Veteran Sir Edward Leigh insists sex offender Duncan Breeze, who he has entertained as recently as a few months ago, has served his time and deserves a second chance
A top Tory gave a convicted paedophile privileged access to the House of Commons where he wined and dined him.
Sir Edward Leigh, 64, hosted lunches inside Westminster for a businessman released from jail for making thousands of “sickening” images of children.
Consultant Duncan Breeze, 39, was entertained by Sir Edward, as recently as a few months ago.
Yesterday the veteran MP defended their relationship, insisting: “He has served his time. I believe in redemption.”
Under strict security rules, the father-of-six would have had to vouch for any invited guest and a special pass allowing access to the inner sanctum of Parliament would then have been issued.
There is no suggestion that they have broken any rules by meeting there.
Breeze – who previously carved out a career as a musician and appeared in panto as Prince Charming – was jailed for two years in 2007 after 4,270 indecent images were found on his computers, but went to prison protesting his innocence.
Following a trial at Luton crown court, he was convicted of 20 separate offences and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.
The judge told him: “Some of the images are particularly disgusting and sickening. It is not difficult to imagine the distress caused to the children in them.”
He added: “If it were not for people like you there would be no market for material of this kind.”
Breeze is now a consultant to a company which provides income protection support for the unemployed, of which Sir Edward is non-executive chairman.
Our probe can reveal the MP recently invited Breeze for lunch in the Commons on more than one occasion.
Confronted with our findings at the remote cottage home he shares with wife Mary, near his constituency of Gainsborough, Lincs, Sir Edward said yesterday: “Duncan Breeze told me he had a conviction. As far as I am concerned, it is in the past. He admitted it to me. He was up front. There was no secret about it.
“He denied any guilt. He said he was completely innocent. I don’t remember all the details. It’s none of my business.
“I probably last saw him for lunch at the Commons months ago. Certainly not weeks ago. I’m chairman of the company he is involved with.
“If he has a conviction in a previous life, which is nothing to do with the company, or business, or politics, or anything else, then it’s not for me to second guess somebody’s past,” he went on.
“I believe in redemption and forgiveness. He has served his time. His former life is nothing to do with me.”
Sir Edward, knighted for public and political service in 2013, has been an MP since 1983.
During a Commons debate on sentencing and the rehabilitation of offenders in 2010 he blasted soft jail terms. Speaking publicly about the issue later, he said he believed that short sentences “served little purpose.”
In July, during a debate on child protection, he said: “Children are targeted in conflict situations for sexual attacks.
“Girls and boys make up more than half the rape cases in such conflicts and that is an appalling statistic. Imagine the appalling emotional trauma of that.”
A senior figure in the Conservative party, only yesterday he urged David Cameron to win back disillusioned former Tory voters who no longer felt connected to the party. Writing on the Conservative Home website: “We must reconnect with people who are older, less successful and more worried about the changing world.”
Earlier this year he called for a pact between Tories and UKIP and said they should not oppose each other at the next general election.
At his home in Oxted, Surrey, former actor Breeze said: “I have met him I think probably three times at the House of Commons because that’s where he works.
“I went to his office rather than him come to mine. I’m not employed by the company, I am a consultant. I provide consultancy for a number of firms. I do ad-hoc work as and when needed.
“My conviction was raised to him before I did any consultancy work.”
He then complained about a miscarriage of justice and accused his legal team of “screwing up” his defence.
He said he had lodged an appeal through the European Court and that he hoped a judicial review would see his conviction quashed. He was arrested in October 2004 after police were alerted by Croatian law enforcement agencies.
Child pornography was found at his former home near Sandy, Beds, and at his parents’ home in Weston-Super-Mare, North Somerset.
The jury was told he had made the indecent images between 2001 and 2004.
Three computers were examined and there was evidence that a total of 4,270 indecent images were present. During his trial Breeze told the jury he believed the images had been downloaded by an employee.
“I know I’m innocent. I know I’ve done nothing wrong and I know I’ve got evidence which proves that. I just can’t make the court accept that yet,” he insisted.
“There are rules for what counts as new evidence and the rule currently states if the court doesn’t accept it as new evidence you can’t bring it back into play.
“The conviction is still in place, there are some questions over it because some new evidence has come up since.
“It’s still going through a process but it will take years.
“My defence expert messed up and I’m screwed because of it.”
“Am I not meant to work or am I meant to check any company I work with doesn’t happen to have anybody who might happen to be in the public interest of any description?” he said.
Simon Wright & Patrick Hill