An amendment crucial to breaking the culture of impunity enjoyed by sex offenders in the corridors of power was stopped last week by what appears to be a heavily controlled vote in the House of Commons. One of the MPs who voted against, Nick Hurd (Conservative), has a demonstrable relationship to Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire child abuser from the USA who is at the the heart of an ongoing child sex abuse scandal implicating Prince Andrew.
Epstein has been on the sex offenders register since 2008 after serving thirteen months of an eighteen month sentence for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution, and is currently facing allegations that he recruited a 15-year-old girl to act as a sex slave on a private jet for his friend and client, Prince Andrew.
Hurd, the Conservative incumbent for the Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner constituency, gave his work, home and personal telephone numbers to Epstein, according to American court documents. The document in question, Epstein’s phonebook, was released after Epstein vs Edwards (2009), a case in which Epstein was sued for the defamation of a prominent human rights attorney who works as an advocate for child sex abuse victims.
Epstein’s phonebook contains the contact details of Hurd, including access to both of his homes and his personal email address. The phonebook also revealed that Epstein had a direct line to Tony Blair and Scotland Yard.
The amendment to the Official Secrets Act (OSA) was proposed by John Mann MP (Labour) as part of the Serious Crime Bill. Its aim was to insert a clause into the OSA that would create a defence against charges of breaking the OSA which, in Mann’s words, “would have given immunity from prosecution only in relation to historical incidences of child abuse.”
Mann added that “It was very clear, targeted and concise”, and claimed that “it would not have undermined the official secrets act.”
The amendment failed to pass through the House of Commons (295 votes Nay against 233 Aye), split largely along party lines – Labour and the minority parties voted unanimously for it, but lost to an almost lockstep vote against by the government. Being divided so clearly along party lines makes it highly likely that the vote was whipped by party leaders.
The implication that Labour leader Ed Miliband would choose to whip his party in support of the amendment suggests the Conservative Party may fear it has more to lose in the growing scandal of a paedophile cover-up in Westminster.
Mann expressed particular discomfort at the behaviour of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary in the vote, with the latter, Theresa May, making particular efforts to block the amendment by declaring that the OSA is already fit for purpose. Given recent allegations that May has actively ignored evidence of child abuse by police officers, and David Cameron’s earlier pledge to protect witnesses and whistleblowers apparently no more than lip service, the government is not inspiring confidence that this is truly the case.
With parliament controlled by an old and extremely effective whipping system, and with cabinet ministers appearing not to believe in their own rhetoric about wanting to support the victims of child abuse at the hands of powerful men, it is difficult enough for members of an increasingly angry and bewildered public to believe that Westminster is willing and able to investigate itself in this deeply serious matter.
Politicians like Nick Hurd, whose links to mega-rich paedophiles are only made public thanks to the chance release of court documents in other countries, are coming under mounting pressure to declare and decry their connections with these powerful sex offenders in the face of growing scrutiny of not just the criminals themselves but of their friends, and of the entire political system.
[Editor’s note: Gerry Bello, Editor and Publisher of the Mockingbird and staff writer for the Leveller, contributed research for this article.]