Met is worried about ‘media frenzy’ over paedophile network at Westminster, claims MP
The move prompted one MP to say that the police were trying to avoid a “media frenzy” amid growing public concern about evidence of the scale of a paedophile network that operated at Westminster over many years.
So far, four people between them face a total of 52 charges as a result of criminal investigations that sprang out of ‘Operation Fairbank’.
That “scoping” operation was triggered by Tom Watson, Labour MP, after he shocked Parliament in October 2012 by suggesting at prime minister’s questions that a paedophile ring had been linked to 10 Downing Street.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to reinstate four charges after Exaro exposed that they had been dropped because of an error over evidence about child sex abuse at the notorious Elm Guest House in south-west London and a resulting flawed assessment of a key witness’s credibility.
But sources close to the investigation have revealed to Exaro that the Metropolitan Police Service’s paedophile unit has delayed putting through to the CPS evidence that might lead to up to 180 charges that relate to around 80 alleged victims of child sex abuse. Exaro cannot disclose the details of the delayed charges for legal reasons.
Scotland Yard’s delay has coincided with huge media coverage of claims of a paedophile network at Westminster. Well-informed sources say that imposing the charges would inevitably have caused an even bigger media storm.
One MP said: “This looks like it has been done for presentational reasons, with police wanting to show that they are serious, but are holding back charges so as not to fuel the current media frenzy about child sex abuse.”
A second source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said simply: “I am concerned.” He fears that the police will decide against pressing the further charges altogether.
A third source, a former detective with expertise in child protection, also said that media strategy was driving specific charging decisions by the Met in the highly-sensitive investigation.
The huge number of likely charges also shows how stretched the small number of detectives in the Met’s paedophile unit are as they investigate a wide range of historical allegations.
A series of stories on Exaro led to a cross-party group of seven MPs to call on Theresa May, home secretary, in June to launch an overarching inquiry into the organised sexual abuse of children in many institutions in the UK.
David Cameron, prime minister, had previously resisted such an inquiry for some two years.
Simon Danczuk, Labour MP and co-author of a book about the paedophile MP, Sir Cyril Smith, galvanised the media a month after the cross-party call for the inquiry when he testified to the House of Commons home affairs committee.
Nearly 150 MPs joined the inquiry call. As the issue gained increasing media attention, the government finally responded by announcing the inquiry.
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