Unionist ‘wrongly escaped charges in Kincora boys home paedophile scandal’

PACEMAKER BELFAST 5/10/01'Kincora Boys Home
PACEMAKER BELFAST 5/10/01'Kincora Boys Home

A man said by government documents to have held a position within a unionist party in the early 1970s wrongly escaped conviction on charges linked to the Kincora paedophile scandal, according to a newly-declassified file.

The file, released at the Public Record Office in Belfast, also contains an allegation that he might have had evidence about one of Belfast’s most gruesome child murders of the last century.

The allegations emerge in a file about Kincora, the boys home in east Belfast where boys were sexually assaulted in the 1970s and which police and the authorities responsible for the home failed to investigate until it was revealed by a Dublin newspaper.

The case has been the subject of numerous inquiries and ongoing claims that the security services had a role in covering up what went on because William McGrath, the housemaster of the home, was an agent.

A confidential two-page memo contained in the file just released contains details of a 1982 meeting between the then Secretary of State, Jim Prior, and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, about Kincora.

At that point, an inquiry had collapsed on its first day after the inquiry team said it was impossible for them to do their work amid revelations that the RUC was still investigating the possibility of further criminal charges.

The meeting also involved Sir Philip Woodfield, the NIO permanent secretary, junior minister John Patten and NIO official Stephen Boys Smith, who compiled a note of the meeting. The Lord Chancellor was accompanied by his permanent secretary, Sir Wilfrid Bourne, signifying the importance of what was

being discussed.

The minute records that prior to the meeting the Lord Chancellor had spoken to the Director for Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Northern Ireland and it is on this conversation which much of the information seems to be based.

“The DPP had told him he had learned earlier that day that the RUC were continuing investigations into three aspects of the affair.

“The first concerned a man named Campbell, whom the Attorney General understood to have been secretary of the DUP and who in 1972 was falsely acquitted on the basis of perjured evidence; the file in his case had subsequently been destroyed by a bomb.

“Second, the allegations that a DHSS file [presumably a health department file relating to Kincora] had been mutilated in 1977.”

The final allegation referred to by the Lords Chancellor related to the murder of Brian McDermott in 1973.

After going missing in Ormeau Park and extensive police searches, the River Lagan was lowered and a sack containing the child’s torso, arm and charred remains was found. There were suggestions of a sectarian, paedophile or even witchcraft motive.

The note of the February 16, 1982 meeting said that “the RUC were looking again at the murder of Brian McDermott in the mid-1970s; his death was thought at the time to have been sectarian but it was now believed possible that there were homosexual aspects and that Campbell and others might have information to offer.

“The DPP believed that these inquiries would take some two months and that it was unlikely they would result in prosecutions.

“It was noted that this information conflicted with what the RUC had previously told ministers and officials and that it left the Government and the Secretary of State personally in an embarrassing and exposed position.”

The fact that the man is referred to as “a man called Campbell” may be evidence that he was a relatively unknown figure within the DUP.

From other notes prepared by Stephen Boys Smyth, it is clear that he had a good knowledge of even many mid-ranking members of the main parties.

And it would appear that at least some of the details given to the Lord Chancellor were not accurate as the DUP’s secretary at the time referred to in the allegations, 1972, was not called Campbell.