Further to the report earlier today that police officers investigating Cyril Smith and others involved in child abuse were threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, MP John Mann tabled an amendment in the House of Commons to give police whistle-blowers protection. However, the amendment was rejected by the house.
Damian Green, former Home Office minister, said that Theresa May had made it clear that the Official Secrets Act would not apply in situations where serious criminality was being revealed.
Unfortunately, as we have seen many times with the current government, verbal assurances are not enough. When facing prosecution for what could be considered very serious offences under the Official Secrets Act, whistle-blowers need cast iron guarantees and legal protection.
The ‘word’ of Thersa May is not enough. The former officers involved in this particular case have already experience how the establishment can turn against them even though they were doing their job. Now they are civilians, which makes them more vulnerable without the protection of a hierarchy.
It has already been proven that those in power are more than willing to do whatever they need to in protecting their inner-circles, and the ex-police officers are aware of this.
MPs John Mann, Tom Watson and Simon Danczuck said they had spoken to officers who had expressed fears of a cover-up and wanted further legal reassurance before going public.
Danczuck said he had spoken to Metropolitan police officers in the past 24 hours and they had spoken of stand-up rows and swearing in the office about being stopped from investigating paedophiles.
The Labour MPs urged David Cameron to guarantee that officers who give evidence over the alleged paedophile ring in Westminster will not be prosecuted. Watson said: “It is also clear that the duty of all former police officers, intelligence officers and civil servants who have knowledge of a cover-up to come forward.”
“Police officer after police officer have told me that the Official Secrets Act and fear of breaching it are a bar to them,” said John Mann on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.
The government argues there is no need to change the law. In November the home secretary said: “I’m very clear the Official Secrets Act should not get in the way of anybody giving evidence to the inquiry [into historical allegations of child abuse] or bringing forward evidence that is relevant to the issue. So if anybody is worried about the Official Secrets Act they should come forward and speak out.”
Of course, May does not explicitly state that officers who are not part of the ‘official inquiry’ will be protected. She was speaking of a very specific situation – something she could easily backtrack on at a later date in relation to matters not directly involved with the inquiry.
We see no reason whatsoever why former police officers (or anyone else) should not be protected in law and given cast-iron guarantees they will not be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for relaying extremely important evidence of high-profile abuse.
The refusal of Tory ministers to support investigations and the gathering of important evidence can lead to one conclusion. They are complicit in covering up extremely serious crimes by high-profile figures.
We also need to keep in mind that many of those in the Tory party and government at the moment have crawled up the political ladder while these abuses were taking place, and known of among their peers. It is reasonable to suspect that those in power now also knew of these abuses and have been complicit in covering them up – at least to the extent of not reporting suspicions to the proper authorities.
Since the subject of a high-profile child abuse ring in the corridors of power was raised in October 2012 by MP Tom Watson, the government has been reluctant (if not obstructive) in following up on a matter which is serious and needs to be fully investigated in the public interest.
Perhaps the reason they are so reluctant is because many of the potential criminals are close to the Conservative Party. Something which any reasonable member of the public should find abhorrent.