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PM urged to help 'abuse' witnesses

The Prime Minister is facing calls to guarantee that police and intelligence officers who give evidence over an alleged VIP paedophile ring in Westminster will not be prosecuted.

It emerged yesterday that Scotland Yard is being investigated over claims that it covered up child sex abuse because of the involvement of influential MPs and police officers.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is looking into 14 referrals with details of alleged corruption in the Metropolitan Police relating to child sex offences from the 1970s to the 2000s.

New claims were also made on the BBC's Newsnight that officers who arrested Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith on suspicion of hosting sex parties with teenage boys were warned to keep quiet about the investigation or face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

Tom Watson, the Labour MP who first spoke out in Parliament about a Westminster paedophile ring in October 2012, today called on David Cameron to shield whistleblowers from that law.

Mr Watson said: "It is now clear that the Prime Minister must guarantee that former police and intelligence officers who wish to help the IPCC with their inquiries will have the threat of the Official Secrets Act lifted.

"With this new inquiry 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."

The call was backed by Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, Smith's old seat.

Mr Danczuk also called in November 2012 for an inquiry into a potential cover-up of his predecessor's alleged abuse.

He told the Press Association: "There has to be a more formal response from Government which says that former police officers who cooperate, give evidence and share their knowledge of what went on with regard to this alleged cover-up should not be disciplined in any way, with regard to the Official Secrets Act or in any other way.

"They should be given the freedom to speak out. That's what the public will expect and that's what Government have to ensure."

Among the allegations being investigated by the IPCC is a claim that a Houses of Parliament document found at a child sex offender's address linked a number of "highly prominent individuals" including MPs and senior police officers to a paedophile ring but no further action was taken.

Another allegation is that an abuse victim's account was altered to omit a senior politician's name, while it is also alleged that no further action was taken into claims of child sex abuse involving a former senior Met Police officer and "further members of the establishment including judges".

An investigation into young men being targeted in Dolphin Square, an apartment complex near the Houses of Parliament popular with MPs, was also allegedly stopped because officers were "too near prominent people".

Last July Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced a major public panel inquiry into whether paedophiles were sheltered in Government, the NHS, police, the courts and the BBC.

It has since been rocked by the resignations of two people selected to be its chair - Baroness Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf - following accusations that they were too close to the Establishment to be independent.

The inquiry is currently being chaired by Justice Dame Lowell Goddard, a New Zealand High Court judge.

Newsnight said last night that it had received the information about the Cyril Smith investigation from a former officer familiar with the original investigation and its closure.

It claimed that police officers brought Smith in for questioning in connection to an inquiry in the early 1980s into properties in south London suspected of hosting paedophile parties.

He was released within hours of being taken to a police station and officers were ordered to hand over notebooks and video footage, according to the claims.

It is believed that the tenth of the 14 referrals made to the IPCC - over "allegations of child sex abuse against a senior politician and a subsequent cover-up of his crimes" - relates to Smith.

Clive Driscoll, a retired Scotland Yard detective who investigated child abuse allegations in Lambeth and has now examined the Cyril Smith cover-up claims, branded any threat to use the Official Secrets Act against officers who want to come forward to tell the truth as "disgraceful".

He said: "If it's true that there are officers that want to come forward but they feel inhibited by the Official Secrets Act and if the general information that appears to come from them is true, it's disgraceful.

"It's just wrong and it would undermine our democracy."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "These allegations could not be more serious. There are allegations of very, very serious dereliction of duty and of wrongdoing by people in the police at the time who were investigating - it is alleged - some of the most grotesque crimes imaginable.

"I would just very much hope the police now can investigate this very thoroughly without fear or favour, get to the bottom of the truth.

"I would urge anyone who has any information that can cast any light on what happened way back then to come forward and co-operate with the police."

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Home Secretary has given clear assurances that the Official Secrets Act is not a bar to giving evidence to either the independent panel inquiry into child sexual abuse or ongoing police investigations."

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