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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Allegations of child sexual abuse linked to Westminster Investigation Report


G.1: Introduction

1. For almost 10 years between 1974 and 1984, an organisation known as the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) operated across the UK. It openly campaigned for the lowering of the age of consent and made concerted efforts to normalise and justify sexual relationships between adults and children.

2. During the late 1970s, PIE was not simply tolerated as part of the authorities’ proper commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of association but was accepted as a legitimate voice of an oppressed sexual minority by respected and well-established civil society organisations such as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL, now known as Liberty) and the Albany Trust (a specialist counselling and psychotherapy charity). It achieved some traction and influence in civil libertarian and gay rights groups generally in that period.

3. Given the awareness now of the extent of child sexual abuse and the damage caused to victims and survivors, it is extraordinary that such an organisation could have attracted support for such a long period of time. In an effort to understand how this could have happened, the Inquiry obtained extensive evidence from the archives of the London School of Economics about the history and activities of PIE and the other civil society organisations it interacted with. We also received a lengthy witness statement and numerous documents from the NCCL and heard oral evidence from one of the current trustees of the Albany Trust.

4. Our investigation has also examined the allegation that PIE may have had sufficient backing within government that it actually received funding or other support from the Home Office, either directly or via the Albany Trust. We heard evidence from Timothy (Tim) Hulbert, the former Home Office Voluntary Services Unit (VSU) consultant who made this allegation, and examined the previous investigation into the matter carried out by Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC.

Chronology of main events during the existence of PIE

5. PIE was founded in September 1974 by Michael Hanson, a gay student living in Edinburgh, as part of the Scottish Minorities Group (which later became the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group). Its inaugural meeting was held in Edinburgh in March 1975. In July 1975, Keith Hose became its chair and the centre of activity moved to London.[1]

6. Mr Hose gave a speech at the annual conference of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in November 1975, calling for a more sympathetic approach to people with ‘paedophilic tendencies’, which garnered attention from several more well-established organisations.[2] Indeed, the Albany Trust had already made contact with PIE following an earlier speech given by Mr Hose at a conference on the mental health of sexual minorities hosted by Mind, the mental health charity, in September 1975.[3]

7. In around November 1975, PIE composed and submitted a paper to the Home Office Criminal Law Revision Committee, which proposed the abolition of the age of consent and the removal of sexual activity between adults and children from the criminal law.[4]

8. Tom O’Carroll became PIE’s Secretary in early 1976.[5] In April 1976, PIE launched its first magazine, entitled Understanding Paedophilia. This was renamed Magpie in March 1977[6] and numerous editions were published between 1977 and 1983. Magpie was brazen in its promotion of sexual activity with children, with a wide variety of content including photographs or drawings of children in provocative poses, comment pieces, as well as ‘travelogue’ and academic-style articles.[7]

9. In September 1977, PIE held its first public meeting in London, and Mr O’Carroll (who was by then Chair) also attended the British Psychological Society’s conference. This led to significant media attention for the first time.[8]

10. In May 1978, PIE published a booklet entitled Paedophilia  Some Questions and Answers,[9] and distributed copies to every MP and peer in Parliament as well as to the media and various prominent civil rights campaigners.[10] The initial work on this pamphlet was carried out in conjunction with the Albany Trust, as discussed below.

11. By July 1979, PIE’s window of acceptance and influence began to draw to a close. Charges of conspiracy to corrupt public morals were brought against five serving or former members of the PIE executive committee (one of whom died before trial). The initial trial in January 1981 collapsed and a retrial took place in March 1981 against three of the defendants (one having been acquitted in the first trial).[11] At the retrial O’Carroll was convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.[12]

12. PIE continued to exist in a diminished form for two or three years. It made some efforts to appear in public, such as taking part in the London Gay Pride march in 1983. However, in late 1983, there was a further prosecution of members of its new executive committee on charges of distributing ‘child pornography’ and incitement to commit unlawful sexual acts with children. In light of this PIE was shut down by its leadership in July 1984.[13]

PIE’s attempts to lobby parliamentarians and government

13. At its height in around 1978, it seems that PIE had some 300 members in total.[14] The Inquiry has seen no evidence to suggest that PIE had any members who were MPs or peers, or who could be described more broadly as senior Westminster figures, with the exception of Sir Peter Hayman. There were two members of the PIE executive committee – Charles Napier and Peter Righton[15] – who had significant establishment connections of a more general kind, such as holding prominent positions in schools and academia or (in Mr Righton’s case) in public advisory roles, but we have seen no evidence of any other prominent persons.

14. Despite this, PIE made some concerted efforts to lobby government and politicians. In addition to the submission to the Criminal Law Revision Committee in 1975 and the distribution of Paedophilia Some Questions and Answers, there appear to have been many other attempts to get favourable political, media and cultural attention for PIE’s views.

15. The evidence we have seen suggests that PIE did not make much impact through these efforts, apart from briefly amongst certain civil libertarian organisations and some gay rights campaigners. For example, in the early 1980s, Edward Heath chaired the Youth Affairs Lobby,[16] a precursor to the Youth Parliament,[17] which members of PIE and supporters of PIE’s ideas tried to lobby. Mr Heath’s private secretary of the time, Peter Batey, recalled informing Mr Heath he had received a letter from PIE and him replying “We don’t want anything to do with them” with a strength of reaction that was notable.[18]

16. We also obtained evidence showing that when he was Home Secretary, in November 1983, Leon Brittan held a meeting with Geoffrey Dickens MP to discuss banning PIE. Although it was decided not to do so, there is no hint of sympathy for PIE in any of the documents. On the contrary, the discussion is about the need to be seen to act following an attack on a boy in Brighton, but also about the legal difficulties in banning PIE and whether it was necessary given that by 1983 its influence had largely disappeared as a result of the criminal prosecutions.[19]

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