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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation Report

Contents

D.2: The Home Secretary and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner

6. In 1966 Lord Taverne was an MP and a minister in the Home Office. He told us about a single meeting that he attended, which Richard Scorer and Kim Harrison of Slater & Gordon, in written submissions on behalf of complainant core participants, described as being “highly illuminating about the culture of the time”.[1] The other attendees at the meeting were Roy Jenkins, then the Home Secretary, and Sir Joe Simpson, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

7. Lord Taverne appeared to have a clear memory of the meeting, which took place the year before homosexual acts in private between consenting males aged 21 and over were decriminalised by the Sexual Offences Act 1967. He explained that Mr Jenkins had been the “driving force” behind the campaign in the mid-1960s to legalise homosexual acts.[2] Mr Jenkins had called the meeting as a result of his concern, as Lord Taverne put it, “that the police spent quite a lot of time wasting their time, as he saw it, in tracking homosexuals by investigating various so-called cottages”,[3] a slang term for public lavatories frequented by homosexual men. He said that Mr Jenkins had told Sir Joe Simpson that he thought the practice of visiting these ‘cottages’ was a waste of police time, which ought to be discontinued.[4]

8. Lord Taverne told us that Sir Joe Simpson responded by making two comments. First, he told the Home Secretary that it was unconstitutional for him to interfere in operational matters, although he agreed to look at the matter. Then Sir Joe Simpson made what Lord Taverne described as “a surprise remark”, that as “a matter of fact, there are several cottages in Westminster which we don’t investigate”. When asked why these cottages were not investigated, Sir Joe Simpson said that “it would be embarrassing” because “they are frequented by celebrities and MPs”.[5]

9. Lord Taverne said that neither he nor Mr Jenkins had previously been aware of this police practice, which he regarded as selective and unjustified. He added that, to his knowledge, people were still being arrested in cottages at the time, although not in the lavatories around Westminster, which appears to corroborate the existence of the police practice described by Sir Joe Simpson.[6] Such a practice would amount to a policy giving special treatment to persons of prominence at Westminster (apparently including both MPs and celebrities), which was authorised by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police himself. We were not able to ask Sir Joe Simpson (who died in 1968) about this and we have no other information about it, including how long the policy was in operation or the detailed reasons for its implementation.

10. While it does not relate specifically to the sexual abuse of children, this episode is of significance to the cross-cutting themes in this investigation. It is a clear example of the most senior officer in the Metropolitan Police demonstrating deference towards, or at least reluctance to investigate, those in power at Westminster, and it is likely that this approach was shared by others within the force.

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