Westminster child abuse exclusive: Geoffrey Dickens also gave copy of file to top prosecutor Sir Thomas Hetherington - so why did DPP also fail to act on evidence of paedophile ring?

Home Secretary likely to come under pressure to explain how two government agencies were able to 'lose' the dossier

Senior reporter

Fears over an establishment cover-up of an alleged Westminster paedophile ring in the 1980s deepened on Sunday night as it emerged that an “explosive” dossier of evidence lost by the Home Office was also handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The file, believed to contain child abuse allegations relating to at least eight public figures, was compiled by the campaigning Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens, who died in 1995.

Last week David Cameron ordered an investigation into how it came to be lost by the Home Office, which has since confirmed that 114 files relating to historical complaints of child abuse have either been misplaced or destroyed.

Two copies of the dossier were previously thought to have existed: one was handed to Leon Brittan, Home Secretary at the time, while the other was kept at Mr Dickens’s family home and was later destroyed by his wife.

But in a newspaper interview in August 1983 – two months into Leon Brittan’s term as Home Secretary under Margaret Thatcher – Mr Dickens revealed he had also sent a copy to the then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Sir Thomas Hetherington.

On Monday the Home Secretary Theresa May is due to make a statement on the affair in the House of Commons. She is likely to come under pressure to explain how two government agencies were able to “lose” the dossier. She may also be asked to reveal whether a previous Home Office trawl of its records included files held by security services.

Video:  Theresa May announces a review into abuse claims
Read more: Michael Gove rules out public inquiry
Exclusive: Leon Brittan questioned by police over rape allegation
Pressure mounts over file on alleged Westminster paedophile ring

Lord Tebbit, the former Conservative cabinet minister, said on Sunday there “may well” have been a cover-up over a powerful child abuse ring. “At that time I think most people would have thought that the establishment, the system, was to be protected and if a few things had gone wrong it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far into it,” he told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

Asked if he thought there had been a “political cover-up” in the 1980s, he replied: “I think there may well have been. But it was almost unconscious. It was the thing that people did at that time.”

The existence of a third copy of Mr Dickens’s dossier is likely to intensify demands for a full national inquiry into allegations of organised child sex abuse, which Mr Cameron has previously dismissed. A public petition on the Change.org website organised by Labour MP Tom Watson had on Sunday evening attracted more than 21,000 signatures.

In the interview, published in the Daily Express, Mr Dickens said he had spent two years investigating high-profile paedophiles. “I’ve got eight names of big people, public figures. And I’m going to expose them in Parliament,” he told the newspaper. “I have not enjoyed this crusade. It’s been horrible. One of the people among those eight has been a friend of mine.”

Lord Tebbit said there may have been an 'almost unconscious' cover-up (Getty) Lord Tebbit said there may have been an 'almost unconscious' cover-up (Getty) By that stage he had also passed the information he held to Sir Thomas. “Mr Dickens’s own list of eight public figures involved in the sex scandal was handed to the director earlier this week … together with the warning that he would name them in Parliament if necessary,” the article said.

Sir Thomas, who died in 2007, held the position of DPP from 1977 to 1987 and was the first head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which was founded in 1986. It is understood that the CPS searched its archives for the dossier last year when the Home Office conducted a review of information relating to “organised child sex abuse”, but was unable to find anything – possibly because the file was handed to the DPP before it came into existence.

A CPS spokesman said: “Based on the details given, as far as we are able to ascertain from available records we hold no information.”

Home Secretary Theresa May is due to make a statement on the affair (Getty) Home Secretary Theresa May is due to make a statement on the affair (Getty) Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who has previously backed Mr Cameron in rejecting calls for a full inquiry, appeared to soften his stance on the subject on Sunday. “I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme. 

On Saturday, the Home Office Permanent Secretary Mark Sedwill revealed that more than 100 documents relating to historic allegations of organised child abuse between 1979 and 1999 were “presumed destroyed, missing or not found”. In a letter to Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, he said the review carried out last year had not found any documents provided by Mr Dickens in which he named public figures.

Mr Vaz said on Sunday that the number of files lost by the Home Office was of an “industrial scale”, adding that his committee had called Mr Sedwill to give evidence on the missing documents tomorrow. He will also be told to name the “senior legal figure” he has appointed to investigate whether the Home Office’s original review was sound.

Chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz (Getty) Chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz (Getty)
David Mellor, who served under Leon Brittan as a Home Office minister, said the feeling at the time was that Mr Dickens’s dossier did not contain the shocking revelations he suggested. “My only recollection of this from my time at the Home Office was the suggestion there wasn’t much to it,” he told Sky News.

“The real crunch point for me is if – and I don’t believe this for a millisecond – Leon Brittan had not taken appropriate action, Geoffrey Dickens lived for another 11 years and there is no evidence he went back and followed it up.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect