“What we are seeing now is the result of a culture of complacency which has allowed celebrities and others to cover up their crimes, and Harriet Harman must share some of the blame for not taking these matters much more seriously.”
As The Daily Telegraph first disclosed in 2009, in the 1970s the extreme end of the sexual liberation movement included groups who openly campaigned for the abolition of the age of consent. The Paedophile Information Exchange and Paedophile Action for Liberation affiliated themselves to the National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty.
NCCL complained to the press watchdog about their treatment by tabloid newspapers and in one article admitted it had “plenty of contact” with PIE, and argued that children are harmed by having to go to police and courts after a “mutual relationship with an adult”.
In 1976 the NCCL submitted a response to the Government’s plans to reform sex laws that was dubbed a Lolita’s Charter as it claimed “childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in with an adult result in no identifiable damage”.
The organisation said that children as young as 14 should be able to consent to sex, to reduce the “harmful effects of the present laws”.
It went on to say it is “logical” for the age of consent to be abolished but “we fear” it would not be “politically possible”.
Miss Harman, then a newly qualified solicitor, joined the group as legal officer two years later.
In April 1978 she wrote the NCCL’s response to the Protection of Children Bill, which was put before Parliament in order to tighten the laws on child pornography by banning indecent images of under-16s.
It claimed that the new law could lead to “damaging and absurd prosecutions” and “increase censorship”.
She suggested that pornographic photographs or films of children should not be considered indecent unless it could be shown that the subject had suffered, and that prosecutors would have to prove harm rather than defendants having to justify themselves.
The NCCL's submission stated: “Although this harm may be of a somewhat speculative nature, where participation falls short of physical assault, it is none-the-less justifiable to restrain activities by photographer which involve placing children under the age of 14 (or, arguably, 16) in sexual situations.
“We suggest that the term 'indecent’ be qualified as follows: – A photograph or film shall not for this purpose be considered indecent (a) by reason only that the model is in a state of undress (whether complete or partial); (b) unless it is proved or is to be inferred from the photograph or film that the making of the photograph or film might reasonably be expected to have caused the model physical harm or pronounced psychological or emotional disorder.”
It added: “Our amendment places the onus of proof on the prosecution to show that the child was actually harmed.”
Miss Harman left NCCL in 1982 when she was elected MP for Camberwell and Peckham, by which time several members of PIE had been jailed for conspiracy to corrupt public morals.
A spokesman for Miss Harman said: “This allegation is an outrageous slur. Harriet has fought for child protection from sexual abuse over the last 30 years – any attempt to suggest otherwise is untrue and malicious.
“It is completely untrue that she supported the lowering of the age of consent to 14 – she supported equalising the age of homosexual consent to make it the same as the age of heterosexual consent which is 16.”