s flat had been kicked wide open. Inside, it looked like a bomb had gone off. Locked drawers had been wrenched open and rifled, as had a box full of documents.
Those responsible had broken into the other three flats in the stair of the building in Edinburgh’s fashionable West End after bypassing an entryphone system, although the door was regularly left open.
Objects of minor value had been taken from the other flats, but Wood, the Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, was relieved to discover nothing at all had been stolen from his.
Scenes of crime officers duly toiled out to Wood’s flat. Close examination yielded no fingerprints or forensic evidence but Wood’s home appeared to have been searched more thoroughly than the others.
Two weeks later, a trashed home was the least of Wood’s worries. A long -serving detective with Lothian and Borders Police went to his bosses and made several serious allegations of corruption against the Deputy Chief Constable.
The ‘whistle-blower’ claimed Wood had arranged for a drugs operation against Kenneth Erickson, an old childhood friend who was also a convicted murderer, to be dropped. He claimed the two had bought properties together, and Wood allowed drugs and stolen goods to be stored there.
The Chief Constable of Fife, John Hamilton, was drafted in to investigate the allegations. Tomorrow, after five months, he will hand his findings to Lothian and Borders Police Board and it seems certain Wood will be cleared of any wrongdoing. It remains to be seen whether Wood can continue his meteoric rise as one of the country’s most forward-thinking police officers, and realise his long-cherished ambition to become a Chief Constable.
But the investigation has found that as well as a number of individual officers with complaints about the force’s very senior men, there were also some who got together to actively plot their downfall.
Scotland on Sunday can reveal that a handful of old-school CID men within Lothian and Borders were desperate to undermine not only Wood, but former Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Brown, who has since become Chief Constable of Grampian Police. There is evidence that the force’s former Deputy Chief Constable, Graham Power was also a target.
This is a story of how determined – and possibly brutal – efforts to modernise policing methods set dyed-in-the-wool officers on a collision course with ambitious career policemen. And it raises disturbing questions about how a small clique of embittered police officers who are prepared to put their own bosses under surveillance – and maybe even arrange break-ins to collect ‘dirt’ – can be trusted to deal with the public.
THE story starts with another break-in. This time it was the summer of 1992 and the location was Lothian and Borders Police headquarters at Fettes in Edinburgh. Fettesgate, as it was to become known, led to the departure from the CID of several old-school officers: men who considered themselves part of an elite, and who had little time for the finer details of modern police procedure.
In the aftermath of Fettesgate little, if any, blame was attached to force chiefs.
Wood, at the time an Assistant Chief Constable, went on to win promotion to deputy. Andrew Brown took the job as head of the CID from Bill Hiddleston, who quit when it emerged an immunity deal had been struck between the Fettesgate intruder and police. Brown was later promoted to Assistant Chief Constable before getting the top job at Grampian.
Graham Power, at the time an ACC, moved up to deputy and is now number two at the Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland.
In such circumstances, bitterness was sure to follow. But for those in the CID who were upset by Fettesgate, much worse was to come.
It was called tenure, and while it seems an innocuous term, its impact on police officers from the mid-1990s onwards was nothing short of seismic. Tenure meant doing away with the old system in which it was normal for police officers to spend their entire careers in one area, such as the CID, traffic, or uniform patrols.
Instead, they were to be moved from department to department every few years.
No one in the force will speak openly about these matters – least of all Wood himself – until the official announcement of the outcome of the inquiry. But it has been, as police themselves might say, the talk of the steamie for months.
One officer said: “Tenure caused a huge amount of bitterness. You had guys with almost 30 years in CID who were told with just a week’s notice they were back in uniform. You have to understand that CID was an elite. Tenure was brought in partly to stop people working in one place too long and becoming corrupt. But tenure destroyed careers – some old CID hands couldn’t stand the shame.”
The source added: “It was a national policy but it was imposed particularly ruthlessly in this force. I believe our CID was destroyed. So much expertise was lost. It wasn’t just CID. At one stage traffic was so short on properly trained drivers they couldn’t send enough patrol cars out.
Graham Power was seen as the one really pushing it hard. Andrew Brown was in charge of CID and got a lot of flak too.”
As far back as 1994, Power publicly accused elements in his own force of trying to smear him. He suffered excruciating embarrassment that year when a newspaper revealed he had left a garage near Falkirk without paying for petrol worth GBP 13.50. Power explained that after putting petrol in his car he picked a GBP 3.99 bunch of flowers and paid for them with a GBP 20 note, but forgot to pay for the petrol.
He said at the time: “I believe that false information regarding this incident has been leaked to the press by a disloyal employee seeking to damage the reputation of myself and the force.”
Three years later, mischief-making turned sinister when disaffected CID men decided to place their own bosses under surveillance. They hoped that by watching both Wood and Brown they would uncover evidence of wrongdoing with which to bring them down.
The information only came to light following the allegations against Wood last year. Officers came forward to say they had been told about the surveillance operation directly by those involved.
It is believed the conspirators used police time and resources over several months to maintain the surveillance regime. A source said: “We believe Wood and Brown were regularly followed after leaving work to see where they ended up.
Those involved in the surveillance were looking for anything at all to use against them, however small. What is truly disturbing about this is if these officers are warped enough to spend their time stalking senior police officers rather than chasing criminals how can they be trusted to protect the public? It shows how obsessed they had become.”
Shortly afterwards, Brown became chief in Aberdeen and Power moved across Edinburgh to the inspectorate, leaving Wood as the sole target for CID men smarting over liberal cops, Fettesgate, tenure, and lack of promotion.
Wood, promoted to Deputy Chief Constable in August 1998, was far from conciliatory. In fact, he tightened the screw on the CID.
“Wood was not happy with CID. He thought their clear-up rate was crap,” said a source. “He demanded a lot more from them and got it. It made certain people even angrier. There was a clash of cultures too. Wood is well-known for taking a pragmatic line on things like cannabis and prostitution in saunas. Some of the old school hate him for that.”
In October last year direct allegations were made against Wood over alleged ‘links’ between Wood and Kenneth Erickson, a childhood friend who served 13 years for murder.
The officer who finally made the allegations is said to be embittered at his lack of progress within the service, and directly blames Wood for stopping a move to Special Branch. Supporters of Wood believe the individual only moved against the Deputy Chief after serving exactly 26 and a half years in the force; enough to give him 30 years’ pension rights if he was to retire on grounds of ill health.
SO WAS the break-in at Wood’s flat linked to a conspiracy? No one has been caught for the crime. A source said: “The break-in happened two weeks before the allegations were made.
Break-ins affect everyone, even Deputy Chief Constables, but was someone looking for proof of incriminating links to Erickson, or anything that could be used to hang Wood out to dry? Nothing was stolen and nothing incriminating found but the place was searched pretty thoroughly. Without more hard evidence the feeling is that it’s fifty-fifty.”
When Chief Constable Hamilton delivers his report tomorrow, it is expected he will say the allegations against Wood are groundless. The matter is unlikely to end there. Lothian and Borders Police faces the poisonous problem of a senior officer and a small number of renegade CID men being sworn enemies.
An investigation into the activities of the conspirators could follow with internal disciplinary – and even legal action – not ruled out. “Wood will have to be very careful,” said a source. “He’s smarting but can’t be seen to be out for revenge.”
Another officer said: “Let’s keep this in perspective. We’re talking about a handful of loose cannons causing harm. Some of us don’t like Wood but we respect him. This is a disciplined force not a social club and if the boss says ‘jump’ you ask ‘how high?'”
Evening Press (Edinburgh), March 20th, 2000
Chris Marks, ‘Police Plot Denied’
SENIOR police sources today dismissed claims of a plot against some of the highest ranking officers in the Lothian and Borders force.
And the detective who made a complaint against Deputy Chief Constable Tom Wood was described as a highly regarded and competent officer by a colleague.
The sources say Mr Wood will be cleared eventually following today’s hearing by Lothian and Borders Police Board following the complaint made in October by a serving detective sergeant -believed to be based at Gayfield Square, in the city centre.
He claimed Mr Wood had a drugs operation against a former schoolfriend dropped, had bought property with the suspect and allowed drugs and stolen goods to be stored there.
Claims have arisen over the last few days suggesting the complaint against Mr Wood was the result of a conspiracy by a group of rogue detectives to smear high-ranking police officers.
It has been alleged that a group of disgruntled officers, upset by recent reforms to the force, had set out deliberately to undermine Mr Wood and two of his former colleagues.
The “old-school” detectives allegedly placed the senior officers under surveillance hoping to uncover evidence of wrongdoing in their bosses’ private lives.
A senior source today dismissed the claims of a major conspiracy and said any discontent was limited to two or three officers who had become frustrated at a lack of promotion.
And another source said: “The DS who made the complaint against Mr Wood is held in very high regard by his colleagues and he is seen as being a very competent officer.
“I have got no reason to think these complaints were born out of malice.”
The source also dismissed suggestions that the officer had chosen to wait until he had served 26-and-a-half years in the force – enough to give him 30 years’ pension rights if he was retired on ill health – before making the allegations.
Mr Wood today refused to comment on the report or the conspiracy claims.
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said today: “The inquiry is a matter for the police board. However, we expect it to be wide ranging and to cover all facets of all allegations made.
“The matter is still under referral to the procurator fiscal.”
Scottish Justice Minister Jim Wallace today called for an investigation into the conspiracy claims.
“I will be asking the chief constable, Sir Roy Cameron, for a report on these allegations,” he said today.
A report by John Hamilton, the chief constable of Fife, was submitted to a meeting of the Lothian and Borders Board’s complaints sub-committee today. Following the meeting, which was held in private, board convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “The sub-committee were advised the report by the investigating officer had been placed in the hands of the procurator fiscal in Dundee.
“Until the outcome of the considerations by the fiscal is known no further comment can be made.
Submission of the report to the fiscal is part of the standard procedure in such cases.
“Mr Hamilton was present at this morning’s meeting and briefed members on his report. The sub-committee is confident Mr Hamilton has conducted a far -reaching and thorough investigation.”
The alleged conspiracy also drew in former Lothian and Borders assistant chief constable Andrew Brown, now chief constable of Grampian Police, and the force’s former deputy chief constable Graham Power, now number two at the Police Inspectorate.
Neither were available to comment today.
The plot was said to have had its roots in the “Fettesgate” affair during which a report was stolen during a break-in at the police’s headquarters at Fettes.
The report centred on rumours that a “magic circle” of gay Scottish judges were being lenient towards homosexual criminals.
The investigation followed claims that detectives had offered immunity to the suspect in exchange for the return of the stolen report.
The resulting probe into the handling of the case led to a detective superintendent being retired, another put back into uniform and several CID officers forced into other departments.
Officers were alleged to have become disgruntled with the handling of the affair and were further accused of setting out to discredit the officers seen as being behind it.
Aberdeen Press and Journal, March 20th, 2000
Alan Young, ‘Police chief was victim of force ‘conspiracy’; CID stalked Brown to destroy career – claim’
GRAMPIAN Chief Constable Andrew Brown yesterday refused to comment on claims that he was put under surveillance by disgruntled officers while assistant chief at the Lothian and Borders force.
Mr Brown and Lothian’s deputy chief Tom Wood were the victims of a conspiracy by their own detectives, it was reported yesterday.
A handful of detectives had stalked the pair in order to uncover evidence of wrongdoing and destroy their careers, it was claimed.
The alleged plot against Mr Brown and Mr Wood was said to have its origins in the Fettesgate Affair in 1992 when the Lothian Police HQ was broken into and a secret report on the alleged influence of homosexuals on the justice system was stolen.
It led to the downfall of several officers after it was revealed detectives had agreed immunity from prosecution for the alleged intruder in exchange for the return of the document.
There was also bitterness in the ranks at a policy which saw officers rotated around jobs, with many long -serving CID officers told to go back to uniform, the report claimed.
Mr Brown became head of CID following Fettesgate.
The surveillance operation was said to have come to light after a detective made serious allegations of corruption against Mr Wood last October.
Fife Police chief John Hamilton, who has been investigating the corruption claims, is to report on his findings today.
Mr Brown would not comment yesterday on the story.
A Grampian Police spokes-man said: “It would be inappropriate for Mr Brown or the force to comment.”
Councillor Marianne Stewart, chairwoman of Grampian Joint Police Board said: “It’s not my policy to comment on things I know nothing about.”
But North-east SNP MSP Irene McGugan said: “It seems if there is any evidence that people in the CID have put Mr Brown and others under surveillance then that is something that needs to be looked into.”
Mr Brown, who is in his mid-50s, has been a policeman since 1964 and has worked in a variety of departments. The father-of -two was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in the 1997 New Year’s Honours.
He took over at Grampian in June, 1998, from Ian Oliver, who quit after a series of controversies, including the way the force handled the Scott Simpson murder inquiry.
Aberdeen Evening Express, March 20th, 2000
‘Cop Boss silent over conspiracy theory’
GRAMPIAN Police’s Chief Constable has refused to comment on reports he had been put under surveillance by officers at his former force.
Andrew Brown and Lothian and Borders Deputy Chief Constable Tom Wood were the victims of a conspiracy by colleagues, it was claimed yesterday.
A handful of officers had stalked the pair in an attempt to uncover evidence of wrongdoing and destroy their careers at Lothian and Borders, a report said.
The alleged plot is said to have stemmed from the Fettesgate affair in 1992 when the Lothian and Borders HQ was broken into and a secret report on the influence of homosexuals on the justice system stolen.
The affair led to the downfall of several officers after it was revealed detectives had agreed immunity from prosecution for the alleged intruder in exchange for the return of the document.
Mr Brown became the head of CID in the wake of the scandal at a time when a number of officers were told to go back into uniform.
The surveillance operation on Mr Brown and the other officer was said to have come to light after a detective made allegations of corruption against Mr Wood last October.
Fife Police chief John Hamilton, who has been investigating the claims, was due to report his findings today.
Mr Brown would not comment on the story.
The Scotsman, March 21st, 2000
Stephen Rafferty, ‘CID group plotted to smear boss, inquiry finds’
A POLICE chief’s four-month investigation into allegations of corruption levelled against one of Scotland’s most senior officers has found he was the victim of a vendetta by a small group of his own CID officers.
John Hamilton, the chief constable of Fife, told councillors yesterday that claims that the Lothian and Borders deputy chief constable, Tom Wood, was passing information to a convicted killer were groundless.
As revealed exclusively by The Scotsman last week, a number of disaffected detectives, frustrated by a lack of promotion and a dislike of Mr Wood’s liberal views, put him under surveillance in the hope of finding incriminating evidence to support their suspicions.
Mr Wood’s flat in Edinburgh was ransacked during a break-in just weeks before a detective sergeant made the corruption allegations and – four years earlier – another junior officer offered to supply information to a tabloid newspaper which he said would embarrass his boss.
The two detectives are believed to have been working together to discredit Mr Wood, and, at one stage, a dossier on the highly respected officer was offered to another detective, who was suspended and under investigation for another matter, with the advice that he might use the information to his advantage.
After a meeting of Lothian and Borders Police Board complaints sub-committee yesterday, the convener, Lesley Hinds, said she was satisfied there had been “a far-reaching and thorough investigation” into the claims.
Mr Hamilton’s report has been passed to the procurator-fiscal, but the board said it could not comment on the contents.
The justice minister, Jim Wallace, has called for a report from the chief constable, Sir Roy Cameron, on The Scotsman’s revelations, but force insiders say a separate investigation is unnecessary because Mr Hamilton’s report is expected to detail the background to the allegations.
A source also played down reports that a conspiracy against Mr Wood was rooted in the so-called “Fettesgate” affair of 1992, when a sensitive report into the alleged “magic circle” of gay judges was stolen from the headquarters of the Lothian and Borders force.
In the fall-out from the affair, many senior CID officers were demoted, moved or retired, while others escaped unscathed, but claims that Mr Wood was now paying the price for the debacle were said to be inaccurate.
A source said: “To link the Tom Wood situation with Fettesgate is like adding two and two and getting 500.
“It is more a case of a few loose cannons who have set out to make mischief, because they blame Wood for blocking promotions and because their old -fashioned views did not tally with his.”
The corruption allegations surrounded Mr Wood’s friendship with a convicted killer, Kenneth Erickson, who was jailed for life in 1971 for the murder of a 16-year-old youth.
It was claimed that Mr Wood was involved in buying property with Erickson and that he halted an undercover drug investigation against him.
Mr Wood, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, maintains that Erickson was a boyhood friend and the pair became re-acquainted after he was released from jail.
Lothian and Borders Police refused to comment yesterday, but Sir Roy Cameron is known to be furious that his force is again at the centre of unwanted attention.
Evening News (Edinburgh), March 21st, 2000
Chris Marks, ‘Wood Conspiracy Theory just a ‘Smokescreen”
THE investigation into complaints against Lothian and Borders Police deputy chief constable Tom Wood found no evidence of an alleged conspiracy to smear top-ranking officers, a senior source said today.
The officer leading the inquiry, Fife chief constable John Hamilton, was “specifically asked” about reports that there was a vendetta against Mr Wood, Lothian and Borders’ former assistant chief constable Andrew Brown and former deputy chief constable Graham Power.
But he told members of the Lothian and Borders Police board that nothing had been found to support the claims.
A source close to the police board today described the claims as “absolutely inaccurate” and said they were being used as a “smokescreen”.
The source added: “John Hamilton was explicitly asked about these claims and he said there is absolutely no truth in them as far as his inquiry has found.
“There may have been one or two disgruntled officers but any talk of a conspiracy is wide of the mark. It’s just all been exaggerated.
“It’s been about diverting attention from the real issues – a smokescreen.
“These claims were looked at as part of the investigation and Mr Hamilton found there was no truth to them.”
Mr Hamilton’s report is believed to have cleared Mr Wood of complaints made against him in October by a serving Detective Sergeant.
The officer – who colleagues have described as competent and highly regarded – alleged Lothian and Borders’ second in command had halted a drugs operation against childhood friend Kenneth Erickson, who served 13 years of a life sentence for murder.
The detective also claimed Mr Wood and Mr Erickson had bought property together and the policeman had allowed drugs and stolen property to be stored there.
A five month investigation followed during which both Mr Wood and the detective who had made the complaint continued to serve with the force.
Mr Hamilton’s report was finally passed to the complaints sub-committee police board on Monday but no formal response is expected until it has been dealt with by the procurator fiscal.
Reports in the national press claimed the complaint was the culmination of a conspiracy against Mr Wood and his colleagues by “old school” CID officers disgruntled at modernising influences within the force.
On Monday, senior police sources dismissed the claims of a conspiracy.
And another officer defended the record of the DS who made the complaint saying: “He is held in very high regard by colleagues and he is seen as being a very competent officer.
“I have no reason to think these complaints were born out of malice.”
Speaking after the private meeting of the sub-committee on Monday, Police Board Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “The Sub-Committee were advised the report by the investigating officer had been placed in the hands of the Procurator Fiscal in Dundee.
“Until the outcome of the considerations by the Fiscal is known, no further comment can be made. Submission of the report to the Fiscal is part of the standard procedure in such cases.
“Mr Hamilton was present at this morning’s meeting and briefed members on his report. The Sub-Committee is confident Mr Hamilton has conducted a far -reaching and thorough investigation”.
Neither Mr Wood, Mr Power nor Mr Brown would comment on the conspiracy claims.
A spokesperson for Lothian and Borders Police said: “Mr Hamilton’s inquiry is a matter for the police board.
“However, we expect it to be wide ranging and to cover all facets of all allegations made. The matter is still under referral to the procurator fiscal.”
The alleged conspiracy was claimed to have had its roots in the “Fettesgate” affair in 1992, during which a report into rumours that a “magic circle” of gay Scottish judges were being lenient towards homosexual criminals was stolen during a break in at the police’s headquarters at Fettes.
An investigation followed after claims detectives had offered immunity to the suspect in exchange for the return of the report. The resulting investigation into the handling of the case led to a detective superintendent being retired, another put back into uniform and several CID officers forced into other departments.
Officers were alleged to have become disgruntled with the handling of the affair and had set out to discredit the officers seen as being behind it.
Scotland on Sunday, March 26th, 2000
Peter Laing, ‘Detectives in Plot against Top Officers likely to escape action’
THE detectives who plotted to undermine two of Scotland’s most senior police officers seem certain to escape punishment, according to senior police sources.
Scotland on Sunday revealed last week that rogue officers placed Andrew Brown, now the chief constable of Grampian, and Tom Wood, the deputy chief at Lothian and Borders, under surveillance in an attempt to pick up information that could destroy their careers.
It has now emerged that none of the plotters is likely to face criminal charges or internal action because they can claim they were simply doing their jobs.
That is because a police officer who suspects a crime has been committed but fails to act, risks being accused of neglecting their duty.
The revelation that disgruntled detectives tried to undermine senior officers sent shock waves through the police and Scottish Executive.
Jim Wallace, the justice minister, was so concerned by Scotland on Sunday’s report he ordered his officials to make urgent inquiries.
A senior Lothian and Borders source said it now appeared the conspirators were “bullet-proof” and added: “We know who they are and they are still doing their normal jobs . It seems extremely likely that they will not face any action at all.
All they have to say is they believed Wood and Brown were up to no good and they took steps to investigate.
“We know Wood and Brown are not in any way corrupt but that does not matter – the guys involved can claim they had the suspicion.”
Another source said tensions would continue to run high within the force for months, if not years. ” It’s like having poison in the system and having no way of getting it out,” said the source.
The saga centres on Wood, who was accused by a serving detective of halting an investigation into a known criminal because he was a boyhood friend.
The claims have been investigated by Fife chief constable John Hamilton and a report passed to the procurator fiscal at Dundee. It is understood Wood will be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
Scotland on Sunday revealed that the allegations against Wood were the culmination of a long-running feud between a small number of CID staff and their senior officers.
The simmering row began with the Fettesgate scandal in 1992, in which the force headquarters was broken into and a secret report on the influence of gays in the judiciary stolen.
Many CID heads rolled as a result of a deal struck with the intruder in return for handing back the report.
Hamilton’s report on the case was presented in private to Lothian and Borders Police board last Monday.
Lesley Hinds, the convenor of the board, said: “No one in the force knows what is in John Hamilton’s report, so speculating about the outcome helps no one.”
Wood was not available for comment.
The Sunday Times, December 17th, 2000
Marcello Mega, ‘Scottish QC faces child sexual abuse allegations’
ONE of Scotland’s leading QCs, Robert Henderson, is facing allegations of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s.
Henderson, 63, one of the most flamboyant and skilled practitioners at the Scottish bar, is the subject of a complaint to Lothian and Borders police. The complainant, now an adult woman, claims Henderson sexually abused her and a young boy when they were children.
The procurator fiscal’s office in Edinburgh has been notified, but the crown office will decide whether to prosecute. Crown counsel takes responsibility when allegations of criminal conduct relate to a “prominent” person.
Despite some controversies in his past, Henderson is revered by many of his fellow lawyers. Two years ago, a dinner to celebrate his 35th anniversary at the bar was attended by a number of senior judges. One of them, Lord Prosser, praised Henderson as one of the foremost advocates of his day.
Although a former Tory parliamentary candidate, Henderson is also close to Lord Hardie, the former Labour lord advocate who opted for a place on the bench just a few weeks before the start of the Lockerbie bombing trial. Hardie had been due to lead the prosecution case.
When Hardie stood as a candidate in the 1994 election for dean of the faculty of advocates, Henderson helped organise his campaign. When Hardie became lord advocate in 1997, Henderson made a speech at a dinner to mark his friend’s investiture to the House of Lords.
Last year, Henderson was involved in two embarrassing incidents. He was convicted for not paying a VAT bill levied by Customs and Excise, which moved to have him sequestrated for a sum of about Pounds 1,700. He admitted the offence and was fined Pounds 3,000 at Edinburgh sheriff court.
He was also asked for an explanation by the current dean, Nigel Emslie QC, over his failure to pay a cheque through faculty services, the support company that employs advocates’ clerks and runs the advocates’ library. Henderson had paid the cheque straight into his own account, bypassing the normal deduction, of about 15%, made by faculty services.
Henderson responded by resigning from faculty services, becoming only the second of Scotland’s 400-plus advocates to forego its support. He also informed friends he was moving towards semi-retirement.
Regarded as the country’s leading defence lawyer until the early nineties, he still makes occasional appearances in the criminal and appeal courts. However, his principal work in recent months has been in the Middle East where he is understood to have been representing the interests of a Scottish firm.
Henderson became an advocate in 1963 and took silk in 1982. As well as developing a successful practice, he dabbled in Edinburgh’s property market, buying and selling houses. He was involved with two property companies, both dissolved in the 1980s.
Despite buying property in many of Edinburgh’s foremost streets, including Heriot Row, Moray Place and Mansionhouse Road, his property dealings were not as sharp as his legal brain. In 1988, the National Westminster Bank was granted a decree against him for a debt in excess of Pounds 160,000. A number of properties he owned were repossessed by finance companies. In 1985, Henderson bought his home, the Old Schoolhouse at Gullane, for Pounds 65,777 from the former Lothian Regional Council. He still lives there, but property records show he sold it in 1990 for Pounds 140,000.
He is best known for his part in the “Magic Circle” affair, which shook the legal establishment almost a decade ago. A number of criminal cases in which prominent homosexuals were acquitted led to allegations that a “gay mafia” at the heart of judiciary had conspired to pervert the course of justice.
Henderson fuelled the rumours by alluding to a list he claimed was in his possession of senior gay lawyers. The list was alleged to have belonged to a client of Henderson’s.
A report into the affair, conducted by William Nimmo Smith QC, who is now a judge, condemned Henderson for the part he played, which included breaching his client’s confidentiality. Henderson was disciplined by the dean of the day, Allan Johnston QC, who is also on the bench, and fined the record sum of Pounds 10,000, later reduced to Pounds 5,000.
Henderson is renowned for his ability to enjoy himself. He plays golf at the elite Muirfield club, also patronised by a number of judges.
The Scotsman, December 18th, 2000
‘Lawyer faces sex claims’
POLICE confirmed yesterday that one of Scotland’s most prominent lawyers is at the centre of a child sex claim being investigated by detectives.
A woman has alleged she was abused as a child by Robert Henderson QC. She said a young boy had also been abused.
Mr Henderson, 63, who has been married twice and has four children, has a reputation as a skilled and flamboyant defence lawyer.
Last night, a police spokesman said: “We have received information and are currently looking at it.”
Mr Henderson, who lives in Gullane, East Lothian, , was unavailable for comment.
The Express, December 18th, 2000
‘Leading QC faces sex abuse allegation’
ONE of Scotland’s most colourful QCs is at the centre of sexual abuse claims stretching back almost 30 years.
A woman has told police that as a girl in the 1970s she was molested by Robert Henderson.
She also claims a boy suffered abuse.
Mr Henderson, 63, of Gullane, East Lothian, could not be contacted last night.
But a police spokesman said: “We have received information which we are looking at.”
A spokesman for the Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal’s office in Edinburgh said: “It is a police matter at this stage.”
Mr Henderson is often chosen to defend colleagues who fall on the wrong side of the law. He represented lawyer James McIntyre, who admitted unlawful possession of guns in 1997, and flamboyant QC Raymond Fraser when he admitted stealing a hat and cravat from Jenners in Edinburgh.
But his own career has not been without its low points, culminating in a court appearance last year for non-payment of VAT. He was fined GBP 3,000 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
He was also fined the maximum GBP 10,000 by a Faculty of Advocates disciplinary tribunal in 1993 over breach of confidentiality during the so-called Magic Circle affair, which investigated claims that a clique of gay lawyers was wielding undue influence over High Court judges. The fine was later halved because of the QC’s previously unblemished character.
Henderson’s personal life has been equally colourful, featuring two failed marriages. He now lives with his third wife, Carolyn Gell, whom he married in 1995.
Evening News (Edinburgh), December 18th, 2000
‘Leading QC investigated over child sex abuse claims’
ONE of Scotland’s best-known defence lawyers is being investigated over claims he sexually abused two children in the 1970s.
Robert Henderson QC is understood to have been accused by one of the alleged victims, who said she and a young boy were abused during their childhood.
The procurator fiscal’s office in Edinburgh has been notified of the complaint against the 63-year-old, who lives in Gullane, East Lothian. However the Crown Office will decide whether to prosecute.
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said today: “We have received information which we are looking at.”
Robert Henderson was regarded as Scotland’s leading defence lawyer until the early 90s, but has since reduced his workload. He has a high reputation among colleagues despite some previous controversies.
Last year he was fined pounds 3000 for failing to make a VAT payment.
Six years ago he was taken to court by a woman in a bid to force him to pay maintenance for his “love child”.
Known as “R.E.” to his friends, he is close to Lord Hardie, the former Labour Lord Advocate.
Daily Mail, December 18th, 2000
‘Child abuse claim against QC’
ONE of Scotland’s top lawyers is under investigation following allegations of child sex abuse.
Lothian and Borders Police have launched the probe following claims that Robert Henderson, QC, abused two children in the Seventies.
The claims have been made by one of the alleged victims. The woman, who has not been named, alleged that she and a young boy were abused by Mr Henderson during their childhood. A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: ‘We have received information which we are looking at.’ He would not confirm the exact nature of the allegations against Mr Henderson.
The procurator fiscal’s office in Edinburgh has been notified of the complaint. Any decision to prosecute Mr Henderson, 63, will be taken by the Crown Office.
Daily Record, March 15th, 2005
‘Crime Capital: Paul Ferris fixed it for the gay burglar who raided Police HQ: Fettesgate’
THE cops were in big trouble.Their HQ at Fettes had been burgled.
Worse, the thief had taken highly sensitive files and documents. How were they going to face the public?
They decided to try to tough it out. Fat chance. The burglar, Derek Donaldson, was seeking advice from someone who was no friend to the cops.
Donaldson was a conman and gay – a bad combination since his crimes got him into jail where he was confronted with would-be gay-bashers.
In Shotts Prison, he was getting a hell of a time before fellow inmate Paul Ferris, former lieutenant of Glasgow Godfather Arthur Thompson, stepped in to stop the bullies.
Now, out of the blue in 1992, Donaldson contacted Ferris. He needed advice about some files.
He told Ferris: ‘I just brought some of the stuff, Paul. I think I’m in big trouble.’
Ferris scanned the material file by file. There were intimate details about a range of judges who sat in courts in and around Edinburgh.
It seemed some of these judges were gay and had been followed by cops when they went to gay parties.
Another file, named Operation Ulysses, targeted IRA supporters in Scotland and lawyers were named as having donated funds.
There were surveillance records of known UDA supporters and photographs of them visiting Belfast and being in the company of top UDA men.
Derek Donaldson was sitting on a goldmine or his death certificate – it depended on how he played it.
‘How the hell did you get this stuff?’ Ferris asked.Donaldson explained he’d had a long-term affair with a high- ranking married cop in Edinburgh.
The cop’s wife had found out and he’d broken off with Donaldson.
In a jealous rage, the forlorn lover had decided to break into the police HQ at Fettes to teach him a lesson. But he had stumbled on to high-risk material and now he was in big trouble.
‘Copy the lot,’ said Ferris. ‘Offer it out to the top people in Edinburgh. That’s point one.
‘Point two is lose the papers. Keep them secure as a bit of insurance but have sod all in your possession.
‘Point three is go to the media.
Mention the gay judges thing but f ** k all about the IRA and UDA supporters.
That’s too sensitive.
‘One way or another, the cops are going to find you.
‘You don’t want anything nasty going down. The best way is to speak out.’
Donaldson followed Ferris’s advice. All the major players in Edinburgh have photocopies of some or all of the files.
They paid well and it was worth every penny in getting certain cops off their backs.
Many have never been to jail since.
The Scotsman, February 24th, 2009
Alan McEwen, ‘Fettesgate: ‘Magic Circle’ spells panic in the police’
IT started out as whispers between lawyers over boozy lunches and mutterings of discontent in police canteens.
A group of gay judges and lawyers were conspiring to ensure soft treatment for homosexual criminals, or so went the rumour that spread through Edinburgh legal circles in the late 1980s.
The talk was of a “magic circle” reaching the highest levels of the Scottish legal system and the potential blackmail of judges by “rent boys”.
The gossip grew on the back of police frustration at the outcome of a series of fraud and other cases, where officers felt that defendants who happened to be gay had been unusually leniently treated.
It would all no doubt have died a quiet death if it were not for the bizarre events which took place one Sunday night at the police headquarters at Fettes.
At around midnight on July 19, 1992, an intruder slipped in through an open window – which was apparently left unlatched by detectives who used it as a shortcut to the car park – and made his way to the offices of the Serious Crime Squad.
Daubing Animal Liberation Front slogans on the walls as a smokescreen, he spent two hours searching the offices, including that of Deputy Commander Jimmy Smith, before making off with a haul of confidential files.
Among the two holdalls full of missing documents were ones listing details of police informants, Loyalist sympathisers and Animal Liberation Front activists, but there was one particular police report which would cause huge embarrassment to the force.
It examined the alleged existence of the so-called “magic circle” within the highest echelons of the Scottish judiciary.
Written by a respected senior detective, Detective Inspector Roger Orr, it concluded there was evidence to support claims that justice was being seriously subverted by “a well-established circle of homosexuals”, including judges, sheriffs and lawyers. Significantly, the report named names.
The police dossier listed five court cases where the outcome caused concern among officers and lawyers and concluded that “homosexuality may well have been used as a means to seriously interfere with the administration of justice”.
Now there was panic at police headquarters. The possibilities – including a potential goldmine for blackmailers and the undermining of public faith in the judicial system – did not bear thinking about.
Derek Donaldson, 32, a convicted fraudster and valued police informant, was quickly identified as the prime suspect.
Frantic efforts were made to recover the documents – attempts that would lead to the downfall of some of Lothian’s top detectives. One former senior detective, who was serving on the force at the time, recalls: “This was a perfect example of a storm in a teacup. You had a very dangerous and Machiavellian informant who had been allowed to gain a position of influence and power because he was good at what he did. But he was a double-dyed manipulator.
“Then we had some very ill-advised junior detectives who had allowed themselves to be convinced that there was some sort of conspiracy. But they failed to follow the evidence.
“Whether there was any conspiracy, I can’t answer. What I can answer is that there was no evidence of it.”
Two detectives, Det Chief Supt William Hiddleston and Det Sgt Peter Brown, eventually promised Donaldson immunity from prosecution as long as the documents were returned.
Within weeks, the files had been dumped at the council tip off Dalkeith Road and police informed, but detectives naturally suspected the most sensitive documents had been copied.
The deal did not prove popular with the high command, however, who were anxious to see an arrest to act as a deterrent. When he heard of it, Chief Constable Sir William Sutherland immediately vetoed the immunity arrangement.
The force was under immense scrutiny. The internal report and its controversial initial conclusion was leaked to the Evening News, sparking a national sensation.
The Crown Office appointed a highly-regarded QC, William Nimmo Smith, and a regional procurator fiscal, James Friel, to investigate.
But the affair, dubbed “Fettesgate”, was about to take another twist.
Before the report was officially published, Nimmo Smith was duped into revealing his findings to a bogus journalist. The “journalist” was none other than Derek Donaldson, who immediately sold his “scoop” to a tabloid newspaper, indicating that the report had found no evidence of a homosexual conspiracy.
Days later, Nimmo Smith was admitted to hospital with nervous exhaustion. Donaldson was later jailed for assaulting a real journalist who had continued to investigate the events.
When Nimmo Smith’s report was finally published in January 1993, it dismissed the idea of a “magic circle” of gay lawyers.
The 101-page report concluded there was no evidence to support the idea of a conspiracy to undermine justice, but strongly criticised a number of police officers.
Some had been “prepared to give as much credence to rumour as to actual evidence and to believe in conspiracy theories whether or not supported by evidence”, it said.
Other officers, it suggested, had been motivated by homophobia.
William Hiddleston announced his retirement just hours after the chief constable had admitted a small group of detectives “may have let the side down”. Several other officers connected were moved to uniformed duties.
MP’s enquiry that sparked dramatic chain of events
FORMER long-serving Linlithgow MP Tam Dalyell played a crucial role in bringing the “magic circle” controversy into the public domain.
The stolen police report which sparked the scandal was prepared in response to a letter the MP wrote to then Lothian and Borders Chief Constable Sir William Sutherland.
Mr Dalyell had raised what he believed to be genuine public concern about a series of Crown Office decisions on cases investigated by the force.
Sir William took these concerns very seriously and, after discussions with his deputy, Hector Clark, decided to have a secret report drawn up by a senior officer.
Today, Mr Dalyell looks back on the furore as something which had positive effects on the force.
Lothian and Borders Police established formal links with a series of gay community groups for the first time in its history in the wake of the controversy.
Mr Dalyell said: “In the years following the so-called ‘Fettesgate’ scandal, Lothian and Borders Police did make an effort to learn some of the lessons from the inquiry.
“It was a very awkward situation for some of the officers involved. I know that William Sutherland took it very seriously.
“But, from that, the police did try and make things better.”
In recent years, the force has won widespread praise for its work building relations with the city’s gay community. The rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community was flown above the Fettes HQ last year.
The Scotsman, December 12th, 2012
Martin Hannan, ‘Obituary: Robert Ewart Henderson, QC, advocate’
Born: 29 March, 1937, in Glasgow. Died: 9 December, 2012, in France, aged 75.
The death after a short illness of Robert Henderson QC, always known to his friends as Bob, has saddened the Scottish legal profession which has lost one of the most brilliant advocates of recent decades.
Charismatic and eloquent, Henderson was so renowned for the quality of his advocacy that other lawyers would often slip into his court to observe the master at work. Whether addressing a jury or debating a legal point, Henderson’s forensic mind and compelling fluency of speech made him a court performer of the very highest calibre.
An accomplished golfer and pianist, and a bon viveur of note, Henderson’s colourful personality and occasional transgressions meant that he never attained the very highest honours of his profession, but he himself always said that he was happiest in court and that he wanted to be remembered as a fearless advocate, which he undoubtedly was.
Born to William Ewart Henderson, an accountant of Orcadian extraction, and Agnes née Ker, Henderson was educated at Larchfield School in Helensburgh and Morrison’s Academy in Crieff. His national service was in the Royal Artillery, where he reached the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
Attending Glasgow University, he was one of a golden generation of lawyers and politicians that included Menzies Campbell, Donald Dewar, Lord Derry Irvine and John Smith. That he became president of the University Law Society in 1961-62 says much about the esteem in which he was held, even among such notable contemporaries.
In 1963, Henderson was called to the Bar and at the very outset of his career, he was involved in a piece of Scottish history that he did not seek. In later years he would often tell of his first case in the High Court in which he was junior to advocate depute Bertie Grieve, later Lord Grieve, who died in 2005. It was perhaps from that gentleman that Henderson learned the importance of the excellent manners and immaculate attire which were his trademarks. The case was that of Henry John Burnett and was held in Aberdeen. It was indeed historic, as Harry Burnett became the last man in Scotland to be hanged for murder. The jury decided that Burnett was “bad, not mad”, as Henderson put it. Despite psychiatrists stating that Burnett had a personality disorder, the Secretary of State Michael Noble refused to commute the sentence, and 21-year-old Burnett was hanged on 15 August, 1963.
Henderson would figure in many more criminal trials, and his reputation as an advocate, particularly for the defence, grew apace, especially after he took Silk in 1982.
Prior to that he had briefly served as Sheriff Substitute in Stirling, Dumbarton and Clackmannan, and as a Temporary Sheriff in 1978.
He was also standing junior counsel to the Department of Trade for many years and a member of various tribunals, and in 1974, the year of two elections, he twice stood as the Conservative candidate in the Inverness-shire seat held by Russell Johnston.
Despite that foray into Tory politics, he enjoyed long friendships with people of different political beliefs. At the time of the miners’ strike in 1984, he defended a number of the strikers, which led to a clash with Lord Wheatley – the irony being that Wheatley was the son of the Red Clydeside Labour MP John, while Henderson was a committed Conservative who manfully battled against the state’s prosecution of workers.
His court cases varied from murder trials such as his defence of James Baigrie, who killed an Edinburgh barman in 1982, to his overturning of the conviction of William Crowe in 1989. In 1984, lawyer Len Murray assembled perhaps the most powerful team of advocates ever put together for a single case, namely the trial of four Rangers and Celtic players over incidents during an Old Firm match. Needless to say, Henderson was one of the star quartet.
He also acted over the years for newspapers and the BBC, while one of his greatest successes was the defence of gay solicitor Colin Tucker, acquitted of an embezzlement charge despite admitting that he had been involved in diverting funds.
The fallout from the Tucker case thrust Henderson into the limelight of public controversy in the early 1990s. The allegations of sexual misconduct among Edinburgh’s legal establishment became known as the Magic Circle scandal.
The supposed story of powerful people allegedly engaged in a homosexual ring which conspired to pervert the course of justice was explosive and hogged the headlines for months. With his known associations with journalists, Henderson undoubtedly helped to create those headlines, and he was fined £10,000, later reduced to £5,000, by the Faculty of Advocates for breach of confidentiality.
It is often forgotten that while Henderson was criticised in the official report by William Nimmo Smith QC and Glasgow’s procurator fiscal James Friel, he was entirely cleared of serious allegations of conspiracy and blackmail, and indeed was cleared of the original allegations of criminality in property dealings dating from the 1980s. It may be concluded that Henderson was himself the victim of gossip and innuendo.
It was perhaps not very wise of Henderson to involve himself in the buying and of selling properties in and around Edinburgh, a pursuit that probably emanated from his specialisation in land and planning law. He was also a noted expert on licensing issues. Henderson’s business acumen was not on a par with his skill in court, however, as evidenced by his conviction for non-payment of VAT in 1999.
A member of the New Club and of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Henderson liked nothing better than a convivial round of golf at Muirfield not for from his home in Gullane.
His private life was also occasionally chaotic. He was married three times: to Olga Sunter from 1958 to 1978, by whom he had a son and two daughters; to Carol Black from 1982 to 1988, by whom he had a son; and to Carolyn Gell in 1995. He is survived by Carolyn and his children.
Henderson went into semi-retirement from 2001, before surprising his family and friends with a move to Dubai in 2004 where lucrative consultancy work gave him the wherewithal to establish a home in south-west France, where he delighted in entertaining old friends and colleagues from Scotland.
He was charming and witty to the end, and his passing leaves a huge hole in many lives, for he was a loyal and generous friend to many.
The Herald, December 13th, 2012
John McCluskey, ‘Robert Henderson QC’
Born: March 29, 1937; Died: December 9, 2012.
Bob Henderson QC was a unique spirit in the Scottish scene. I first encountered him 50 years ago in the two rooms known as The Juridical Library, an outpost of the Advocates Library on the corner of George Street and Charlotte Square, where the Faculty of Advocates provided a quiet haven where advocates could sit all night researching the law and preparing for the next forensic encounter.
But it wasn t all work. The couple who acted as caretakers used to bring us coffee and biscuits and we would break off for irreverent gossip. And I must confess that at half past nine some of us would sneak out to Scotts bar in Rose Street to seek fresh inspiration.
Bob frequently came to the Juridical Library when he was devilling to Ian Stewart, later Lord Allanbridge. He was immediately impressive as a powerful personality with a mind of his own and no undue sense of subservience towards the establishment. So he had no hesitation in joining in the chat and the mocking of our elders and betters.
Bob was already an accomplished golfer and pianist, and he was well read. He had the qualities that would enable him to succeed as an advocate in the highest courts. He was self confident, fluent with a commanding speaking voice and a capacity that marked his career at the Bar for going straight to the heart of the matter in language that was clear, unambiguous and positive.
From my later perspective as a judge, particularly when sitting with a jury, it was a joy when Bob walked into court and announced he was appearing as counsel for the defence: the lights seemed to shine a little brighter. You knew there were going to be very few dull moments. He had a gift for recognising that a good point could be made in one clear short question. So you quickly learned to listen: he was not going to repeat and elaborate till you were sick of hearing it. Juries appreciated this was a lawyer who was not going to waste their time, a lawyer who would not treat them like dummies who needed to be given repeated glimpses of the obvious. So they listened.
And judges did the same: they knew from experience that Bob s forensic motto might have been borrowed from television s Allo, Allo!: I shall say this only once. That, and his personal charm, gave him a popularity with his colleagues and with the Bench that stood him in good stead when, as happened occasionally, he blotted his copybook. Somehow Bob’s blots were made with rainbow-coloured ink and he emerged from various scrapes perhaps a little wiser but not in the least diminished in spirit. The strengths of his character more than compensated for the faults.
It was a sad day when Bob announced his fortune was to be sought elsewhere and he went off to Dubai to seek it. He found it. On his return, well timed to avoid the depression, he bought a lovely mansion house in south-eest France with delightful grounds. There he built a first-class tennis court, an excellent swimming pool and a cellar of well-chosen wines. He also turned the older buildings into first-class accommodation for visitors.
The first purpose was to welcome and entertain his and Carolyn s friends. Bob, though living away from Edinburgh for some years, kept in touch with all the news. He loved Edinburgh and he had many happy years in Gullane and playing golf at Muirfield: he missed it all but he kept his memories alive. I remember sitting with him until the wee sma hours, hearing his trenchant views about people, politics and events that he felt so strongly about. But, caustic or dismissive, he was free of malice.
His second purpose in developing his lovely French estate was to build a resort that could be easily managed and would provide some security for the years ahead. The tragedy is that those years were cut so suddenly and dramatically short.
Our thoughts go out to Carolyn. If the loss of Bob means so much to us, we can hardly imagine how empty these coming days must be for Carolyn; this is clear: we all, with Carolyn, continue to share and treasure the warmth and the excitement that Bob radiated so generously.
The Sun, December 14th, 2012
‘Top QC dies at 75′
A LAWYER who was once one of the top QCs in Scotland has died, aged 75.
It is understood Robert Henderson passed away on Sunday in France, where he had lived for several years, following a short illness.
In 1993 Henderson was named in a report by William Nimmo Smith investigating claims of a gay conspiracy to block justice in Scotland.
He was accused of leaking information to cops. Friend Lord McCluskey, 83, led tributes to the dad-of-four. He said: “It was joy when Bob walked into court.”
The Scotsman, December 14th, 2012
‘Obituary: Robert Henderson QC, 75′
ONE of the country’s leading advocates has died suddenly in France at the age of 75.
Robert Henderson QC, who built a towering reputation for his work in the Capital, died on Sunday after a short illness.
The Gullane-based advocate grew up in Kirkwall to parents William Ewart Henderson and Agnes née Ker, attending Larchfield School in Helensburgh and Morrison’s Academy in Crieff.
He was admitted to Glasgow University, studying alongside a golden generation of lawyers and politicians including Menzies Campbell, Donald Dewar and Lord Derry Irvine.
Despite the list of luminaries, Bob – as he was better known – was named president of the University Law Society in 1961.
He was inadvertently caught up in a slice of Scottish history in his first case at the High Court in 1963 as junior to advocate depute Bertie Grieve, when Henry John Burnett was sentenced to become the last man in Scotland to be hanged for murder.
Bob was an honorary sheriff substitute at Stirling, Dumbarton and Clackmannan in 1968 and served as counsel to the Department of Trade between 1974 and 1977.
That experience led him in 1974 to twice stand as the Conservative candidate in the Inverness-shire seat held by Russell Johnston.
The lawyer would build his reputation as a defence advocate in a series of high-profile criminal trials after becoming a QC in 1982.
Bob was also hand-picked amongst a star team of advocates assembled by lawyer Len Murray to represent four Rangers and Celtic players charged over incidents during an Old Firm match.
Some of his most notable work came when he defended a host of miners during the 1984 strike.
Bob also represented the BBC and a string of newspapers. His defence of gay solicitor Colin Tucker, who was acquitted of an embezzlement charge despite admitting to diverting funds, was one of his greatest professional successes.
A keen golfer, Bob was a member of the New Club and of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, often playing at Muirfield.
He entered semi-retirement in 2001 before moving to Dubai three years later. His consultancy work overseas allowed him to buy a home in south-west France.
Close friend and Judge Lord McCluskey said it was a tragedy that Bob’s life had been cut short. He added: “He loved Edinburgh and he had many happy years in Gullane and playing golf at Muirfield.
“I remember sitting until the wee small hours hearing his trenchant views about people, politics and events he felt so strongly about. But, caustic or dismissive, he was free of malice.”
Bob is survived by his third wife, Carolyn Gell – whom he married in 1995 – and four children.
The Herald, May 17th, 2013
Brian Home, ‘Solicitor is jailed after trying to take drugs into prison’
A SOLICITOR whose 30-year legal career lay in tatters after he was caught trying to smuggle mobile phones and drugs into Edinburgh’s Saughton Prison was jailed for four years yesterday.
The final act of David Blair Wilson’s shame was played out at the High Court in Edinburgh when judge Lord Jones told him he had abused his position as a lawyer.
In an earlier trial CCTV footage showed plain clothes police blocking any attempt by Blair Wilson to drive away, then leading him away in handcuffs.
A search of his car uncovered the phones, diazepam tablets which may have been worth £2800 at inflated prison prices, cannabis resin with a prison value of £4000 and other contraband items.
Judge Lord Jones said: “The misuse of drugs in prison is a well-recognised problem to which you were intent on contributing.
“You knew that, as a solicitor visiting a client in prison, you were in a privileged position. You cynically abused the privilege you had been given and abused the trust placed in you.”
The smuggling attempt was a well-planned operation, the judge added. Blair Wilson, 55, of Dunfermline, insisted he did not know the suspect packages were there and blamed another man for any wrong-doing.
The lawyer enjoyed a brief notoriety more than 20 years ago when he helped clear a friend and fellow solicitor accused of embezzling more than £50,000 of clients’ money from his firm.
The trial of Colin Tucker sparked a break-in at the Fettes HQ of Lothian and Borders Police, a probe by a top QC.
Yesterday, defence advocate Susan Duff, asking for leniency, paid tribute to Blair Wilson as a solicitor.
She said: “He has had a long and successful career in the law, a career built on hard work and a deeply committed attitude of care for his clients. Blair Wilson was a man for whom nothing was too much trouble.”
Now, she said, he knew he would never work again in that profession.
On the day he was caught the solicitor had arranged to visit – in his professional capacity – Lee Brown, 35, who told the trial he was serving 18-and-a-half years.
CCTV footage showed Blair Wilson arriving at the Saughton jail carrying a bulging folder.
Prison officer Graham Robertson, 25, described how he checked Blair Wilson’s ID and his colleague told the solicitor his folder had to be scanned.
“He became quite anxious looking, began to sort of fidget. His body language changed slightly,” said the prison officer.Blair Wilson returned to his Vauxhall Signum then came back into the prison vestibule. This time his file was thinner.
In the witness box, Blair Wilson said the suspect packages were nothing to do with him.
He said Steven Douglas – a youth he had befriended who regarded him as a surrogate father – must have put them under the driver’s seat when he borrowed the car the day before. There were 19 fingerprints on the packages that matched those of Mr Douglas. Not one matched Blair Wilson’s prints.
Mr Douglas should have appeared as a witness – but, when asked where he was, Blair Wilson replied: “I wish I knew.”
A jury’s majority verdict convicted Blair Wilson of attempting to smuggle three mobile phones, three SIM cards along with two chargers and two earphones into the jail.
He was also found guilty, by majority, of being concerned in the supply of cannabis resin, diazepam and body-building drugs – in particular to Lee Brown.During the trial, charges of breaching the Prisons (Scotland) Act by introducing drugs into the jail were dropped.
Lord Jones said he was taking into account Blair Wilson was a first offender who also suffered from serious health problems.
“While I take these matters into consideration, it has to be recognised that you chose to commit these offences and did this with your eyes open, knowing what the risks were and the consequences if you were caught.”
Blair Wilson also faces automatic prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.
Philip Yelland, director of Regulation at the Law Society of Scotland, said: “Solicitors are expected to maintain the highest standards both in their professional and personal lives.
“They are bound by rules including rules about their conduct, and serious criminal convictions are a breach of these rules.”
The Scotsman, July 13th, 2014
‘Sir Nicholas Fairbairn in child abuse scandal link’
SIR Nicholas Fairbairn, the controversial former Solicitor General for Scotland, has been linked to the child abuse scandal which is threatening to engulf Westminster.
Evidence has emerged which suggests Fairbairn, who died in 1995 aged 61, may have visited a brothel now at the heart of police and parliamentary investigations.
A list of names seized by officers indicates the former legal adviser to Margaret Thatcher may have abused boys at a notorious London guesthouse, where youngsters from children’s homes were reportedly sexually assaulted by high-profile visitors.
The documents have been seen by child protection officers and are now being used by police as evidence as part of Operation Fernbridge.
The apparent link has prompted calls for the long-serving Conservative MP to be posthumously investigated.
Fairbairn – who boasted about his “insatiable” sexual appetite – had a career which took him to the top of both the political and legal establishments but gained notoriety as a womaniser and heavy drinker.
Lists of visitors to the Elm Guest House – which hosted parties in the 1980s where vulnerable boys were sexually assaulted after being plied with alcohol – are now in the hands of police officers.
The hand-written documents, which have been seen by Scotland on Sunday, state that a number of politicians including “N Fairburn” and “C Smith” – who asked to be called “Tubby” – visited the property on 7 June 1982.
They also state that “Fairburn” had “used boys in sauna” and that photographs had been taken of him – as well as Cyril Smith – at the guest house. Police have confirmed that Smith, the late Liberal MP for Rochdale, who has since been exposed as a serial abuser of boys, was a regular visitor to the brothel. Despite the spelling discrepancy over Fairburn/Fairbairn, there have now been calls for a full investigation which would establish whether or not Fairbairn was involved.
Pete Wishart, the SNP MP, who represents Fairbairn’s former constituency of Perth, called for the allegations to be fully examined. He said: “If there is any evidence that Sir Nicholas Fairbairn was involved in the abuse of children it should be looked at and properly investigated.”
Simon Danczuk, the Rochdale MP who exposed Smith as a child abuser, said the documents must be investigated.
A spokesman for the Labour politician said: “The Metropolitan Police have confirmed Cyril Smith was at Elm Guest House and it is now important to investigate and establish exactly who else was there.”
In 2000 the daughter of a prominent Scottish lawyer, who was never publicly named, alleged Fairbairn was part of a paedophile ring. At the time the claims were angrily rejected by his family. Last night Sir Nicholas’ eldest daughter Charlotte told Scotland on Sunday: “There’s nothing I can say. He’s been dead for 20 years.”
Daily Record and Sunday Mail, July 14th, 2014
Dan Warburton, ‘THE ACCUSED; SEX ALLEGATIONS CALLS FOR CRIMINAL PROBES AS MORE ATTACK CLAIMS EMERGE SEX ALLEGATIONS CALLS FOR CRIMINAL PROBES AS MORE ATTACK CLAIMS EMERGE ; Thatcher’s top two Scots Tories in 80s at centre of Westminster child abuse claims Whistleblower claims Dr Smith arranged young boys for senior cabinet ministers Fairbairn linked to brothel where kids from homes were abused by high-profile visitors’
THE two top Scots Tories from Margaret Thatcher’s Government were last night linked to an alleged child abuse ring.
Former Kinross and Western Perthshire MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn and former party Scottish chairman Dr Alistair Smith were named as suspects in the historic abuse of underage boys.
Last night, Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson said a public inquiry “cannot afford to leave any stone unturned and it must have the confidence of the victims”.
Senior officials in Thatcher’s Government were alleged to have attended private sex parties with underage boys and visited a notorious guesthouse.
A special police unit from 13 forces are thought to have drawn-up a “superlist” of celebrities and elected officials under investigation.
Pearson added: “The Scottish Goverment cannot stand back from this. We know victims have been calling for action here in Scotland and so far we are the only part of the UK not holding any investigations.
“With Scottish names now emerging as part of the UK investigation, we cannot “With Scottish names now emerging as part of the UK investigation, we cannot afford to be left behind.”
FAIRBAIRN – the former Solicitor General for Scotland who died in 1995, aged 61 – may have visited a brothel at the heart of police Evidence suggests Fairbairn – the former Solicitor General for Scotland who died in 1995, aged 61 – may have visited a brothel at the heart of police and parliamentary probes.
It’s understood Thatcher’s legal advisor visited the notorious Elms Guest House, where youngsters from children’s homes were allegedly abused by high-It’s understood Thatcher’s legal advisor visited the notorious Elms Guest House, where youngsters from children’s homes were allegedly abused by highprofile visitors in the 80s.
Documents seized by officers are now being used as evidence in Operation Fernbridge, a criminal probe into parties held at the site in Documents seized by officers are now being used as evidence in Operation Fernbridge, a criminal probe into parties held at the site in Rocks Lane, south-west London.
Rocks Lane, south-west London.
In 2000, Fairbairn’s family were forced to reject allegations that the flamboyant advocate was part of a paedophile ring of top Scots lawyers.
Yesterday, Fairbairn’s eldest daughter Charlotte is reported to have said: “There’s nothing I can say. He’s been dead for 20 years.”
Meanwhile, whistleblower Anthony Gilberthorpe – a former Conservative activist – claimed Dr Smith, who died in July 2012, had arranged for rent boys to have sex with Cabinet members.
Anthony, 52, said he was used to procure boys as young as 15, who indulged in alcohol and cocaine before having sex with politicians at party conferences in Black-Black pool and Brighton in the 80s.
He said: “Dr Smith, who I looked up to at the time and was the most important Tory in Scotland, told me to go and fetch some ‘entertainment’, which was ‘entertainment’, which was code for young boys.
“It was the norm and an open secret that these older members of the Tory Party, like Dr Alistair Smith, paid for young men to join them at sex parties.
“It was the first time I was asked to fetch them but it was hardly surprising as I was becoming one of their trusted people. I was expected to find the youngest and prettiest young boys. It was what those men wanted.
“In fact, it was all they wanted. So myself and another Tory candidate sat on some benches underneath an archway in the Pavilion area of Blackpool and waited.”
David Mellor, who was a Home Office minister between 1983 and 1987, dismissed Anthony’s allegations as “tittle-tattle”.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “I think this is now open season because of a pretty dodgy dossier presented to Leon Brittan by a Tory backbencher, which had very little substance in my view.”
Officers investigating historic child abuse from 13 constabularies held a meeting in Merseyside last month. It’s understood each brought a secret list of elected officials and celebrities currently under investigation for alleged child sex abuse. A “superlist” of 21 of the best-known suspects was drawn-up, with half of those listed yet to enter the public domain.
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “Police should investigate all allegations of this nature and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.”
When the Daily Record made attempts to contact Dr Smith’s family there was no response.
David Cameron faced further problems yesterday after he was accused by one of his own MPs of turning a blind eye to possible abuse by Government whips.
Mark Reckless, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the PM should order all former chief whips to reveal what they knew about child sex offence allegations. In a letter to Cameron, he called for a full public enquiry.
GRAPHIC: TRUST Thatcher made Fairburn and Smith senior officials
THE two top Scots Tories from Margaret Thatcher’s Government were last night linked to an alleged child abuse ring.
Former Kinross and Western Perthshire MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn and former party Scottish chairman Dr Alistair Smith were named as suspects in the historic abuse of underage boys.
Last night, Labour justice spokesman Graeme Pearson said a public inquiry “cannot afford to leave any stone unturned and it must have the confidence of the victims”.
Senior officials in Thatcher’s Government were alleged to have attended private sex parties with underage boys and visited a notorious guesthouse.
A special police unit from 13 forces are thought to have drawn-up a “superlist” of celebrities and elected officials under investigation.
Pearson added: “The Scottish Goverment cannot stand back from this. We know victims have been calling for action here in Scotland and so far we are the only part of the UK not holding any investigations.
“With Scottish names now emerging as part of the UK investigation, we cannot afford to be left behind.”
Evidence suggests Fairbairn – the former Solicitor General for Scotland who died in 1995, aged 61 – may have visited a brothel at the heart of police and parliamentary probes.
It’s understood Thatcher’s legal advisor visited the notorious Elms Guest House, where youngsters from children’s homes were allegedly abused by high-profile visitors in the 80s.
Documents seized by officers are now being used as evidence in Operation Fernbridge, a criminal probe into parties held at the site in Rocks Lane, south-west London.
In 2000, Fairbairn’s family were forced to reject allegations that the flamboyant advocate was part of a paedophile ring of top Scots lawyers.
Yesterday, Fairbairn’s eldest daughter Charlotte is reported to have said: “There’s nothing I can say. He’s been dead for 20 years.”
Meanwhile, whistleblower Anthony Gilberthorpe- a former Conservative activist – claimed Dr Smith, who died in July 2012, had arranged for rent boys to have sex with Cabinet members.
Anthony, 52, said he was used to procure boys as young as 15, who indulged in alcohol and cocaine before having sex with politicians at party conferences in Blackpool and Brighton in the 80s.
He said: “Dr Smith, who I looked up to at the time and was the most important Tory in Scotland, told me to go and fetch some ‘entertainment’, which was code for young boys.
“It was the norm and an open secret that these older members of the Tory Party, like Dr Alistair Smith, paid for young men to join them at sex parties.
“It was the first time I was asked to fetch them but it was hardly surprising as I was becoming one of their trusted people. I was expected to find the youngest and prettiest young boys. It was what those men wanted.
“In fact, it was all they wanted. So myself and another Tory candidate sat on some benches underneath an archway in the Pavilion area of Blackpool and waited.”
David Mellor, who was a Home Office minister between 1983 and 1987, dismissed Anthony’s allegations as “tittle-tattle”.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “I think this is now open season because of a pretty dodgy dossier presented to Leon Brittan by a Tory backbencher, which had very little substance in my view.”
Officers investigating historic child abuse from 13 constabularies held a meeting in Merseyside last month. It’s understood each brought a secret list of elected officials and celebrities currently under investigation for alleged child sex abuse.
A “superlist” of 21 of the best-known suspects was drawn-up, with half of those listed yet to enter the public domain.
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “Police should investigate all allegations of this nature and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.”
When the Daily Record made attempts to contact Dr Smith’s family there was no response.
David Cameron faced further problems yesterday after he was accused by one of his own MPs of turning a blind eye to possible abuse by Government whips.
Mark Reckless, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the PM should order all former chief whips to reveal what they knew about child sex offence allegations. In a letter to Cameron, he called for a full public enquiry.
He added: “Given the mass shredding of documents by the whips office from 1996, will you write to all Conservative Chief Whips who have held office since 1960 or their heirs where deceased and ask them to provide all documents which remain in their possession from their time in office to the Child Abuse Inquiry?”
Reckless also called on him to look into whether former Attorney General Michael Havers – whose sister Lady Bulter-Sloss is heading the inquiry into child sex abuse claims – was behind the decision to destroy papers.
Mail on Sunday, July 20th, 2014
Marc Horne, ‘Esther Rantzen: My shock over my MP lover’s links to Elm House paedophile ring’
- Esther Rantzen had affair with politician Sir Nicholas Fairbairn in the 1960s
- Suggestions he may have visited guest house where children were allegedly assaulted by high-profile visitors
- Ms Rantzen speaks of her revulsion over his links to child abuse scandal
- She distances herself from the late Conservative MP who died at 61 in 1995
Esther Rantzen has spoken of her revulsion after learning that a former lover has been linked to the child abuse scandal threatening to engulf Westminster.
The broadcaster and Childline founder had an affair with politician Sir Nicholas Fairbairn after they met at a BBC studio in 1966.
But Ms Rantzen has now distanced herself from the late Conservative MP and Solicitor General for Scotland – who died in 1995, aged 61.
Evidence has come to light suggesting he may have visited a London guest house where children from care homes were allegedly assaulted by high-profile visitors.
Miss Rantzen, 74, played a leading role in uncovering child abuse during the 1980s.
She said: ‘I am horrified and disgusted by these allegations because Nicky was a friend of mine.
‘I had a very brief relationship with him. I always assumed that he was attracted to adult women rather than children.
‘I had absolutely no knowledge of that side of him. However, over the years I have learned that you really never know anyone.’
The former That’s Life presenter was 26 when she embarked on an affair with the married MP after he appeared as a guest on a BBC show where she was a researcher.
She said: ‘When I knew Nicky he was courteous, charming and very fond of women.
‘He was a high-profile lawyer, who lived in a castle and had a very flamboyant private life.’
‘He took me to lunch at the Ritz. He gave me a long-stemmed red rose and ordered Beluga caviar and Krug champagne.
‘If ever there was an aphrodisiac meal that was it. Nicky took to me to some Lord’s house where he was staying and the rest was inevitable.’
The presenter, who founded the world’s first child abuse hotline, Childline, in 1986, was appalled by the emergence of evidence which suggests that a powerful network of paedophiles may once have stalked the corridors of power.
She said: ‘It is really important that the people who have suffered now recognise that they do have a right to justice. It is not about the culture of the time.
‘Child abuse has always been a crime and, in my experience, there was never a time when it was tolerated. What happened with Cyril Smith was horrific. The whole thing was hushed up and police were taken off cases and prevented from going public with what they knew.
‘It was straightforward, old-fashioned conspiracy.’
Lists of VIP visitors to the Elm Guest House – which hosted parties in the 1980s where vulnerable boys were sexually assaulted after being plied with alcohol – are now being used by police as evidence in their Operation Fernbridge inquiry.
The documents, seen by the Mail on Sunday, state that politicians including ‘N Fairburn’ and ‘C Smith’ visited the property on June 7, 1982. They also state that ‘Fairburn’ had ‘used boys in sauna’ and that photos had been taken of him – as well as Cyril Smith – at the guest house.
Police have confirmed that Smith, the late Liberal MP for Rochdale, who has since been exposed as a serial abuser, was a regular visitor to the address.
Despite the spelling discrepancy there have now been calls for a full investigation which would establish whether Fairbairn was involved.
Sir Nicholas, who carried a brace of pistols on his hip and designed his own flamboyant tartan attire, was forced to resign as Solicitor General in 1982 over a decision not to prosecute in a rape case.
RESIGNATION HURTS, SAYS BARONESS BUTLER-SLOSS
By Martin Delgado
Baroness Butler-Sloss, chosen to chair the inquiry into historic child abuse, has spoken of her ‘hurt’ at having to resign before she could even take up the role.
The resignation last week came after claims the retired judge’s late brother, Sir Michael Havers, who was Attorney-General and later Lord Chancellor, was involved in a cover-up.
‘I didn’t want to resign but I had to.
‘The victims didn’t have faith in me,’ she said. ‘Now all I feel is hurt and sadness.
‘I discussed it with loved ones before making my decision, but nobody influenced or pushed me. It’s a pity.
‘Yes, it hurt me.’
The peer was speaking at London’s Piccadilly Theatre at the Jack Petchey Foundation’s Speak Out Challenge.
Peter Saunders, of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: ‘She seems to be drawing attention to her own self-pity. Many victims of abuse will find her remarks insensitive.’
The previous year a House of Commons secretary had tried to hang herself from a lamp-post outside his London flat after they had an affair.
In Who’s Who Sir Nicholas described his pastimes as: ‘Making love, ends meet and people laugh.’
In 2000 the daughter of a prominent Scottish lawyer, who was never publicly named, alleged Sir Nicholas had been part of a paedophile ring. At the time the claims were angrily rejected by his family.
Sir Nicholas’ eldest daughter Charlotte declined to comment on the latest allegations, stating: ‘There’s nothing I can say. He’s been dead for 20 years.’
The Express, July 21st, 2014
Greg Christison, ‘Esther’s horror at Fairbairn child sex allegations’
ESTHER Rantzen has said she is “horrified and disgusted” after her former lover Sir Nicholas Fairbairn was linked to the child abuse scandal at Westminster.
The allegations have been denied by Nicholas Fairbairn’s family[NC]
The broadcaster, who founded the Childline telephone service for children suffering abuse, had an affair with the late Conservative MP and Solicitor General for Scotland after they met at a BBC studio in 1966.
It has been claimed that Sir Nicholas, who died in 1995 aged 61, visited a London guest house where children from care homes were allegedly assaulted by high-profile visitors.
Ms Rantzen said: “I am horrified and disgusted by these allegations, because Nicky was a friend of mine.
“I had a very brief relationship with him. I always assumed that he was attracted to adult women rather than children.
“I had absolutely no knowledge of that side of him. However, over the years I have learned that you really never know anyone.”
The 74-year-old, who has played a leading role in uncovering child abuse, was 26 when she embarked on an affair with the married politician.
They met after he appeared as a guest on a BBC show where she was working as a researcher.
“When I knew Nicky he was courteous, charming and very fond of women,” she continued.
“He was a high-profile lawyer, who lived in a castle and had a very flamboyant private life.
“He took me to lunch at the Ritz. He gave me a long-stemmed red rose and ordered Beluga caviar and Krug champagne.
“If ever there was an aphrodisiac meal, that was it. Nicky took me to some Lord’s house where he was staying and the rest was inevitable.”
Esther Rantzen has been shocked upon of the alleged child abuse [REX]
It is understood evidence suggests Sir Nicholas was one of several politicians who visited Elm Guest House, which hosted parties in the 1980s where vulnerable boys were sexually assaulted after being plied with alcohol.
A VIP list of visitors suggests Sir Nicholas “used boys in the sauna” and that photos existed of him at the guest house.
Police are investigating the list, which also contains the name of the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith, as part of their Operation Fernbridge inquiry.
Sir Nicholas was forced to resign as Solicitor General in 1982 over a decision not to prosecute in a rape case. A year beforehand, a House of Commons secretary tried to hang herself from a lamppost outside his London flat after they had an affair.
In 2000, the daughter of a prominent Scottish lawyer, who was never publicly named, alleged Sir Nicholas had been part of a paedophile ring.
The claims were denied by his family.
Sir Nicholas’ eldest daughter, Charlotte, declined to comment on the latest allegations, stating: “There’s nothing I can say. He’s been dead for 20 years.”
Daily Mail, August 14th, 2014
Emma Cowing and Graham Grant, ‘I was raped aged 4 by top aide to Thatcher: Woman claims she was abused by senior Conservative MP who visited notorious guest house with paedophile Cyril Smith’
- Susie Henderson, 48, says she was raped by Sir Nicholas Fairbairn
- Tory politician was solicitor general for Scotland, and Perth and Ross MP
- MP died in 1995, aged 61, and was a favourite of Margaret Thatcher
- Miss Henderson says she was abused by late father, a prominent QC
- New evidence suggests Fairbairn visited Elm Guest House
- Property is the focus of investigation into alleged paedophile ring in 1980s
A woman last night claimed she was raped at the age of four by a senior Tory MP who was one of Margaret Thatcher’s closest allies.
Susie Henderson waived her right to anonymity to describe the appalling abuse she alleges was inflicted on her by Sir Nicholas Fairbairn.
The late Conservative politician, who was appointed solicitor general for Scotland by Mrs Thatcher when she became prime minister, has been linked to the child abuse scandal threatening to engulf Westminster.
Last month evidence came to light which suggests Sir Nicholas may have visited the Elm Guest House which serial abuser Cyril Smith attended. The property in Barnes, south-west London, is the focus of a Scotland Yard investigation into an alleged Establishment paedophile ring in the 1980s.
The evidence emerged weeks after Home Secretary Theresa May announced a Hillsborough-style inquiry into claims of paedophile activities in Parliament and other public institutions.
Now, Miss Henderson, 48, has told the Mail that she was raped as a young child by Sir Nicholas – and that she also suffered years of sexual assaults by her late father, prominent Scottish QC Robert Henderson, who was a friend of the MP.
She said of Sir Nicholas: ‘I hated that man,’ adding: ‘More than I hated my father. He just really wasn’t a nice man.
‘I want it acknowledged that my father and Fairbairn did something very evil. Not just to me. There are other children out there.’ Miss Henderson first made her allegations against Sir Nicholas – famous for his outspoken views, frock-coat suits and tartan trousers – and her father under the alias of ‘Julie X’ in 2000 but an initial police investigation did not lead to any charges.
Sir Nicholas, flamboyant MP for Perth and Kinross, died in 1995, aged 61. Twice-married, he once described his pastimes as: ‘Making love, ends meet and people laugh.’
The MP from 1974 to 1995 was a favourite of Mrs Thatcher because of his right-wing views and his noisily expressed adoration of her. He once claimed to enjoy a ‘special chemistry’ with the former Prime Minister and wrote in The Spectator magazine about her: ‘Sexually attractive, no, but certainly bonny.’ Miss Henderson, whose father died in 2012 aged 75, claims Sir Nicholas first abused her at one of her father’s parties at his Edinburgh home. She said: ‘We were in the kitchen. I was maybe four years old, I could have been younger.
‘I had a skirt on and Nicholas and my dad had been drinking, and my dad told me to sit on Nicholas’s knee. I sat on his knee and he put his hand up my skirt and abused me. My dad just stood there laughing.’
Recalling another incident, Miss Henderson, who lives near Inverness, claimed Sir Nicholas raped her when she was in bed with him and ‘another guy’ in a guest room on the top floor of her five-storey family home.
She says she was just four or five years old at the time, and remembers the pungent smell of his feet. Sobbing, she said she was not sure how many times Sir Nicholas abused her but says it was ‘a lot,’ adding: ‘Even once is too much.’ Last night Sir Nicholas’s daughter Charlotte, 50, told the Mail that while she ‘did not know’ whether her father had carried out the alleged abuse, she very much doubted it. She said: ‘I don’t really want to know anything about it, I would be very surprised by that [the claims made against her father], but he is dead. He’s not here to defend himself.
‘It would sound hollow if I said, “He’s innocent.” I don’t know, though I completely and utterly doubt it [that he was an abuser.] It’s all such a long time ago. I hope it’s not true.’
Lists of VIP visitors to the Elm Guest House – which hosted parties in the 1980s where it is alleged vulnerable boys were sexually assaulted – are now being used by police as evidence in their inquiry, Operation Fernbridge. One document states politicians including ‘N Fairburn’ and C Smith’ visited the property in June 1982.
They also state ‘Fairburn’ had ‘used boys in sauna’ and photos had been taken of him – as well as former Liberal MP Smith – at the guest house. Police have confirmed that Smith was a regular visitor to the address.
Last month broadcaster Esther Rantzen spoke of her revulsion after learning Sir Nicholas, with whom she had an affair after they met in a BBC studio in 1966, had been implicated in the scandal.
Miss Henderson, speaking publicly after Sir Nicholas was linked to the guest house, said: ‘I knew this would come out.
‘I’m only surprised it has taken so long. I told the police about him in 2000, I told them what Fairbairn was. But they just wanted me to go away.
My father was feted by legal establishment, but was really a monster who let his powerful friends rape me
Every night before five-year-old Susie Henderson went to sleep, she would arrange her dolls around her bed. She wasn’t playing, she was hiding. Four decades on, it is a memory that still haunts her.
‘I put them there thinking that, when my father came for me in the night, he wouldn’t know it was me and he would take one of my dolls instead,’ she says. ‘But he never did.’
Now 48, Miss Henderson has spent a lifetime in hiding. For the past 14 years she has been known only as ‘Julie X’, the anonymous woman who in 2000 made allegations of child sexual abuse against her father – a senior member of the legal profession – and MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, the former Solicitor General for Scotland and a member of Margaret Thatcher’s inner circle.
Today, Miss Henderson has waived her anonymity to detail the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, the late Robert Henderson QC, one of Scotland’s top advocates and a close friend and former colleague of Fairbairn. Henderson died in December 2012, Fairbairn in 1995.
In the wake of the paedophile scandal threatening to engulf Westminster in which Fairbairn was recently implicated, Miss Henderson has chosen to come forward to tell her story.
She is calling for the police investigation into Henderson and Fairbairn, which was halted in 2000 after details were leaked to the Press and evidence was mislaid, to be re-opened.
She has also given the Scottish Daily Mail the names of six other senior members of the Scottish legal profession who she alleges either abused her or were aware of the abuse, which took place in the 1970s. Two of these individuals are still alive.
Today Miss Henderson lives a quiet life near Inverness with her partner, who fully supports her decision to tell her story, saying: ‘Over the years, Susie has lived in fear – but once other stories about Fairbairn started to come out, we realised that she could finally do this without fear. She can get closure.’
Miss Henderson works in social care, has a grown-up son and at weekends walks her dog along the windswept beaches near her home. She is well-spoken and articulate, with a ready smile and a mischievous sense of humour.
Yet her life is still overshadowed by the monstrous actions of her father and his friends – a set of high-powered legal figures who, she says, ritually abused her as part of an organised paedophile ring in the early 1970s when she was between four and eight years old.
‘It’s really only in my 40s that I’ve started living my life,’ she says. ‘I have good days and I have bad days. It will never go away and I get horrendous nightmares at times but, because my father is dead now, I’m not as scared as I used to be.’
Miss Henderson was born in 1966 into a life of Edinburgh privilege. Her father and his first wife, her mother, lived in a five-storey Georgian townhouse in the New Town. Parties were common and Henderson, a rising star in the Scottish legal profession, was a flamboyant and charming man-about-town.
‘I have horrendous nightmares, it will never go away’
But behind closed doors he was a monster. He often beat his wife and young Susie was regularly belted: ‘He threw my Mum and me out in the snow one night when he brought a woman home.
‘He used to jump out of wardrobes to frighten people. He drank very heavily. There were always people round at the house and my Mum was just the slave.’
Henderson could be sadistically cruel towards his family. His daughter recalls: ‘One time he came home unexpectedly and I had my pet hamster out. I wasn’t allowed to have it out when he was there and I was terrified he’d go crazy. But he didn’t do anything, he just said: “Put that away.”‘
‘The next morning when I went downstairs, it was stuffed into a milk bottle. He’d killed it. That was my punishment for letting it out.’
Yet Henderson could also be urbane and charismatic. Well thought-of among the political establishment, he twice stood as a Tory candidate for Parliament during the 1970s in Inverness-shire.
‘He could be very charming, usually when drunk,’ says Miss Henderson. ‘I can’t remember him being a loving man but he could be quite nice. He wasn’t always horrendous.’
She believes her father started abusing her around the age of three and sexually abused her repeatedly until she was eight years old: ‘He would say to my Mum when he came back from the pub, “I’ll take Susie for a nap.” And that was when he’d do it. He always put a pillow over my head. Another time in the bath he abused me and put my head under the water.’
The house was often full of people, her father’s friends, who she says also abused her, or were fully aware of what was going on: ‘I was told that whatever anybody wanted I was to do it, no matter what it was.
‘My father had parties where I had to dance for people. He’d then put me in a bedroom. People came in. They had drugs there, lots of drink. My Dad used to give me drink.’
She clearly remembers the first time Fairbairn abused her at one of her father’s parties: ‘We were in the kitchen. I was maybe four years old. I had a skirt on and Nicholas and my Dad had been drinking, and my Dad told me to sit on Nicholas’s knee. I sat on his knee and he put his hand up my skirt and abused me. My Dad just stood there laughing.’
She remembers another incident involving Fairbairn: ‘The house was five floors and the top floor was where the guests used to stay. I was in bed in the guest room with Fairbairn and another guy.’
She alleges that on this occasion Fairbairn raped her. She was just four or five years old. Today, she sobs quietly as she recalls the incident and details such as the pungent smell of Fairbairn’s feet: ‘I hated that man – more than I hated my father. He just really wasn’t a nice man.’ She is not sure how many times Fairbairn abused her but says it was ‘a lot’, adding: ‘Even once is too much.’
Last month, Fairbairn was named as one of those believed to have visited the notorious Elm Guest House in London. A handwritten list of visitors to the guest house – which hosted parties in the 1980s where vulnerable boys were sexually assaulted after being plied with alcohol – states that a number of politicians including ‘N Fairburn’ and ‘C Smith’ – visited the property on June 7, 1982.
‘C Smith’ is believed to be Cyril Smith, the Liberal MP who has been exposed as a serial paedophile and who police have confirmed was a regular visitor to the brothel.
The documents also state that ‘Fairburn’ had ‘used boys in sauna’ and that photographs had been taken of him at the guest house. Despite the spelling discrepancy over Fairbairn/Fairburn, there have now been calls for a full investigation to establish whether or not Fairbairn was involved. Miss Henderson says she is not surprised: ‘I knew this would come out. I’m only surprised it has taken so long. I told the police about him in 2000, I told them what Fairbairn was. But they just wanted me to go away.’
The regular abuse stopped when she was eight years old and her mother left Henderson, taking Miss Henderson with her. It continued sporadically until she was around 12, whenever Henderson had custody of her.
‘Occasionally I would go and stay at my father’s,’ she says. ‘We never went to the pictures or did anything normal as father and daughter.
‘There were parties and drink and drugs and people half-naked. I remember him taking me to a sauna one time. Another time, he took me to a judge’s house and left me there.’
Miss Henderson knows that parts of her story may sound unbelievable: ‘Who would believe that the solicitor general and other top lawyers would be abusing children? Especially back in the 1970s and early 1980s. Those kind of things weren’t talked about.’
She kept in touch with her father during her teenage years – a decision which might seem incomprehensible.
‘I always wanted his approval,’ she says quietly. ‘I always wanted him to love me. I had this vision of what I wanted him to be. All my friends had nice Dads.
‘And, as I said, he could be really, really charming. But when he was angry or drunk he was something totally different.’
Those questioning why Henderson was not brought to justice while he was alive may remember the Fettesgate scandal of the 1990s, when it was alleged that a magic circle of legal figures was conspiring to fix sentences. The case was eventually thrown out of court.
Miss Henderson says: ‘With the Fettesgate scandal, my father had a list of all the prominent people involved and he used to just laugh. He would say, “If I go down, they’ll all go down with me.”
‘He told me he could put me six feet under’
‘He had all this evidence. He showed me. He just thought it was all hysterical. He knew he would take the whole lot of them with him. That’s why it was all hush-hushed.’
And so it was that in 2000, having agreed to speak anonymously about her experiences to Sandra Brown, author of a book about child abuse called Where There is Evil, she found her story greeted with scepticism.
Senior Tories rallied to Fairbairn’s defence, describing her allegations as ‘absolute rubbish’.
Fairbairn’s daughter Charlotte dismissed the claims. Henderson, by then retired but still a prominent member of the legal establishment, phoned his daughter and warned her not to continue making allegations.
‘He told me he could put me six feet under,’ says Miss Henderson, whose claims were investigated by the police. They interviewed both her and her mother, who supported her daughter’s claims.
But following a mysterious leak to the Press and the loss of evidence, Miss Henderson halted the investigation. She explains now that the police had ‘told me nobody would know until the investigation was over, but I was only half-way through my statement when it was leaked.
‘To have that happen to you, when it had taken me years to get to the point where I felt it was time for justice, was devastating. I was just a whimpering mess. I couldn’t go on.’
At the time, she handed a number of key pieces of evidence to police. She asked for their return several times over the years but was always told they were in a ‘safe’ place. Recently she was told that they had been ‘mislaid’.
‘I want answers for that,’ she says. ‘I want my stuff back. And I want it acknowledged that my father and Fairbairn did something very evil. Not just to me. There are other children out there.
‘And these were people in power. We put them there and they are supposed to be trusted. It’s not right.’
Miss Henderson has lived with the scars, physical and mental, of the abuse all her life. As a teenager she developed an eating disorder. Following the birth of her son in her twenties, she suffered debilitating post-natal depression that caused many memories of those terrible times to come flooding back.
Eventually, she spent time in a psychiatric unit. Today, however, she feels that finally people will understand that she is telling the truth about Fairbairn: ‘I know – I hope – I will be believed.
‘He used to pay me money for it,’ she adds. ‘A pound here, a pound there. It was as if it was his way of thinking it was OK, because he’d paid for it.’
And like many abuse victims, for a long time she believed it was her own fault.
‘I used to feel guilty,’ she says. ‘I don’t feel guilty any more. Now I’m able to stand up and have a voice.’
Daily Mail, August 14th, 2014
Jonathan Brocklebank, ‘A magic circle of judges, a sex abuse probe and the sinister truth about theFettesgate scandal’
- Alleged in the 1990s that ‘magic circle’ of judges conspired to fix sentences
- But Crown investigators found in 1992 the was no evidence of conspiracy
- Detective’s report into claims was stolen from Fettes police HQ in 1992
- Defence lawyer Robert Henderson let it be believed there was a magic circle
- His record of legal figures compromised by their homosexuality did not exist
- Henderson’s daughter Susie has accused late father of abusing her
It was the scandal that shook the Scottish legal establishment to its foundations, leaving no senior figure in the judiciary untouched by the whispering campaign it triggered. And, it appeared, there was not a shred of truth in it.
Exhaustive inquiries by Crown investigators in 1992 found no evidence whatever that a so-called ‘magic circle’ of judges, sheriffs and advocates was conspiring to ensure that homosexual criminals were given soft-touch treatment by the courts. Talk of senior judges in the magic circle being blackmailed by ‘rent boys’ was dismissed by the investigators as fanciful – and claims of corruption and collusion in the judiciary rejected as the ravings of conspiracy theorists. Yet there was just one element in the ‘Fettesgate’ scandal that did not seem to gel. Why was one of Scotland’s most admired and respected defence lawyers so keen to put it about that there was indeed a magic circle?
That man was Robert Henderson, a lawyer so lauded in his profession that fellow advocates used to make a point of slipping into court just to watch him in action. During the 1980s, after a particularly stirring closing speech to the jury in a murder trial, the presiding judge remarked that Henderson’s oratory had been ‘nothing short of masterful’.
He was charismatic, cultured and clubbable. And yet he seemed to want the world to know that the information he was sitting on would ‘blow the lid off’ the legal establishment.
Today’s revelations, detailing the sickening abuse of his daughter and his procurement of the child for high-powered friends to rape and molest, provide the strongest clue to Robert Henderson’s motivation. He was issuing a veiled threat to any and all who would attempt to bring him to justice.
As his daughter Susie Henderson reveals, he used to say: ‘If I go down, they’ll all go down with me.’
The defence lawyer certainly had no shortage of dirt on friends such as former Solicitor General Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, the MP he had allowed to rape his daughter.
But Henderson’s record of senior legal figures supposedly compromised by their homosexuality never truly existed. It was a classic poker player’s bluff – an attempt to convince potential opponents he held a stronger hand than he really did. And it worked. Henderson died at 75 in 2012 with his reputation largely intact.
Retired judge Lord McCluskey was among those to write a glowing tribute to him in the national Press. Henderson the smooth, impeccably attired defence counsel never did move from the well of the court to the part of the room where he truly belonged – the dock, to stand trial.
It was in 1989 that he stumbled upon the ‘insurance policy’ that might protect him against prosecution for the abuse to which he had subjected his daughter a decade and a half earlier. It came in the form of Colin Tucker, a gay solicitor accused – and later cleared – of embezzling funds from the clients of the firm Burnett Walker, where he was a junior partner.
When Henderson was instructed to act as his defence counsel, he asked the solicitor to write him a potted history of his time at the firm to help with his case. The resulting document extended to 32 sides of foolscap.
The second half of it was certainly salacious, dealing with the promiscuity of both Mr Tucker and the senior partner at the firm, Ian Walker, a closet homosexual who committed suicide in 1988. But Mr Tucker’s statement contained damaging revelations about only one other member of the legal fraternity – Court of Session judge Lord Dervaird, who abruptly resigned in 1989. No one else had reason to be nervous. Yet Henderson made them so.
A three-month investigation led by prominent QC and future judge William Nimmo Smith into the alleged ‘magic circle’ conspiracy found: ‘There is no allegation in the statement, directly or by implication, of homosexual behaviour by any prominent member of the Scottish legal establishment.’
The report added: ‘In short, there is nothing in the statement which, if published, would “blow the lid off” the Scottish legal establishment, as we have heard it put.’
But Henderson tried to convince his colleagues otherwise. His first act on receiving the document from Mr Tucker was to breach his client’s confidentiality by passing news of it to legal peers, not forgetting to mention Lord Dervaird in the process.
In the Chinese whispers which followed, the document morphed into a ‘list’ of names – and rumour abounded about the people who might be included on it. It was all sparked by Henderson’s betrayal of his client’s confidence – a schoolboy error it was hard to believe a lawyer as experienced as Henderson could commit innocently. The 101-page Crown report into alleged conspiracy hinted as much.
It said: ‘We cannot avoid the conclusion that Robert Henderson has been one of the main instigators and perpetuators of the belief that there was a document, whether or not in the form of a “list”, containing information relating to persons other than Lord Dervaird, and, in particular, other judges.
‘Even after our inquiry began, he made statements to journalists which did nothing to dispel such a belief.’
Henderson allegedly told one journalist that if the list ever did come out it would ruin many careers in the legal establishment.
He claimed to other journalists that he kept a file in a safe at a secret location which would ‘rock the establishment’ and have reporters ‘salivating all the way to the telephone’.
The report concludes Henderson had chosen to let it be believed that he had information he did not have. One theory the investigators considered is he did so to head off possible criminal charges relating to irregularities in his business affairs.
But they dismissed the possibility that the case had quietly been dropped over fears that Henderson had the legal establishment in a stranglehold.
Could it be that the defence lawyer had much more to lose than his reputation over a few shady business deals? That his persistence in talking up the magic circle ‘list’ had much more to do with providing him an amnesty for his monstrous activities in the family home?
Whatever his motivations, the magic circle conspiracy would probably have amounted to little more than unsubstantiated gossip, had Henderson not handed over a copy of Mr Tucker’s statement to the police.
It was an act that his client viewed as the ultimate treachery. Henderson’s explanation was that he did so in ‘wider interests’, but perhaps they were really rather narrow interests – his own.
The Tucker statement fed into a probe which Lothian and Borders police were already carrying out following allegations of senior public figures involved with rent boys in Edinburgh.
Ultimately it was passed to Detective Inspector Roger Orr, who had received orders to get to the bottom of claims that a well-established circle of homosexuals in the legal fraternity were seriously subverting justice.
The detective’s final report was supposed to be for chief constable Sir William Sutherland’s eyes only. But what happened next made his findings very public indeed.
The reason the scandal is known as Fettesgate is because it was at the Police HQ at Fettes that Mr Orr’s confidential report was to be found. And an intruder slipped in to the building through an open window and stole it.
The thief went to some lengths to disguise his intent in the break-in, daubing Animal Liberation Front slogans on the walls.
But the files taken were so sensitive, so potentially embarrassing, that the true purpose of the raid was soon clear enough. Panic swept the force as the scope for blackmailers dawned on its officers. In the Orr report lay the potential for a collapse of public faith in the judicial system – for the detective did believe that some court cases were influenced by a magic circle.
The thief, it turned out, was a homosexual criminal and police informant called Derek Donaldson, who fed stories from his haul of police files to national newspaper journalists.
Finally Donaldson was assured immunity from prosecution in return for handing back the files, but the controversial findings of the Orr Report still made it into the public domain, causing a national sensation.
So grave was the charge now faced by the Scottish legal establishment that Prime Minister John Major ordered the Lord Advocate to hold an inquiry.
William Nimmo Smith and regional procurator fiscal James Friel were the men now tasked with uncovering the truth about the magic circle ‘conspiracy’.
They found no proof of any such magic circle – but clear evidence that Henderson wanted people to think there was one. Time and again, they concluded, it was ‘loose talk’ by Henderson which promoted the belief in a magic circle.
There was a final, extraordinary twist before the report’s official publication. A man posing as a reporter from a high-brow newspaper managed to con his way into Nimmo Smith’s home with a tape recorder and quiz him on the report’s findings.
The bogus journalist was none other than Derek Donaldson, the Fettes HQ thief.
Donaldson immediately sold his scoop to a tabloid, which ran a story under the headline ‘Nimmo the Dimmo’. Days later, the senior lawyer was admitted to hospital with nervous exhaustion.
It is perhaps significant that Sir Nicholas Fairbairn was among the most vocal critics of the blunder, saying: ‘This absolutely impurifies the whole process. I don’t see that the Lord Advocate can do anything but reappoint a new commission to do the whole thing again.’
Just over two years later, Fairbairn was dead – never in his lifetime exposed as a paedophile. His friend Henderson lived much longer – long enough to learn that his daughter had no intention of letting him get away with his appalling treatment of her as a child.
Calling herself Julie X, she told newspapers in 2000 that her father, a leading Edinburgh lawyer, had abused her from the age of four. The law prevented her from naming him publicly, but he knew who he was – he knew she was coming after him.
And so the final years of a once-universally esteemed lawyer were lived with the tension of his disgrace hanging over him like a filthy raincloud.
He died before it burst. His sudden demise at his retirement home in South-west France spared him from ever facing the consequences of his deeds. And the tributes which followed his death were all generous.
‘It was a joy when Bob walked into court and announced he was appearing as counsel for the defence,’ remembered Lord McCluskey.
‘The lights seemed to shine a little brighter.’
Henderson was, it seems, a much darker character than the senior judge ever realised.
Evening News (Edinburgh), August 14th, 2014
Diane King, ‘Top Tory raped me when I was four, now I want justice’
THE daughter of a prominent Edinburgh lawyer at the centre of the Fettesgate scandal of the 1990s has claimed she was raped by her father and a senior Tory MP.
Susie Henderson, the daughter of QC and temporary sheriff Robert Henderson, waived her right to anonymity to talk about the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her father and the late Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, a former MP for Kinross and Western Perthshire, when she was four.
Miss Henderson, 48, said she was the victim of an organised paedophile ring consisting of high-powered legal figures who subjected her to years of abuse at locations including the five-storey Georgian townhouse in the New Town where her family lived.
Her father, Robert Henderson, was a pivotal figure in a major legal scandal of the late 1980s and early 1990s when he claimed a “magic circle” of judges, sheriffs and advocates were conspiring to ensure homosexual criminals were given light sentences by the courts. The claims were dismissed in an official inquiry, but much of the evidence in the report was stolen from Fettes by conman Derek Donaldson in 1992 and sold to the press.
Miss Henderson today called for a police investigation into her father and Fairbairn, halted in 2000 after evidence was mislaid and crucial details leaked to the press, to be re-opened.
“I want it acknowledged that my father and Fairbairn did something very evil. Not just to me. There are other children out there. And these were people in power. We put them there and they are supposed to be trusted.”
Miss Henderson first made allegations against Fairbairn and her father under the alias of Julie X in 2000, but no charges were brought.
She has chosen to come forward and be named after Fairbairn was implicated in the scandal over the Elm Guest House in London which saw youngsters abused by high-profile figures in the 1980s. Fairbairn died in 1995 at the age of 61, while Henderson died in 2012 aged 75.
Fairbairn’s daughter, Charlotte, 50, reportedly said she “did not know” whether the allegations against her father were true, but said she doubted it. “I would be very surprised by that, but he is dead,” she said. “He is not here to defend himself.”
Documents targeted by thief
THE Fettesgate scandal of 1992 involved the theft of sensitive materials from Lothian and Borders Police HQ at Fettes in July, 1992 – including a report by Detective Inspector Roger Orr into claims of an established “magic circle” of homosexuals in the legal fraternity who were subverting the course of justice. The theft was disguised as an attack by the Animal Liberation Front, but it later emerged the documents had been targeted by thief and conman Derek Conway, who sold the information from the files to national newspapers. Donaldson was later given an assured immunity from prosecution in return for handing back the files – but not before the Orr report made it into the public domain.
Daily Telegraph, August 15th, 2014
Auslan Cramb, ‘I was victim of paedophile ring says woman ‘abused’ by Tory MP’
A WOMAN has claimed she was raped by a Tory MP who was a close ally of Margaret Thatcher and sexually abused by her father, a senior figure in the Scottish legal establishment.
Susie Henderson said she was sexually abused as a small child by her father, Robert Henderson QC, and by his friend Sir Nicholas Fairbairn.
She has waived her right to anonymity to claim she was the victim of an organised paedophile ring that also involved other legal figures.
Miss Henderson, 48, a mother of one who works in social care, first made allegations against Fairbairn, who was made solicitor general of Scotland by Mrs Thatcher, in 2000, when she was known only as Julie X. The police launched an inquiry at the time but no charges were brought after she halted the investigation when part of her statement was leaked to the press.
She said she had now decided to disclose her identity after the late Tory MP, who died in 1995, was linked to the scandal over the Elm Guest House in London, where youngsters from children’s homes were allegedly abused in the 1980s.
Last month, Fairbairn was named as one of those believed to have visited the house, which was also said to have been visited by Cyril Smith, the late Liberal MP who has been exposed as a paedophile.
Miss Henderson, who lives with her partner near Inverness, said she wanted a new police inquiry. She told the Daily Mail: “I want it acknowledged that my father and Fairbairn did something very evil. Not just to me.”
She added that she believes her father, who died in 2012, began abusing her at the age of three and repeatedly abused her until she was eight.
Miss Henderson also claimed her father, who was highly regarded as a defence lawyer and temporary sheriff, could be sadistically cruel, drank heavily and treated her mother like a “slave”.
She claimed that the family home in Edinburgh was often full of her father’s friends, who also abused her.
She told the newspaper that when she made the claims in 2000, senior Tories described her allegations as “rubbish” and her father phoned her and warned her not to continue making the allegations.
Miss Henderson also disclosed that she developed an eating disorder as a teenager, and that following the birth of her son in her twenties she suffered postnatal depression that caused many memories of the abuse to return and later spent time in a psychiatric unit.
She said she now hoped that she would be believed, adding: “He [Fairbairn] used to pay me money for it. A pound here, a pound there. It was as if it was his way of thinking it okay.”
Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, said ministers could not “stand back” from the call for an inquiry.
Fairbairn’s daughter Charlotte told the newspaper that she “utterly doubted” that her father was a child abuser, adding that he was “not here to defend himself”.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Robert Henderson claimed a so-called “magic circle” of judges, sheriffs and advocates were conspiring to ensure that homosexual criminals were given softtouch treatment by the courts. The claims were dismissed in an official inquiry.
GRAPHIC: Susie Henderson waived her anonymity to accuse her late father Robert Henderson QC and the Tory MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, right, of abusing her when she was a child
The Herald, August 15th, 2014
Victoria Weldon, ‘Former judge’s shock over QC paedophile ring allegations’
A FORMER senior judge has claimed he is “utterly flabbergasted” at allegations a prominent lawyer and close friend of his headed up a high profile paedophile ring.
Lord McCluskey said he was also shocked to hear that Robert Henderson QC had been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing his daughter from the age of three.
Susie Henderson has waived her right to anonymity to tell of her alleged ordeal at the hands of her father and several other prominent figures, including senior Tory MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn.
The 48-year-old claims she was repeatedly subjected to sickening sex attacks by her father, who was well known and respected in Scotland’s legal fraternity.
She also alleges that she was passed among a number of his colleagues who also attacked and raped her at the family’s Edinburgh home.
Lord McCluskey, a former Solicitor General for Scotland, said he found the claims hard to believe.
The former judge, who wrote a glowing obituary for Mr Henderson following his death in 2012, said: “I’m utterly flabbergasted by these allegations. Never in my life have I heard any suggestion of anything of this kind involving Bob Henderson.
“I’m just amazed to hear it and I would be astonished if it turns out to be true.
“I’ve no reason to believe it’s true – I have no evidence and I never heard even a bit of gossip suggesting this.
“I would await the outcome of any inquiry before adding anything further.”
Miss Henderson’s case was looked at by police in 2000, but was halted after details were leaked to the press. She said officers had told her that nobody would know until the investigation was over, but panicked and refused to continue when details appeared publicly.
At that time she handed a number of key pieces of evidence over to the police but claims she was recently told that they had been “misplaced”.
A number of articles appeared following the initial investigation, but Miss Henderson was referred to only as Julie X and her father’s identity was never revealed.
She now wants the case to be reopened by detectives.
“I want it acknowledged that my father and Fairbairn did something very evil,” she said. “Not just to me. There are other children out there. And these were people in power. We put them there and they are supposed to be trusted. It’s not right.”
Miss Henderson also claims to have the names of six other members of the Scottish legal profession who were involved, two of whom are still alive.
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal said Police Scotland were committed to investigating all reports of historic abuse.
She said: “There are many reasons why a victim may not report such abuse until years – even decades – after the event.
“These can include fear of not being believed, especially if the individual is a prominent public figure, and of reliving the incidents. Similarly, some victims may contact the police to report abuse but then find it too difficult. We will listen, we will ask our partners in support services to assist and we can pick up where we left off when they feel more able to provide the necessary information.”
She added: “Any report of historic child abuse will be treated seriously.”
Miss Henderson claims that, while her father was seen as a flamboyant star of the legal profession, behind closed doors her had a much more sinister side.
She believes he began abusing her when she was just three and would tell her mother he was taking her for a nap before carrying out the attacks. The advocate also hosted regular parties and Miss Henderson said she was told to do “whatever anybody wanted”.
Miss Henderson claims to remember an incident where Mr Fairbairn, a former Solicitor General, raped her when she was just four or five years old.
Mr Fairbairn, who died in 1995, has been linked to the notorious Elm Guest House in London, where young boys are believed to have been plied with alcohol and sexually assaulted. Calls have been made for the Scottish Government to instruct an inquiry into historic sex abuse cases.
GRAPHIC: Nicholas Fairbairn: Susie Henderson claims he raped her. Robert Henderson: Daughter claims he sexually abused her. claims: Susie Henderson says she was subjected to sickening sex attacks by her father. Picture: Derek Ironside
Evening News (Edinburgh), August 15th, 2014
Kaye Nicolson, ‘Victims of rape need justice’
Calls have been made for a Scottish investigation into historic rape claims after the daughter of a prominent Edinburgh solicitor claimed she was the victim of a paedophile ring.
Susie Henderson, whose father Robert Henderson was the QC and temporary sheriff at the heart of the Fettesgate scandal, waived her right to anonymity to talk about the abuse she allegedly suffered as a child at the hands of her father and the late Tory MP Sir NicholasFairbairn.
The 48-year-old claimed she was targeted by high-powered legal figures who subjected her to years of abuse at addresses in the Capital – including her New Town family home.
Miss Henderson’s shocking claims – which included an allegation that Sir Nicholas raped her at the age of four – have fuelled calls for a thorough inquiry into historic child abuse cases in Scotland.
The UK government has launched plans for an overarching child abuse inquiry, but its exact remit has not been confirmed.
Lothians Labour MSP Sarah Boyack today added her voice to growing pressure for a home-based investigation after her party colleague and former police officer Graeme Pearson demanded a public inquiry last month.
She said: “I support his call because victims need access to justice. Survivors of abuse deserve the chance be heard and possibly gain closure from their horrific experiences. It is also important that lessons are learned for the future.”
She added: “With more people speaking out, the case for a public inquiry becomes ever stronger.”
Meanwhile, Police Scotland said it was “committed” to investigating all reports of historic child abuse.
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal said: “There are many reasons why a victim may not report such abuse until years – even decades – after the event.
“These can include fear of not being believed, especially if the individual is a prominent public figure, and of reliving the incidents. Similarly, some victims may contact the police to report abuse but then find it too difficult. We will listen.”
Robert Henderson QC, who died in 2012, prompted a major legal scandal in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he claimed a “magic circle” of judges, sheriffs and advocates were conspiring to ensure homosexual criminals were given light sentences by the courts. The claims were dismissed in an official inquiry, but much of the evidence in the report was stolen from Fettes police HQ by conman Derek Donaldson and sold to the press, in an incident dubbed “Fettesgate”.
The UK government’s child abuse inquiry was announced earlier this year after it was alleged that senior politicians were passed files in the 1980s containing paedophile allegations about prominent figures.
The Sun, August 15th, 2014
Stuart Patterson, ‘I was raped aged four by MP Sir Nicky; Top Tory ‘in paedo gang”
A MUM claims she was raped by former Tory stalwart Sir Nicholas Fairbairn when she was four years old.
Susie Henderson suffered years of abuse at the hands of Scotland’s ex-Solicitor General, she says.
She told how she was offered for sex to the MP by her father Robert Henderson, also a lawyer, who also raped her.
Susie, 48, claimed the pair were part of a secret paedophile ring of Scottish establishment figures, who preyed on underage youngsters at drink and drug-fuelled parties.
She said: “I want it acknowledged that my father and Fairbairn did something very evil. Not just to me.
“There are other children out there. These were people in power. We put them there and they are supposed to be trusted. It’s not right.”
Susie claims her father laughed as she was abused for the first time by Fairbairn at the family home in Edinburgh.
She said the flamboyant Kinross and Western Perthshire MP – who died aged 61 in 1995 – later gave her money after some sex attacks.
And she named six other members of the legal profession who she claims also abused her, including two still alive. Her father was never charged before he died in 2012 at 75.
Susie’s allegations come as an official probe has been launched amid claims of a Westminster paedophile ring.
Fairbairn, known as Nicky, was named as a possible suspect. His daughter Charlotte, 50, said she would be “very surprised” if the claims were true.
She added: “I doubt it. It’s all such a long time ago. I hope it’s not true.
Daily Mail, August 23rd, 2014
Guy Adams and Andrew Malone, ‘Revealed: Full Horrifying Truth about the other Paedophile at Maggie’s side’
Despite his reputation as a womaniser and fondness for malt whisky, a daily habit that brought about his premature death aged just 61, the funeral of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn in 1995 was marked by an outpouring of respect and admiration.
As more than 1,000 luminaries crammed into St John’s Kirk in Perth, the former Tory MP’s significance as a political figure was underlined by the presence of Lady Thatcher, who had promoted the brilliant solicitor to her first Cabinet in 1979.
While a lone Scottish piper played a lament, Britain’s first woman Prime Minister strode solemnly to the pulpit to read an excerpt from The Prophet, a book by the Lebanese poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, who had been one of Fairbairn’s favourite authors.
Her tribute was witnessed by a host of leading politicians, judges, and Scottish aristocrats of the day.
They had come to pay respects to a uniquely colourful individual who, in a political career spanning two decades, has achieved a mixture of fame and notoriety as one the most recognisable but also controversial members of the Commons.
A self-styled eccentric, who lived in the 13th-century Fordell Castle near Dunfermline, Sir Nicholas was blessed with extraordinary intelligence and political talent. He had been Scotland’s youngest ever QC before being elected MP for Perth and Kinross in 1974, at the age of 40.
In Westminster, where his initial rise was stratospheric, he cut a dandyish figure, and was often seen in blue baronial tartan adorned with two miniature (working) silver revolvers, which Sir Nicholas would load with blanks and fire when drunk.
When speaking in the Commons, Sir Nicolas sometimes wore an enormous Highland smock (I know I look like an ironmonger, but I don’t want my suits to glitter like other MPs’ ‘), or a kilt teamed with double-breasted scarlet jacket, gold watch chain and lurid pink shirt.
Other favourite outfits were buckled shoes, tartan knickerbockers, and a thick brown jumper over which he placed a huge leather belt with a metal buckle. When the Queen knighted him in 1988, he turned up in full Scottish regalia, complete with a skhian dubh a small dagger and sword.
Clothes weren’t the only thing about Sir Nicholas that generated column inches, though.
A notorious adulterer, who clocked up two wives and scores of mistresses, he was forced to resign as Lady Thatcher’s Solicitor General for Scotland in 1982, after a scandal stemming from his decision not to press charges against a group of men accused of attacking a Glasgow prostitute with razor blades during a gang rape.
Thereafter, he descended into chronic alcoholism, consuming at least a bottle of Scotch each day though he stressed that he was happy to make do’ with vodka.
As his fondness for drink worsened, his tongue loosened. Throughout the Eighties and early Nineties, he became notorious for giving colourful interviews in which he expressed deeply offensive, and often highly misogynistic, sentiments.
On Desert Island Discs, for example, he declared that female MPs lack fragrance they all look as if they’re from the 5th Kiev Stalinist machine gun parade’.
In newspaper interviews, he called Labour MP and feminist Clare Short the big, fat one,’ described rape victims as tauntresses’ and asked what is a skirt, but an open gateway?’
In late-night Commons debate about the gay age of consent in 1994, Sir Nicholas was meanwhile called to order by the Speaker for delivering a drunken diatribe against homosexuality which included an obscene description of the mechanics of sodomy’.
In later years he took great pleasure in making unsolicited and often deeply demeaning advances on women unfortunate enough to catch his eye.
The Guardian reporter Judy Rumbold interviewed him in 1991. Towards the end of proceedings, she wrote: He lunges across the table and tries to engage me in a whiskery snog.’ Shockingly, Fairbairn’s second wife, Suzanne (known as Sam) was in the next room at the time.
Not even Lady Thatcher could avoid his unwanted attention. In the mid-Eighties, Sir Nicholas drunkenly propositioned the then Prime Minister during a dinner at Hollyrood Palace, whispering into her ear that he’d always fancied’ her.
The Iron Lady is said to have responded: Quite right, Nicholas, you have very good taste.’ But noting the extent of Fairbairn’s intoxication, she then added: However, I don’t think that you would make it at the moment.’
Doubtless Lady Thatcher, like many in those less enlightened times, regarded her former Cabinet ally as an amusing buffoon.
Perhaps she, and other friends, forgave his wandering hands as a sort of harmless horseplay. Indeed, following his death from cirrhosis of the liver, obituaries portrayed him as a bombastic eccentric who’d added greatly to the gaiety of Westminster.
But that was then. Today, things have changed. And in light of a series of appalling recent allegations, that light-hearted view of SirNicholas Fairbairn seems nothing less than grotesque.
For in addition to being a drunk and a womaniser, this famous Scottish Conservative also stands accused of being a predatory paedophile one of two abusers now identified in Lady Thatcher’s inner circle.
Talking to the Daily Mail last week, 48-year-old Susie Henderson gave a disturbing account of her childhood encounters with the MP.
Waiving her anonymity, she claimed that Fairbairn had sexually assaulted and raped her on several occasions, beginning when she was four years old.
Sir Nicholas was a close friend of Susie’s late father, Robert Henderson, a fellow leading light of the Scottish legal establishment, who regularly held decadent private parties at his family’s large and smartly decorated townhouse in Edinburgh.
It was during one of these sordid events in about 1970 that Susie says her father came into the kitchen with Fairbairn.
I was maybe four years old,’ she told the Mail. I had a skirt on and Nicholas and my dad had been drinking, and my dad told me to sit on Nicholas’s knee. I sat on his knee and he put his hand up my skirt and abused me. My dad just stood there laughing.’
During another party, Susie says she was raped by Sir Nicholas and another man in a guest room at the top of her parents’ five-storey home.
I hated that man,’ said Ms Henderson, who says she still recalls the pungent smell of Fairbairn’s feet. She’s not sure exactly how often Sir Nicholas abused her over the years, but says it happened many times.
Ms Henderson does not seem to have been his only victim, either.
Last month, Sir Nicholas was named as one of three MPs on a list of clients of the notorious Elm Guest House, a gay brothel in Barnes, West London, where under-age boys from a nearby care home were allegedly plied with drink and drugs and sexually abused.
The other MPs were Sir Peter Morrison another Scottish minister close to Lady Thatcher, who was a prolific child abuser and Cyril Smith, the Liberal MP for Rochdale exposed as a paedophile in 2012.
The trio feature in documents apparently penned by the owner of the guesthouse, which state that N Fairburn’ (sic) and C Smith’ (who asked to be called Tubby by staff and boys), visited on June 7, 1982. The documents add that Fairburn’ had used boys in sauna’. Given the very public opposition to homosexuality that Fairbairn expressed in Parliament, allegations that he abused boys at a gay sauna have shocked his former colleagues.
Take an extended look at hiss life, however, and some astonishing secrets emerge. For in his younger days, this obsessive womaniser turns out to have been something rather different: a highly promiscuous gay liberation activist with murky links to the now-notorious Paedophile Information Exchange.
And indeed, those who knew him before he entered politics say that Fairbairn grew up aggressively bisexual, but suppressed his true desires in order to advance in the Tory party of the mid-Seventies.
They believe this left him hopelessly conflicted, leading to his chronic drink problem and the predatory and often hugely offensive nature of his advances to women.
The story begins in a deeply dysfunctional childhood. Fairbairn was born in 1933. His father was a prominent psychoanalyst, his mother an aristocrat. By the time I was born,’ he recalled, they were totally estranged.’
After graduating from the exclusive Loretto School and Edinburgh University, he trained as a solicitor, and soon became known in legal circles as a gifted advocate with strong libertarian principles and, outside the office, a keen interest in the arts.
An amateur poet and painter, he soon became chairman of Edinburgh’s Left-wing Traverse theatre in the Sixties. And it was here that he became active in the radical gay community.
Under Fairbairn’s stewardship, the Traverse began specialising in gay and lesbian drama,’ recalls a contemporary. I remember going to one play called something like Gay Sweatshop,’ and another called Mass in F,’ which was full of nudity and got picketed by the Mary Whitehouse lobby. The funny thing, given Fairbairn’s views later in life, was that he was also notorious for propositioning male actors and theatre staff. I remember a boy in his 20s telling me about an advance Fairbairn had made on him at a Traverse party.’
Fairbairn was in fact married from 1962-79, to Elizabeth Mackay, the daughter of the 13th Baron Reay and mother of his three surviving daughters. But in the circles in which he moved, this was not uncommon.
It was a time of free love. You must remember that homosexuality was illegal in Scotland until 1980, and many gay and bisexual men were supposedly happily married,’ adds the contemporary.
We have established that, in 1970, Sir Nicholas became honorary vice president of the Scottish Minorities Group (SMG), a new, radical gay liberation organisation founded by a man called Ian Dunn.
The SMG campaigned, among other things, for homosexuality to be legalised in Scotland, and for the age of consent to be identical for gay and straight sex.
But it also had a more contentious place in history. For in 1974, Dunn and another SMG activist, Michael Hanson, co-founded the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE). The vile organisation, which lobbied for child sex to be legalised, was for the first year of its existence a sub- committee of the SMG.
Over the ensuing years, PIE retained affiliate status with the SMG, and forged links with other mainstream groups, including the National Council for Civil Liberties, which at the time was being run by future Labour heavyweights Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey.
Ms Hewitt apologised for her links to PIE earlier this year when they were highlighted by the Mail, though Harman and Dromey have so far refused to say sorry.
But we digress. After being selected as Conservative MP, Fairbairn performed a remarkable ethical volte face, quietly resigning his vice presidency of SMG in 1974, and morphing overnight into a vociferous opponent of gay rights. His links to PIE were never discovered by the Press. And details of his progressive youth never filtered through to Westminster where, though re-married to Suzanne, he ensured that he became famed as a womaniser by embarking on several high-profile affairs.
There were dozens of female lovers. One, a Commons secretary, attempted suicide outside his London home in 1981. Another, broadcaster Esther Rantzen, says he plied her with Krug and beluga caviar a few years later. The rest was inevitable,’ she wrote in her memoirs.
Ian Pace, a lecturer at City University in London, and a campaigner and researcher on organised abuse, believes Fairbairn’s behaviour during this era was part of a concerted effort to cover the tracks’ of his bisexual past.
If so, then it wasn’t entirely successful. In the early Nineties, a Scottish newspaper discovered Fairbairn’s name in an old piece of SMG literature. He responded by claiming that he’d had no idea of the nature of the perverted’ minority the SMG lobbied for when he’d agreed to be their figurehead.
That explanation always seemed unlikely, however. A former SMG activist who emailed the Mail this week described it as clearly a lie’.
I have never had access to early SMG membership records (they probably no longer exist), but I am told that Fairbairn was a fully paid up individual member before he was appointed as Honorary VP,’ said the activist.
Even if he hadn’t been, SMG was very high profile. And of course Fairbairn received all the Group’s mailings, for four years, so he must have known what the organisation did.
He moved in a lot of artistic circles in his youth and I know several (straight) people who can recall being propositioned by him. I wonder to what extent the denial of his sexuality led to the drinking which so clearly wrecked his life.’
Little wonder, perhaps, that even in his final years, Fairbairn still manoeuvred to keep his past under wraps.
A few years before his death, he called for Leveson-style curbs on Press freedom amid newspaper claims (dismissed by an inquiry) that a so-called magic circle’ of Scottish judges, sheriffs and advocates in his former professional set were conspiring to ensure that homosexual criminals were given soft-touch treatment by the courts.
After Sir Nicholas was buried at Fordell Castle, the obituaries talked of him as one of Parliament’s great womanisers. All of them, that is, except one in the little-read underground magazine ScotsGay.
Obtained by the Mail this week, it lamented that Fairbairn had died firmly in the closet’.
One straight man who remembers being propositioned by Fairbairn in the Sixties told ScotsGay: It was really a shame if he’d just accepted and been open about his bisexuality it would have taken a lot of pressure off him and he might not have taken to the drink.’
Given what we now know, of course, Fairbairn had plenty of other reasons to conceal the real nature of his sexuality. Did he, perhaps, drink himself to death because he was haunted by his paedophile past?
That seems unlikely. Shortly before his death, he expressed no regrets. I’ve had a hell of good time on Earth,’ he told Martin Robb, a fellow Tory. It has been Heaven.’
* Additional reporting:
Secret perversion: Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, and, below, with Margaret Thatcher. Inset, Susie Henderson, who says he raped her when she was four years old.
Sunday Herald, August 24th, 2014
‘Notorious paedophile headed Scottish care home inquiry’
CHILD protection experts and abuse survivors are demanding an inquiry into why one of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles was put in charge of an investigation into a crimes against children at a Glasgow boys’ home.
The Sunday Herald has learned that Peter Righton – one of Britain’s leading care workers, and a man who lived a double life as a paedophile – headed an investigation into allegations of cruelty at the Larchgrove assessment centre for boys in Glasgow in the 1970s.
The inquiry resulted in no criminal proceedings being taken, despite 13 out of 30 allegations of violence and neglect being proved. The home, in Springboig, was under the control of Glasgow City Council, then Glasgow Corporation.
Glasgow City Council is now trying to trace all documentation in connection with the case. The council and the Scottish Government have both called on anyone who may have suffered abuse at Larchgrove to contact the police.
Although the inquiry in the 1970s focused solely on physical and emotional abuse, an investigation by the Sunday Herald in 2007 revealed that sexual abuse of children was also taking place in Larchgrove at the same time. A former director of social work said he had been aware of abuse at the home in the mid-1970s. There were claims that female as well as male members of staff were involved in the abuse of boys.
Righton, who co-led the Larchgrove inquiry in 1973, worked as a child protection expert and social care worker. However, he was also a founding member of the infamous Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) which campaigned for adults to be allowed to legally have sex with children.
In 1992, Righton was convicted of importing child abuse images when customs intercepted material en route from Holland. A police raid on his home turned up more paedophile material as well as numerous letters relating details of abuse.
He died in 2007, but last year the Metropolitan Police set up Operation Cayacos to investigate claims that Righton was part of an establishment paedophile network.
Claims have been made that Righton was connected to Cyril Smith, the late Liberal MP now exposed as a paedophile. Smith is known to have visited the Elm Guest House in London. Following claims that politicians and others abused boys in care at the Elm Guest House, the Met launched Operation Fernbridge. The late Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, a Conservative MP and solicitor-general for Scotland, has also been linked to the Elm Guest House.
Righton worked in a children’s home and was a lecturer in child protection and residential care. He was director of education at the National Institute for Social Work, and a consultant to the National Children’s Bureau. However, he is also now seen as one of the most determined and well-connected paedophile offenders in British criminal history.
The inquiry into Larchgrove ended in March 1973, when Righton was in his mid-40s. It came just a few years after Righton advised the Home Office on changes to the residential childcare system. As part of his research, Righton is alleged to have travelled extensively to carehomes across the UK.
There are claims he also visited Bryn Estyn approved school in Wrexham in Wales. Bryn Estyn was later at the centre of an abuse scandal which saw 140 former residents claim they were abused from 1974-84. An official report described “appalling” abuse, and former housemaster Peter Howarth was jailed for 10 years for sexually abusing boys as young as 12.
Peter McKelvie, a former head of child protection in England who helped convict Righton, told the Sunday Herald: “It is for me a no-brainer that Righton’s 1973 Larchgrove inquiry has to be declared null and void for many reasons and a new inquiry needs to be requested which should take an in-depth look at who recommended Righton and appointed him.
“A new investigation must be sought and former residents of Larchgrove pre-1973 be encouraged to come forward.”
Frank Doherty, founder of the Scottish charity Incas – In Care Abuse Survivors – yesterday also called for a new inquiry. Doherty was a resident at Larchgrove in the late 1960s and was subjected to regular physical abuse and violence.
He said Righton’s role leading the Larchgrove inquiry was “disgraceful”, adding that as well as a fresh inquiry into the care home, the Scottish Government should also institute a wide-ranging public inquiry into abuse, equivalent to Northern Ireland’s Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse.
“There has been too much cover-up and protection of those in high places,” Doherty said.
“We [Incas] have been calling for a public inquiry, similar to the one now going on in Northern Ireland, for the last 15 years. The Scottish Government is doing nothing to help us.”
The Larchgrove inquiry was conducted by Ronald Bennett QC, Sheriff of Berwickshire, and Righton. They were appointed by Glasgow council to investigate allegations made by a former supervisor, Francis Corrigan, at the carehome. Their report stated: “We do not find that the staff at Larchgrove pursued a course of systematic violence or harshness towards the boys in their charge.”
Some of the complaints of ill-treatment brought by the staff whistleblower were described as trivial, exaggerated and showing undue sensitivity. The report went on to praise staff for devotion to duty under “stress-producing conditions”.
Larchgrove was formerly known as a remand home for boys aged 11 and up who had appeared before a Children’s Panel or Sheriff Court.
The decision not to go for criminal proceedings in the Larchgrove case was taken in a statement issued on March 21, 1973 by Stanley Bowen, Crown Agent for Scotland, with the authority of Norman Wylie QC, the Lord Advocate – who was also a Conservative MP in Edinburgh. The statement said that the required standard of evidence was not available to justify criminal proceedings.
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said yesterday: “It’s understandable that people might have concerns. We are attempting to recover the report of the investigation and any surviving paperwork. While we will look afresh at any evidence of how the investigation was carried out, anyone who wishes to make an allegation of criminality should contact Police Scotland in the first instance.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In terms of in-care historic abuse, independent inquiries in 2007 and 2009 explored how such abuses happened and addressed the particular challenges faced by the care system in Scotland.
“This systemic review and legislation on the management, cataloguing and retention of records delivered major improvements in the protection of young people in care. The Scottish Government will consider what further action is required in advance of our response to the Interaction Action Plan Recommendations in the autumn.
“We have also set up the National Confidential Forum which allows those who were placed in institutional care as children to recount their experiences of being in care in a confidential, non-judgmental and supportive setting.”
GRAPHIC: Peter Righton, below, one of Britain’s leading care workers while living a double life as a paedophile, led an investigation into allegations of cruelty at Larchgrove in Glasgow, left, in the 1970s
Scotland on Sunday, November 9th, 2014
Tom Peterkin, ‘Behind the scenes bid to mount child abuse inquiry for Scotland’
A PLAN to hold public inquiry into historical child abuse in Scotland is being prepared by the Scottish Government, Scotland on Sunday has learned.
Ministers are looking at establishing a high-profile investigation into allegations of abuse carried out in care homes, educational institutions, by religious orders and by high-profile members of the Scottish establishment.
Discussions are taking place about the remit and timing of an inquiry, which would look at the allegations and how they were handled by the authorities at the time.
This week the education secretary, Michael Russell, will address Holyrood on child protection and will mention the issue of historical abuse in Scotland. His statement on Tuesday is not expected to include an official announcement of a public inquiry – an omission that will dismay abuse survivors who have been campaigning for years for such an investigation.
However, Scotland on Sunday understands that ministers and officials are working behind the scenes to set up a historical abuse inquiry in the coming months.
More work needs to be done to establish the precise nature of the inquiry and ministers are deliberating in order to avoid the problems that have plagued a similar investigation south of the Border.
Last week, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, apologised over the failure of a UK Government inquiry into child abuse to find a suitable chairperson.
Her apology came after May’s second nominated chairperson, Fiona Woolf, stood down because of her links to Lord Brittan, the Tory politician who was home secretary when some of the alleged abuse took place.
Woolf’s departure followed the resignation of Baroness Butler-Sloss, who resigned because of a conflict of interests arising from her brother Sir Michael Havers’s position as attorney general during the 1980s.
In Scotland, allegations of historical abuse have been made by former pupils at the Roman Catholic Fort Augustus School on the banks of Loch Ness. Hundreds of children are said to have been abused at Nazareth House in Aberdeen. Allegations of cruelty have also been made by those who were at Larchgrove boys home in Glasgow.
The inquiry is also expected to examine allegations involving the late Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn and a prominent member of the legal establishment, Robert Henderson QC.
This summer Henderson’s daughter Susie waived her anonymity to allege she had been assaulted by her father and Fairbairn, both of whom are now dead, from the age of four.
She said they were members of an organised paedophile ring which abused her in her family’s Georgian house in Edinburgh’s New Town and other locations. Fairbairn, a QC and former solicitor-general, has already been linked to the Elm Guest House in London – a gay brothel alleged to have hosted parties where vulnerable young boys had sex with influential people, which is now the subject of a police investigation named Operation Fernbridge.
Henderson was at the heart of the so-called Magic Circle scandal which emerged in 1989 and centred around rumours that a network of homosexual lawyers and judges in Scotland were conspiring to “go easy” on gay criminals. The rumours led to Fettesgate – where a 1992 police report into the claims was stolen from Edinburgh’s police headquarters – and ultimately led to an inquiry by William Nimmo Smith QC the following year, which dismissed claims of a conspiracy.
The Nimmo Smith report also took in concerns over Operation Planet, an investigation into a 16-year-old boy on leave from a children’s home who was drugged and raped by a group of men at an address in Edinburgh.
It is expected to be a matter of months before the Scottish Government makes the final decision on what form any inquiry will take.
Last night campaigners for an inquiry gave a cautious welcome to the prospect of an investigation, but remained impatient that it was taking so long. Frank Doherty, the founder of of INCAS (In Care Abuse Survivors) said: “We have been begging for a public inquiry for 15 years, but all the government has been doing is stalling, stalling.
“It was the government which put us in these places and when you have been fighting for this as long as I have, you can get a bit cynical. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see a public inquiry, but we are still waiting.”
Doherty, who was abused in Larchgrove in the 1950s, added: “Everything has been covered up by the establishment – these paedophile rings came from the top of the tree.”
Graeme Pearson, the Labour justice spokesman who has been campaigning for an inquiry, said: “I think the pressure has become so significant and events elsewhere in the UK means that this needs to be done to clear the air. I just don’t know why the government has been dallying so long.”
Russell’s statement on Tuesday will focus on child sexual exploitation. The statement follows a warning from Annette Bruton, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, that it would be a “serious mistake” to assume that Scotland is immune from the exploitation seen in Rotherham.
The Telegraph, November 11th, 2014
David Barrett, ‘How the child sex abuse review searched for key names; Pages buried at the back of the Home Office inquiry into handling of child sex abuse allegations reveal how it looked for references to a series of political figures’
Home Office staff were instructed to search their databases for information about paedophile allegations as part of the review by Peter Wanless.
Civil servants were handed a list of search terms including “homosexual”, “under age” and “indecent”.
But they were also given a list of key names who were either major political figures of the day or who have since been linked with sex crime allegations.
Top of the list was Cyril Smith, the Rochdale Liberal MP since exposed as a paedophile.
His name was followed by Leon Brittan, the home secretary of the day, now Lord Brittan of Spennithorne.
Also on the list of names to be searched for was Greville Janner, now Lord Janner, whose home was searched by police last year in connection with an investigation into historic child sex abuse allegations.
It also included Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, the late solicitor general for Scotland who a woman claimed earlier this year raped her when she was four years old.
David Atkinson, the late Tory MP, was also on the list of terms.
His son Anthony said earlier this year that he believed his father was a “prolific sexual predator” whose name may have featured in the dossier compiled by Geoffrey Dickens MP, whose work helped to trigger the current investigations even though he died in 1995.
The review by Peter Wanless, head of the NSPCC, and Richard Whittam QC also requested searches for names of a number of members of the highly controversial Paedophile Information Exchange group, including its former chairman Steven Adrian Smith .
The Herald, November 15th, 2014
Ellen Thomas, ‘Historic abuse probe: Police investigate possible murder’
Detectives examining allegations of historic sex abuse with links to government have launched a new investigation into “possible homicide”.
Scotland Yard said Operation Midland was started after officers working on Operation Fairbank, which is looking into claims of “serious non-recent sexual abuse”, were given information about alleged murders.
A spokesman said: “Our inquiries into this, over subsequent weeks, have revealed further information regarding possible homicide. Based on our current knowledge, this is the first time that this specific information has been passed to the Met.”
The BBC quoted a man who, it claimed, has told police investigating the alleged abuse that “former senior military and political figures”, as well as “law enforcement”, were involved.
According to the broadcaster, the witness, now in his 40s, claimed the group had access to 15 to 20 youngsters.
The man, speaking anonymously, said: “It started with my father. It started with quite severe physical abuse, quickly turning into sexual as well.
“Within a very short space of time he had handed me over, or whatever you want to call it, to the group. They controlled my life for the next nine years.
“They created fear that penetrated every part of me. That was part of my life, day in and day out. You didn’t question what they wanted, you didn’t hesitate to do what they asked you to do.
“You did what you were told without question or the punishments were very severe. They had no hesitation in doing what they wanted to do.
“Some of them were quite open about who they were. They had no fear at all of being caught, it didn’t even cross their mind. They could do anything they wanted without question and we were told that.
“I’ve never experienced pain like it and I hope I never do again.”
A spokesman for Scotland Yard said that because the inquiry was at an early stage it would not appropriate to issue appeals or reveal more information.
Detectives from the Metropolitan Police child abuse investigation command are working closely with colleagues in homicide and major crime units under the name of Operation Midland.
Operation Fairbank was launched in response to information passed on by MP Tom Watson, who used Prime Minister’s Questions in 2012 to air claims that there was a paedophile ring with links to No 10.
Mr Watson used parliamentary privilege to allege that a file of evidence used to convict Peter Righton of importing child pornography in 1992 contained “clear intelligence” of a sex-abuse gang.
He wrote to Scotland Yard, which has since spawned two more inquiries from Fairbank – Fernbridge, which is looking at claims linked to the Elm Guest House in Barnes, south west London, in the 1980s, and Cayacos.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, the controversial former Solicitor General for Scotland, has been linked to the scandal after claims emerged that the former Tory MP, who died in 1995 aged 61, may have visited the guest house.
In August, Scotland Yard said it had tripled the number of officers investigating the allegations of sex abuse in the wake of the claims of a Westminster cover-up.
The anonymous witness quoted by the BBC urged people to come forward with information.
He said: “Anyone who knew anything, it’s important they come forward too. They need to find the strength that we as survivors have done.
“If they have any suspicions, if they have any concerns, if they know they were part of it, they need to come forward and share what they know.”
GRAPHIC: Tom Watson: Parliamentary privilege allowed him to air claims.
Scotsman, November 17th, 2014
Claire Mckim, ’13 cases of child sex abuse every day in Scotland’
Child protection officers in Scotland are being presented with up to 13 new child sex abuse cases every day, it has emerged.
New figures reveal that between 2011 and September this year, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre passed on 10,434 cases of child sexual exploitation to police officers in Scotland to investigate.
At its peak during 2013, evidence of sex crime, including online abuse, was being handed to police in Scotland at a rate of 13 cases a day.
The statistics have been labelled “grave” and “extremely worrying” by experts.
The revelations come just days after education minister Mike Russell MSP announced taxi drivers, hotel staff and other night workers are to be issued with guidance on how to spot child sex abuse.
The Scottish Government is preparing to launch a public inquiry following the publication of a report by the charity Children in Scotland, which warned the country lacks a “confident and competent workforce for protecting children”.
Figures uncovered through a Westminster parliamentary question revealed that, during 2011, more than 1,100 leads were passed to UK police forces, which increased to 1,927 in 2012.
In 2013, that soared to 4,875. There have been 2,519 cases in the first nine months of 2014.
Lucy Morton, manager of the NSPCC’s Glasgow service centre, said: “The large number of children at risk of sexual exploitation is a matter of grave concern.
“Children who are abused or sexually exploited need to be listened to, believed and supported.”
Last month, Police Scotland announced the setting up of a National Child Abuse Investigation Unit to improve specialist intelligence-gathering and co-ordinate investigations.
Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, warned that the volume of work faced by the unit may have a negative impact on frontline policing.
He said: “Resources have to come from somewhere and if that’s going to have to come from 24/7 response police, it is a concern for all of us.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, head of public protection for Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, said: “The National Child Abuse Investigation Unit will deliver an enhanced specialist response that will support our 14 local policing divisions.”
In Scotland, allegations of historical abuse have been made by former care home residents from Nazareth House in Aberdeen, Roman Catholic Fort Augustus School on the banks of Loch Ness and Larchgrove boys home in Glasgow.
A 2007 report, by Tom Shaw, a former chief inspector of education and training in Northern Ireland, estimated around 1,000 children were abused in Scots care homes from 1950 to 1995.
The inquiry is also expected to examine allegations involving the late Conservative MP, Nicholas Fairbairn.
Scottish Express, November 17th, 2014
Siobhan McFadyen, ‘Police flooded by child sex abuse allegations’
AS MANY as 400 child sex abuse cases are reported to Police Scotland each month, it was revealed yesterday.
Now campaigners are warning the number of children at risk is of “grave concern”, as shock new figures reveal the true extent of sexual exploitation and internet sex crime involving minors.
Between 2011 and September 2014, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre con-firmed it reported 10,434 cases of suspected child sex abuse to authorities.
Investigation In 2012, the number of individual leads passed on to police was 1,927.
That had increased to 4,875 in the following year.
In the first nine months of 2014, 2519 cases were notified to each of Scotland’s 14 local policing divisions.
Lucy Morton, manager of the NSPCC’s Glasgow service centre, is worried about the rise in the amount of reported cases, insisting more has to be done to take children’s complaints seriously.
She said: “The large number of children at risk of sexual exploitation is a matter of grave concern.
“Children who are abused or sexually exploited need to be listened to, believed and supported.” The Scottish Government is getting ready to launch a far-reaching inquiry into sexual exploitation following a report published by the charity Children in Scotland.
It concluded that the country lacks a “confident and competent workforce for protecting children”.
The investigation, which is yet to find a chairman, is expected to look into allegations of historical abuse at the former Roman Catholic Fort Augustus School on the banks of Loch Ness, Nazareth House in Aberdeen, and Larchgrove boys’ home in Glasgow. The inquiry will also turn its attention to allegations involving the Conservative MP, and one time solicitor-general for Scotland, Nicholas Fairbairn, who died in 1995.
But there are fears not enough resources will be available to help police stem the problem.
Last month, Police Scotland announced it is setting up a National Child Abuse Investigation Unit to gather expert intelligence.
But Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, warned the sheer numbers facing the special task force could have a serious impact on frontline services.
He said: “Resources have to come from somewhere and if that’s going to have to come from 24/7 response police, it is a concern for all of us.”
However, Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, public protection lead for Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, insisted the new unit will protect vulnerable youngsters.
Priority “The National Child Abuse Investigation Unit (NCAIU) will deliver an enhanced specialist response that will support our 14 local policing divisions and interagency child protection structures by providing dedicated specialist investigative resources who will lead and/or provide assistance during child abuse investigations.
“Protecting children is a priority and the NCAIU will play a critical role in helping us achieve that,” she said.
Scottish Daily Mail, November 20th, 2014
Graham Grant, ‘POLICE PROBE ‘MAGIC CIRCLE’ CHILD SEX RING; Second victim comes forward as 10 officers investigate paedophile abuse allegations involving Scottish MP and leading legal figures Police to quiz three more in Fairbairn abuse claims’
POLICE are investigating claims of a paedophile ring that included a former senior ally of Margaret Thatcher, after a second victim came forward with fresh allegations.
As the Scottish Daily Mail revealed earlier this year, Susie Henderson claims she was raped by the late Tory MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, an ex-Solicitor General, when she was just four.
Miss Henderson is the daughter of Fairbairn’s friend Robert Henderson, QC, who she says also systematically abused her when she was a child.
As a result of our disclosures, a major Police Scotland investigation comprising a team of ten detectives has been set up, and the Mail has learned a second victim has come forward following Miss Henderson’s revelations.
It is also understood that detectives are considering serious allegations made against three living prominent lawyers as part of the inquiry.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Henderson was a pivotal figure in a major legal scandal when he claimed a so-called ‘magic One circle’ of judges, sheriffs and advocates were conspiring to ensure that homosexual criminals were given soft-touch treatment by the courts.
The latest disclosures come as the UK Government prepares to launch a public inquiry into historic child sexual abuse, heaping pressure on the Scottish Government to follow suit.
A source close to the probe said yesterday: ‘We’re talking about events mainly spanning a period from 44 to about 35 years ago.
‘There is not going to be any forensic evidence, and any other evidence that supports the allegations is going to be difficult to attribute to any individual.
‘That doesn’t mean that what is discovered might not form an important part of an inquiry and influence legislation in the future. The information will not be gathered only to be discarded.’ It is understood that Miss Henderson has identified at least three prominent Establishment figures who are still alive as being among her abusers. Detectives are gathering as much information as possible so the allegations can be put to them.
Following our revelations in August, Miss Henderson spoke to detectives and made a detailed statement about her childhood abuse.
The Mail has learned that a second victim made contact with the team a few weeks ago and has made a statement, understood to relate principally to Henderson. These allegations are also now under close scrutiny.
Last night Miss Henderson, who waived her anonymity to speak exclusively to the Mail, said that she would not be commenting upon any developments at this stage.
Police Scotland has not to date invited other victims to come forward, nor set up a dedicated contact point for anyone with relevant information. Anyone wishing to contact detectives is advised to call Police Scotland’s non-emergency 101 number.
The experience of police forces in England which dealt with the paedophilia allegations made against Jimmy Savile has influenced Police Scotland’s procedure.
A well-placed source confirmed that the Savile experience had highlighted the fact that even when a suspect was dead, it had been shown to be important to be receptive to the stories of other victims, should they emerge, and to investigate thoroughly any living accomplices.
It remains to be seen if any prosecutions will be launched in Scotland in relation to the Fairbairn and Henderson claims, but investigators are realistic about the difficulties they face.
Miss Henderson, 49, told the Mail she had been four when she was first raped by her father and by Fairbairn, and that her father had allowed Fairbairn to abuse his daughter and had been present at times when he sexually assaulted her.
She also recalled that her father, a former Tory parliamentary candidate as well as Scotland’s most flamboyant QC in the 1980s, had taken her to the homes of other friends and Establishment figures and had allowed them to sexually abuse her.
Fairbairn died in 1995 at the age of 61, while Henderson, who was never charged, died aged 75 in 2012.
Miss Henderson first made her allegations against Fairbairn and her father under the alias of Julie X in 2000 but after an abortive police investigation no charges were brought. The initial probe was halted after evidence was mislaid.
Fairbairn was Solicitor General for Scotland and MP for Kinross and Western Perthshire. He was praised by Mrs Thatcher for his ‘loyal support’ and became a close ally.
The allegations come after an official inquiry was ordered into claims of historic child sex abuse by a Westminster paedophile ring.
Miss Henderson’s allegations are likely to fuel calls for a similar inquiry by the Scottish Government, which has not been ruled out by ministers.
Last night Police Scotland confirmed that a ‘live investigation is ongoing’ but said ‘it would be inappropriate to comment further.’ A spokesman said: ‘Anyone with information on child sexual abuse is asked to contact Police Scotland through 101.’
WAS MY SON A PAEDOPHILE VICTIM?
A SCHOOLBOY murdered 33 years ago may have been abducted by a VIP paedophile ring which was covered up by police, his father claimed yesterday.
Retired magistrate Vishambar Mehrotra accused Scotland Yard of failing to investigate after a male prostitute told him his son Vishal, 8, had been taken to the notorious Elm Guest House which has been linked to child abuse.
Vishal vanished on his way home to Putney, South-West London, after a trip to watch the royal wedding celebrations in 1981. It was almost a year before his remains were found in a West Sussex woodland. Four months later, police raided Elm Guest House in Barnes. Mr Mehrotra, 69, told the Daily Telegraph how soon afterwards he was contacted by a young male prostitute.
Mr Mehrotra said: ‘He told me he believed Vishal may have been taken by paedophiles in the Elm Guest House. He talked about judges and politicians who were abusing little boys.
‘I recorded the whole 15-minute conversation and took it to police. But they just pooh-poohed it.’