25 Feb 2014

How paedophile campaigners targeted civil liberties group

The links decades ago between Britain’s foremost human rights group and paedophile campaigners has drawn in Labour politicians. What were those links?

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has accused the Daily Mail of conducting a smear campaign against her after it revealed that the National Council for Civil Liberties (now called Liberty) had granted affiliate status to the now defunct Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).

Ms Harman is a former legal officer for the NCCL, and her husband, the Labour MP Jack Dromey, and former health secretary Patricia Hewitt also worked there in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ms Harman said she “regrets” the links between the two organisations, but that she was never an apologist for paedophilia and had spent her political career protecting children, “especially from child abuse”.

She has rounded on the Mail, saying the newspaper was trying to “smear me with innuendo because they disagree with me politically and hate my values”.

Mr Dromey said: “During my time on the NCCL executive, I was the forefront of repeated public condemnations of PIE and their despicable views. The accusations of the Daily Mail are untrue and beneath contempt.” Ms Hewitt has not commented.

Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE)

PIE, a paedophile lobby group, was founded in 1974, when the word paedophile did not raise the same sort of fears it does today, and disbanded 10 years later. The group argued that there should not be an age of sexual consent and that the law should only interfere in sexual activity if consent was not given.

As well as performing a lobbying role, it advised paedophiles and helped them contact one another. It forged relationships with gay rights and feminist groups to further its cause.

Action was taken against PIE supporters in the late 1970s, with five activists charged with printing contact advertisments in a magazine. In 2006, former PIE chairman Tom O'Carroll was jailed for two years for distributing indecent images of children between 1994 and 2005.

Four years later, his book about the singer Michael Jackson's relationships with young boys, Michael Jackson's Dangerous Liaisons, was published under the pen name Carl Toms. He now writes a regular blog.

Using strong words, Liberty’s Director Shami Chakrabarti conceded that the NCCL had been infiltrated.

‘It is a source of continuing disgust and horror that even the NCCL had to expel paedophiles from its ranks in 1983 after infiltration at some point in the seventies,” she said in a statement.

“The most important lesson learned by Liberty over the subsequent 30 years was to become a well-governed, modern human rights movement in which protecting the vulnerable, especially children, will always come first.”

The Mail says the NCCL lobbied MPs for the age of sexual consent to be lowered to 10. In one submission, written before Ms Harman joined, it is alleged to have said: “Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult, result in no identifiable damage.”

In another, presumably in a broadside against censorship, it is said to have argued that “images of naked children should only be considered pornographic if it could be proven that the subject had suffered”.

Channel 4 News asked Liberty to respond to these submissions, but it said it had nothing to add to Ms Chakrabarti’s statement.

Ms Harman said in a television interview on Tuesday (watch video above) that the structure of the NCCL meant any organisation could affiliate to it.

“NCCL had over a thousand affiliates and anybody, any organisation or any individual, could join and that is the organisational fact of the matter,” she said.

“I very much regret that this vile organisation, PIE, ever existed and that it ever had anything to do with NCCL, but it did not affect my work at NCCL.

“They had been pushed to the margins before I actually went to NCCL and to allege that I was involved in collusion with paedophilia or apologising for paedophilia is quite wrong and is a smear.”

She added that there had been “a big argument” within the NCCL in 1976 when PIE members were trying to influence the organisation, “and NCCL pushed them out, would not even let them speak at their annual general meeting, and turned against them and that happened before I went there”.

Asked if it was a misjudgment to work for the NCCL, Ms Harman said: “It was regrettable that they (PIE) even existed. It was regrettable that they had anything to do with NCCL ever.”