Murky waters: MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross, overlooking River Thames
By Mark Watts
MI6 has partially opened up its secret files on paedophile allegations against its officers and agents for the inquiry into child sexual abuse.
The UK’s overseas intelligence agency has released to the inquiry limited information on Sir Peter Hayman, the late MI6 officer who sometimes worked under diplomatic cover and was an especially dangerous paedophile. But MI6, which adopts a policy of neither confirming nor denying the identity of any staff member below its chief, does not admit that Hayman was one of its own officers.
Following Hayman’s death, one MI6 colleague noted on his file that he was “an unpleasant and pompous man” who liked “playing Father Christmas” so that he could move children up and down on his knee.
The inquiry is due to call an anonymous corporate witness for MI6, rather than its chief, to give evidence by video link on Tuesday during the third week of hearings for the Westminster investigation.
The MI6 witness tells the inquiry in a written statement: “No formal policy was in place to dictate the handling of child protection concerns before November 2015.” This is 17 months after Theresa May, then home secretary, announced the setting up of the inquiry.
The Westminster investigation of the inquiry asked MI6, formally known as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), to carry out searches on 62 people “of interest”, 12 organisations and seven historic investigations and inquiries.
According to the MI6 witness, it carried out “a reasonable and proportionate search” for potentially relevant material.
Members of the inquiry team visited MI6, which is based in Vauxhall Cross on the southern side of the River Thames in London, to look at the search results.
The MI6 witness says: “SIS has not been asked by the inquiry to disclose any material relating to Sir Maurice Oldfield, who was chief of SIS from 1973 to 1978.”
If true, this is a striking failure by the inquiry to pursue an obvious line of enquiry. Oldfield has been the subject of persistent claims that he was a paedophile and has been linked to a cover-up of child sexual abuse at Kincora boys’ home in Northern Ireland.
Oldfield was called out of retirement in 1979 to act as security co-ordinator in Northern Ireland, but resigned five months later after his homosexuality was revealed.
If MI6 is right, the inquiry is failing to investigate whether Oldfield used his “homosexuality” as cover for paedophilia.
In his statement to the inquiry, the MI6 witness says: “In the early 1980’s, Oldfield was the subject of an independent investigation by MI5 during which he revealed that he had had homosexual relationships in the 1940’s and 1950’s which he had not declared during his security clearance, as was required at the time. SIS had no role in the MI5 investigation other than to facilitate access to SIS staff and records.”
A summary of that investigation into Oldfield was included in MI5’s ‘paedophile files’, which I revealed earlier this month.
MI6 will disclose details on four cases from its own files. The first concerns Hayman. The quotes, shown in bold italic, replicate the styling of MI6’s submission to the inquiry:
“The document is a cover sheet from 1990 which was attached to a press article giving an obituary for Sir Peter Hayman.”
Hayman died in 1992, so the document probably dates from that year. I revealed fresh evidence yesterday on how Peter Hayman avoided prosecution in 1978 for distributing obscene material through the post after his solicitor, Sir David Napley, personally pleaded with the then director of public prosecutions, Sir Thomas Hetherington.
The MI6 file continues:
“The obituary covers all aspects of Hayman’s life including his involvement in a pornography case in 1978 and that for a number of years he was a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange.”
“The cover sheet contains an annotation by an SIS officer who wrote, ‘An unpleasant and pompous man – used to like playing Father Christmas in Ottawa so he could dandle children on his knee’. The comment appears to relate to the period that Hayman was High Commissioner at the British High Commission in Ottawa, Canada (1970-74).”
“No further information or documents were identified in SIS searches to explain any context associated with the annotation.”
So far, the inquiry is yet to produce a secret file known to exist on Hayman, entitled, “SIR PETER HAYMAN (1980-81 PAPERS EX-DIPLOMAT INTRIGUING PRIVATE LIFE).”
It contains details of enquiries undertaken to assess any security implications of Hayman’s conduct. But the file was not included in MI5’s disclosures to the inquiry last week when it put up a corporate witness to testify on its behalf.
Mark Watts (@MarkWatts_1) is the co-ordinator of the FOIA Centre.
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