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Positive review of paedophile book “terrible mistake” – Peter Tatchell

The veteran LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell has told Gript that he wishes to “apologise unreservedly” for putting his name to a review of a book which promoted sexual relationships between children and adults. The review was published in a June 1987 edition of 7 days, the newsletter of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The book in question, Betrayal of Youth (BOY), was edited by Warren Middleton, a former vice-chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE). Tatchell himself contributed a chapter to BOY, although Tatchell has repeatedly said that he was unaware of the book’s connection to PIE and that, had he been aware of that connection, he would have refused to write for the book.

Index of Betrayal of Youth. Credit: Ian Pace

Tatchell says that he was asked to write a piece supporting BOY as publishers were refusing to print the book and shops were refusing to stock those copies which managed to get printed. He agreed to write a piece in support of the book, which he says he had not read, as he was “opposed to censorship and the suppression of free speech.” The review was also, he said “done at a time when the legal age of consent for heterosexual relations was 16, while gay men between the ages of 16 and 21 could be prosecuted and jailed for having a sexual relationship.”

Tatchell says that ultimately he was too busy to write the review, and that a colleague wrote it for him. Tatchell reviewed what his colleague had written, but the piece was “much longer than I expected,” and, as such, Tatchell “mistakenly did not take enough time to read the draft properly.” This led to him failing to note that the review “wrongly claims that children can consent to sex with adults.” Tatchell told Gript that “I deeply regret this terrible mistake,” and “I apologise without reservation for putting my name to the review.”

Tatchell emphasised to Gript that he was not aware of Warren Middleton’s involvement with PIE when he agreed to write the review, and that the review does not reflect his consistent support for “victims of child sex abuse in their quest for question.” “Children cannot”, Tatchell said, “consent to sex with adults…paedophilia is the sexual abuse of children.”

In 2020 Gript published a long-form piece examining various statements that Tatchell had made regarding sexual relationships and the age of consent. As part of that we questioned Tatchell about his involvement with BOY. Tatchell told Gript that he had only discovered who the editor of BOY was “after the book was published and I was posted a copy…in about 1986 or 1987.” Tatchell repeated this point when we initially reached to him about the review of BOY in 7 Days, saying “I did not know that he [Middelton] was the editor until years later after the book was published and I was anonymously sent a copy.”

However, the review published in 7 Days mentions Middelton by name twice. When this was put to Tatchell he told Gript that he had “clumsily expressed” himself and that he had meant that he “had no knowledge of who Warren Middleton was, or what his views were, beyond the fact that he was credited as the editor of the book.”

Six years before the review was published, and a year before Tatchell says Middleton asked him to write a chapter for BOY, Warren Middleton and various other high-ranking members of PIE had criminal charges brought against them. The subsequent trial, which was widely reported at the time, meant that it was a matter of public record that Middleton was connected to PIE.

At the time of Tatchell’s review BOY was available for purchase, the review itself mentions a bookstore at which it could be bought. The acknowledgement section of BOY openly discusses the involvement of various members of PIE with the book, including Tom O’Carroll, who was the chairman of PIE from 1977 to 1979.

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