News of the World, 24th August 2003
BRITAIN’S top paedophile-busting police squad is to be broken up in a devastating secret reshuffle.
The shock move, uncovered by the News of the World, last night sparked outrage among worried child protection experts, politicians and top Home Office advisers.
Amazingly it comes in the week when the need for top-quality policing was dramatically highlighted by the dropping of a child porn case against Soham cop Brian Stevens, pictured right, after a series of Operation Ore investigation blunders.
All nine crack detectives in Scotland Yard’s elite paedophile unit-featured in award-winning BBC TV series The Hunt For Britain’s Paedophiles-have been told they will be moved to other duties by the end of the year.
This is despite having over 50 years’ vital experience in the squad between them AND a string of successes-including the high-profile Operation Doorknock raid on pervert Keith Romig’s east London house in 2000, led by Det Con Andy Murray, that led to the smashing of a vile abuse ring.
Operation Ore-processing thousands of leads from US internet porn sites-relies on the team’s long-term knowledge of faces and names to identify those posing the greatest threat.
Nevertheless the unit’s head, Det Chief Inspector Matt Sarti, called his men in last month and told them their posts would in future be filled on a three-year rota basis.
But after we blew the whistle Home Secretary David Blunkett was last night said to be “concerned” at the plan and vowed to raise it with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens. And Alisdair Gillespie, one of Mr Blunkett’s advisers on child protection, declared: “I know the Yard unit very well-they are the best of the best. The decision to break them up is absolutely ludicrous.”
Professor Gillespie, who is also a principal lecturer in law at Teesside University, added: “It takes a great deal of experience and skill to trap these paedophiles and ensure a conviction.
“These officers are so dedicated some are even doing masters degrees in the subject. It’s outrageous to allow them only a few years in the job-they’re taking away all the expertise in one go. And it will have an impact nationally because other forces look to them for advice. This link is essential to protect our children.”
One senior member of the Yard squad agreed: “Children are being put at risk by these changes. We can’t understand why it’s happening-they don’t rotate people in the Flying Squad.”
Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford-a leading activist on paedophile issues-slammed the Yard decision. “I’ll be raising this with the unit’s head and the minister involved,” he pledged.
“This job takes expertise that can’t be acquired in a few weeks.”
Last night retired Det Superintendent Mike Hames, the squad’s boss for five years, also called on the Met to change its mind.
“If you get rid of the best people in one go, everyone else will be floundering around,” he said.
And former Det Chief Inspector Bob McLachlan, who headed the unit from 1998 until retiring last year, insisted: “This is a scandal. Any change in the current set-up will put policing predatory paedophiles back 10 years.”