BBC Report on VIP Pedophile Ring Probe May "Deter Victims and Witnesses," Says Scotland Yard

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The U.K. public broadcaster defends a 'Panorama' report as "important and fair investigative journalism that rightly asks legitimate questions."

The London Metropolitan Police, also known as Scotland Yard, has said that a report on historic sexual abuse allegations and an alleged VIP pedophile ring, which aired on a BBC current-affairs program late Tuesday, could "deter victims and witnesses from coming forward in future."

The report on BBC show Panorama showed a man who made abuse allegations against people, including a former high-level politician, but told the program that he "just went along with" names suggested as a joke.  "Panorama understands [that the man] told the Metropolitan police he was worried that two well-known campaigners may have led him into making false claims," said a summary of the report on the BBC web site.

The report looked at broader allegations of a VIP pedophile ring, which has been said to have killed three boys in the 1970s and 1980s. The London police department is investigating the allegations under what is called "Operation Midland," which was launched in November.

Scotland Yard in a statement on its web site said it had "serious concerns about the impact of this program on its investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse and homicide, on the witnesses involved and on the willingness of victims of abuse to come forward to police."

It added: "Our concerns extend beyond Operation Midland. We are worried that this program and other recent reporting will deter victims and witnesses from coming forward in the future. Seeing an individual make allegations and then be targeted by the media is not going to encourage others to speak out."

About the BBC report specifically, it also said that pictures shown to a witness as part of the BBC reporting could "compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court."

A BBC spokesman told The Guardian: "This is important and fair investigative journalism that rightly asks legitimate questions about the conduct of the police, journalists, campaigners and politicians in handling historic allegations of child abuse," adding: "We were aware the Met police has concerns about this Panorama going ahead but as they recognize there is public interest in reporting on their investigations."

He added that the BBC was taking Scotland Yard's comments seriously, even though they had been issued before the report aired.

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