Detective who wanted to speak to minister was taken off case
A detective was removed from his post after telling colleagues he wanted to approach Paul Boateng - then government minister in charge of police.
Multiple sources have told the BBC they believe Det Insp Clive Driscoll intended to ask Mr Boateng what - if anything - he knew of a known paedophile, John Carroll.
But before Mr Driscoll could approach him in 1998 he was axed from the case.
There is no suggestion Paul Boateng - now a Lord - had done anything wrong.
Now under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the Metropolitan Police has for three years been reviewing why Mr Driscoll was ordered to leave the south London borough of Lambeth in November 1998, and what happened to the information he had gathered.
Justice Lowell Goddard, who this month begins hearings for her inquiry into historical allegations of child sexual abuse in a wide range of institutions, has stated that one of her priorities will be to get to the bottom of what happened in Lambeth, one of the most troubled and scandal-plagued councils in the UK.
Specifically she plans to examine "allegations that there was inappropriate interference in law enforcement investigations into the sexual abuse of children in the care of the Council".
Mr Driscoll had a 34-year career in the Met, which culminated in the successful conviction of two of the men who killed Stephen Lawrence.
He has spoken out about the decision to remove him from Lambeth and what he fears were subsequent failures to investigate information he had gathered.
He said: "I am immensely proud to [have been] a police officer and immensely proud to [have been] a Metropolitan Police officer, but this is the one period in my career which just troubles me greatly."
In 1998, he was appointed to investigate the activities of John Carroll, who had been the manager of the Angell Road children's home in Lambeth.
Carroll was a paedophile who was jailed for 10 years for abusing children.
After five months of investigation, Mr Driscoll had identified a number of people he wanted to talk to. Mr Driscoll has consistently refused to name any of them, however Newsnight has learned that one of them was Paul Boateng.
Two people who had given information to his inquiry spoke to Newsnight. They suggested Mr Carroll and Mr Boateng knew each other.
Det Insp Clive Driscoll
- Led Operation Trawler in 1998 - the London end of a Merseyside police inquiry into John Carroll's offending
- Was removed from his inquiry in November that year
- A secret internal Scotland Yard report obtained by Newsnight says Mr Driscoll committed "serious indiscretions"
- That report also refers to the "political sensitivities" that resulted in his removal from Lambeth
- Went on to have a successful career
- Led the investigation into the "honour killing" of Surjit Athwal. Her husband and mother-in-law were jailed for arranging her murder
- In 2012 his investigation secured two convictions for the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence
A social worker, Teresa Johnson, who had worked with Carroll at Angell Road, said she had seen Mr Boateng at the home on up to six occasions during the mid-1980s.
Another witness claimed he had seen Mr Boateng during caravan holidays for children run by a charity, called the Association of Combined Youth Clubs. Carroll was a member of the ACYC.
The witness claimed Carroll had boasted of his friendship with Mr Boateng - who went on to become Britain's first black government minister.
This witness told Newsnight: "John Carroll would regularly talk about him [Paul Boateng] being able to open doors for him."
Lord Boateng told the BBC he has no recollection of going to Angell Road or of meeting John Carroll. He said he remembered the ACYC charity but has no recollection of visiting during the caravan holidays.
He said he would have been happy to help the police if he had been approached.
"As a campaigning youth justice lawyer in the 1970s and 1980s, I acted for many young people in care, met many of their social workers and visited many youth facilities in the course of my work. I did not know Mr Carroll personally and have no recollection of meeting him professionally or of visiting the Angell Rd children's home or anywhere else where he was present.
"Naturally, I would be appalled if Mr Carroll was not properly investigated and children were harmed as a result. I am unaware as to how the investigation into Mr Carroll was conducted and I knew nothing at all about the matters under investigation. I therefore cannot comment on why the police did not seek my assistance in connection with this matter. I would of course have been happy to assist."
Lord Paul Boateng
- Born in Hackney in 1951 to a British mother and Ghanaian father
- Qualified as a barrister specialising in social and community cases
- Greater London Council member for Walthamstow from 1981-1986. Chair of the GLC's police committee
- Labour MP for Brent South 1987-2005
- Became police minister in October 1998, and then the UK's first black cabinet minister in 2002 as Chief Secretary to the Treasury
- UK Ambassador to South Africa 2005-2010
- Became a member of the House of Lords in 2010
Mr Driscoll did not get an opportunity to meet Mr Boateng in 1998 because the detective had been removed from his post.
He told the BBC he was axed because of a complaint that he had been indiscreet; during a meeting with Lambeth social workers, he mentioned the names of people he proposed to speak to.
Mr Driscoll disputes talking out of turn.
"I have only ever mentioned these names during the confidential meetings that were set up for sharing information."
After Mr Driscoll was removed, the Met launched a new inquiry, called Operation Middleton.
The Met is assessing what happened to the information Mr Driscoll passed on to that new investigation.
Some of the inquiries into sex abuse in Lambeth
- Operation Trawler (July-November 1998) - Led by Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll, investigated possible sex abuse in Lambeth by John Carroll, who had run a children's home there
- Operation Middleton (November 1998-July 2003) - Led by Detective Superintendent Richard Gargini after removal of Driscoll, covering allegations of child abuse across all of Lambeth's children's homes over 20 years; team included specially-trained social workers alongside police, known as Child Abuse in Lambeth Team (Chile)
- Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (March 2016-ongoing) - Led by Justice Lowell Goddard, reviewing past institutional failures in England and Wales and investigating whether "public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse"
The two witnesses who spoke about links between Carroll and Mr Boateng have told the BBC they were not interviewed by detectives in Operation Middleton.
The Met said it could not comment because an inquiry is under way.
A spokesman said: "A review of the material and papers from Operation Middleton remains ongoing by officers from the Directorate of Professional Standards. We said previously that the process would take a period of time. While that work continues it would be inappropriate to comment."
More on this story on BBC Newsnight at 22:30 GMT on 1 March, or you can catch up afterwards on iPlayer