A senior judge has apologised over his links to a campaign which reportedly supported a paedophile group that tried to legalise sex with children.
Lord Justice Fulford was a founder member of a campaign group set up to defend the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) while it openly called for the age of consent to be lowered to just four, the Mail on Sunday (MoS) alleged.
The Appeal Court judge said he had "no memory" of founding the Conspiracy Against Public Morals campaign. But he admitted he had been "briefly involved" in the 1970s with the National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL), to which PIE was affiliated.
Lord Justice Fulford, named last year as an adviser to the Queen, insisted that he has "always been deeply opposed to paedophilia" and felt "extremely uncomfortable" when PIE founder Tom O'Carroll attended meetings of the NCCL's gay rights committee.
The MoS said its investigation found that Lord Justice Fulford set up a group to support the "executive committee" of PIE in the summer of 1979, after they were charged with the rare offence of conspiracy to corrupt public morals.
The newspaper claimed he planned demonstrations outside courts where defendants were on trial and wrote an article claiming PIE was a way for paedophiles to "make friends and offer each other mutual support".
In a statement, Lord Justice Fulford said his involvement in civil liberty campaigns in the late 1970s was concerned with "the way in which minorities were treated in the judicial process".
"I have throughout my professional life been concerned that individuals, whoever they are, should be treated fairly before the courts," he said.
The judge said he "no memory" of founding the Conspiracy to Corrupt Public Morals campaign group or details of its work, or of any contribution "which could be used against a wide variety of people in potentially inappropriate ways".
He added: "I have always been deeply opposed to paedophilia and I never supported the views or objectives of the Paedophile Information Exchange.
"I attended a few meetings of the NCCL's gay rights committee. I remember that for a short period Tom O'Carroll was sometimes present, which left me feeling extremely uncomfortable."
"In the main, I provided some legal advice in the context of general civil liberties objections to the wide-ranging charge of conspiracy to corrupt public morals."
Lord Justice Fulford said he supported the age of consent at its current level and he "profoundly disagreed" with those who sought an age of consent below 16.
He went on: "It became apparent that for a period there was an attempt by PIE to infiltrate the NCCL gay rights committee, and I repeat that the attendance of any of its members at meeting caused me considerable disquiet.
"On reflection, the NCCL gay rights committee should never have allowed members of PIE to attend any of its meetings, and a clear and real separation should have been created between the two organisations.
"I am very sorry for what happened. I have never espoused or in any way supported the objectives of PIE - the abuse of children - which I consider wholly wrong."
The Daily Mail has run a series of stories focusing on former prominent NCCL figures, Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, her husband and fellow Labour MP Jack Dromey and former Labour health secretary Patricia Hewitt, after the group granted PIE affiliate status in 1975.
Ms Hewitt, who was NCCL general secretary at the time, apologised for having "got it wrong", while Mr Dromey insisted he did not give his approval to a call for the age of sexual consent to be reduced to as low as 10.
Ms Harman expressed her "regret" that the NCCL - now known as Liberty - had ever become involved with PIE but insisted she had "nothing to apologise for" and accused the Mail of mounting a campaign of "smear and innuendo".Suggest a correction