Man who accused Leon Brittan of abuse says it 'started as a joke'

Claims made on Panorama prompt complaint from detectives investigating alleged VIP paedophile ring

Leon Brittan

A vulnerable adult who was a key witness to allegations of a 'VIP' paedophile ring has told the BBC he named Leon Brittan, former home secretary, as an abuser as a "joke".

Identified only as 'David', the man told Panorama he feared he was led into making the allegations by "two well-known campaigners". He said he had confided this worry to the Metropolitan Police, which had investigated but taken no further action.

David said the late Lord Brittan of Spennithorne – who died in January at the age of 75 – was one of a number of names he came up with "as a joke suggestion to start with". Later, he repeated the allegation in earnest, says The Guardian.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

David identified Brittan as an abuser from a photograph shown to him by campaigners but has now said he may just have recognised Brittan because he was a well-known public figure.

David said he felt "guilty" for naming Brittan, who was accused in 2013 of having helped cover up paedophile activity by senior UK politicians from the 1970s and 1980s. The VIP paedophile ring was even linked to allegations of murder.

In 1984, Brittan was handed a dossier by the Tory MP Geoffrey Dickens about sexual abuse allegations. The file subsequently disappeared but in 2013 the Home Office said it had investigated and found no evidence of a cover-up. Brittan, who was home secretary from 1983 to 1985, categorically denied any allegation of sexual wrongdoing or a cover-up.

Scotland Yard issued an official complaint after David's latest interview appeared on last night's Panorama programme. The Daily Telegraph reports that police have accused the BBC of undermining its investigation into the allegations.

A statement from Scotland Yard said the programme could "compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court".

Referring to the Jimmy Savile case, the statement says: "Hundreds of people never came forward in part because they feared the consequences of making allegations against a powerful public figure.

"We are worried that this programme and other recent reporting will deter victims and witnesses from coming forward in future."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.