Exaro helps Met’s ‘Operation Fairbank’ disprove claim against Conservative minister
By David Hencke | 22 June 2013
The Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit spent some weeks examining the allegation against the minister without portfolio under ‘Operation Fairbank’, which is “scoping” a wide variety of claims against several senior political figures of sexual abuse against children.
The Met’s small team on the operation was diverted to look into an accusation against Clarke, who was justice secretary until the ministerial reshuffle last September.
But Exaro was able to help the police establish that the basis of the accusation was simply wrong.
The false accusation has gained increasing currency on the internet. Exaro held off revealing that police had cleared Clarke in December, on the grounds that the false rumours were not then widely disseminated.
However, at least three national newspapers have been threatening to run the false story.
A separate source who is a former senior Conservative figure suggested to Exaro that it may be a case of mistaken identity, and that Clarke’s accuser may have been indecently assaulted by another top Tory, the late Sir Peter Morrison, who was Lady Thatcher’s parliamentary private secretary when she was prime minister.
The false accusation against Clarke follows the case of mistaken identity that led to Lord McAlpine, former Conservative treasurer, to be wrongly accused of sexually abusing a child in care at Bryn Estyn, a children’s home in Wales.
The Met is understood to be frustrated that it had to spend so much time, taking witness statements from our reporter and several others, to disprove the accusation against Clarke.
Police sources say that the Met is keen to convey to genuine victims of child abuse that they should not be deterred from coming forward just because one accusation has been proved false.
The Met’s wide-ranging investigation sparked ‘Operation Fernbridge’ in January, which is specifically investigating allegations that a paedophile ring – including MPs and other VIPs – sexually abused boys at Elm Guest House, in Barnes, south-west London and at a children’s home nearby run by the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.
The false accusation against Clarke was unrelated to Elm Guest House.
Meanwhile, the detective chief inspector who runs Scotland Yard’s paedophile unit gave Met commanders a secret briefing on his team’s preparations to arrest a separate, former Conservative cabinet minister.
The accusation against Clarke stems from 1994, when ITV’s The Cook Report carried out undercover filming as part of an investigation into Ian Greer Associates, the defunct lobbying company.
The programme-makers set up a fake consultancy and pretended to represent a group of Russian businessmen, ex-KGB agents who wanted to buy Companies House and the Insolvency Service.
The undercover team approached Ian Greer to see whether he could arrange meetings with ministers as part of the attempt to buy the agencies.
The team hired an apartment in Park Lane, London, where it secretly filmed Greer. It also secretly filmed him at his offices and in his flat.
The programme was abandoned half way through production and never broadcast.
Disclosures resulting from the sting later appeared in The Guardian as part of revelations about how Mohammed al-Fayed, then owner of Harrods, paid Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith as backbench MPs to put down parliamentary questions.
When the “cash for questions” scandal was exposed, Hamilton was trade minister, while Smith had become a Northern Ireland minister. Hamilton, who has become a member of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), has always denied the allegations.
‘Operation Fairbank’ received an accusation that, in the course of the undercover sting, Clarke was secretly filmed indecently assaulting a young man acting as a 15-year-old boy. Clarke was accused of touching up the “boy”.
Police were told that the incident was in the transcripts.
A spokeswoman for Clarke said today: “The publication of this story is not in the public interest and needlessly increases the harassment of Mr Clarke and his family.”
Clarke’s accuser told Exaro that he did not “wish to interfere” with the police process, saying: “I have nothing more to add.”