Former police officers should be given an amnesty to allow them to speak out without fear about what they knew of paedophile networks operating in Westminster three decades ago, an ex-Special Branch officer has said.
Chris Hobbs, who spent 32 years with the Metropolitan Police, said retired colleagues should be given protection to encourage them to reveal what they had learned and that many would be carefully considering the consequences of speaking out about what they knew of the allegations.
Hobbs told Sky News it was clear that "quite a few" officers, from the rank of commissioner and chief constable down to detectives, would know something about allegations of child abuse among politicians three decades ago.
He said that an amnesty would be the only way to encourage former officers to come forward and speak out.
Hobbs said: "I think it would help, it would help set officers' minds at rest if there was some form of protection there for them, that they weren't suddenly going to subject to the criminal investigations for possibly just doing what they were told.
"I suspect there will be a substantial number of police officers, not huge numbers, but a substantial number that will know something and will be thinking to themselves, 'Shall I come forward, dare I risk it, or if I keep my head down will the storm pass me by?'."
Widespread allegations of child abuse among establishment figures in the 1980s have prompted a formal inquiry, and Hobbs said "every police officer in London" at the time had heard rumours about Cyril Smith, the late Rochdale MP named as one of the abusers of young boys.
Peter Garsden, president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, said the creation of an amnesty would require great care.
He told Sky News: "It depends what they are being given an amnesty against - if it is an intention to pervert the course of justice then that is fine. However, if they are part of a paedophile ring that involves the MPs then one does not want to let them off a criminal prosecution, nor would it be fair to do so."