Carl Beech: Police’s ‘unwarranted belief’ in fantasist caused failed probe into fake paedophile ring, review finds

Retired High Court judge says Beech’s lies resulted in police obtaining court warrants to search suspects’ homes unlawfully 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correpsondent
Friday 04 October 2019 12:41
Met Police apologises for failures in Westminster paedophile claims case

Scotland Yard’s botched investigation into a fake Westminster paedophile ring was driven by an “unwarranted and disproportionate belief” in fantasist Carl Beech, a review has found.

Former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques said the failed £4.5m Operation Midland probe resulted in search warrants for innocent suspects being “obtained unlawfully” after a judge was misled using Beech’s lies.

Parts of a 400-page review were published for the first time on Friday, detailing how officers failed to take account of inconsistencies in Beech’s “highly implausible” statements or lack of corroborating evidence.

Beech, who was known as Nick until his anonymity was lifted, reported allegations of historic sex abuse following the broadcast of a television documentary on Jimmy Savile in 2012.

The report showed that a Wiltshire Police officer originally tasked with investigating the case in 2012 closed the probe, saying no living suspects had been identified and expressing doubts over Beech’s credibility.

The officer warned the Metropolitan Police that his allegations were a “little bit odd” and “it all sounds a bit Spooks” – in reference to a television drama.

Beech claimed he was taken out of schools and repeatedly sexually abused by a VIP paedophile ring, but in 2013 his mother said his school attendance was good and she would have remembered the absences described.

He also claimed a boy called Scott was killed by a car outside his primary school, but investigators did not check whether the crash had happened or whether other boys named by Beech existed.

Between late 2013 and October 2014 there was no contact between Beech and the police, but he started writing his allegations in an online blog that was picked up by journalists.

In November 2014, Scotland Yard launched Operation Midland, which closed 16 months later without a single arrest.

Beech, who is now serving an 18-year jail sentence, fabricated claims of historical rape, torture and murder by prominent figures in the military, security services and politics.

They saw the homes of D-Day veteran Lord Bramall, Lady Diana Brittan, the widow of former home secretary Leon Brittan, and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor raided.

Sir Richard, who was commissioned to review the investigation by the Metropolitan Police in February 2016, concluded: “The principal cause of the many failures in this investigation was poor judgement and a failure to accurately evaluate known facts and to react to them.

“A major contributing factor was the culture that ‘victims’ must be believed.

“Whilst the responsible officers assert that they kept an open mind, several failures can only be explained by an unwarranted and disproportionate belief in ‘Nick’s’ credibility.”

Carl Beech fed police extraordinary tale of VIP paedophile ring

Sir Richard said that belief resulted in “inaccurate statements” being given to judges who authorised the search warrants and caused “dreadful adverse consequences” for those falsely accused.

“‘Nick’s’ account had not been consistent throughout,” he added. “Further, there were, in my judgment no reasonable grounds to believe ‘Nick’ and the statement that he had told the truth was not consistent with information then available.”

He also criticised Scotland Yard for holding a press conference on Operation Midland where a senior officer called Beech’s claims “credible and true”.

Former commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe made a series of apologies over the investigation, which has to date cost the force around £4.5m.

Five officers were referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) but the body found no evidence of wrongdoing or criminality.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson was found to have added to the pressure on investigating officers, who were “fearful of media criticism and public cynicism”, according to the report.

A review of Operation Vincente – the investigation into an allegation that Lord Brittan had raped a 19-year-old woman in 1967 – said officers may have been “in a state of panic” over a letter sent by the MP on House of Commons notepaper.

Steve Rodhouse, the former deputy assistant commissioner who authorised Operation Midland, apologised for the “distress that has been caused to innocent people and their families”.

“Sir Richard’s report has identified many areas of concern and there are clearly lessons to be learned for future investigations,” he added.

“During Operation Midland, we were very conscious of the need to maintain the confidence of victims of abuse that they could come forward to the police and be taken seriously.”

Sir Stephen House apologised on behalf of the Met

He admitted that he did not get “the balance right between our determination to maintain that confidence and our duty to robustly test the allegations being made”.

Mr Rodhouse was also criticised over Operation Vincente but was not found to have committed misconduct in either probe.

The current deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Stephen House, said the force would learn lessons and improve its future response.

“The Met has had this report for nearly three years now so we have, as you would rightly expect, acted on the majority of Sir Richard’s recommendations,” he added.

“Mistakes were made in Operation Midland and we have apologised for those. We apologise for them again today. However, we do not agree with everything Sir Richard wrote in his report or indeed all of his recent statements regarding further investigations into the actions of officers.”

The report was released after Priti Patel called for a police watchdog to launch an inspection “at the earliest practicable opportunity”.

“It is imperative that the public receive assurance that the MPS has learned from the mistakes identified and have made – and continue to make – necessary improvements,” the home secretary said.

A spokesperson for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary confirmed receipt of the letter and added: “We will publish the terms of reference for the related inspection in due course.”

The Independent understands that the inspectorate is obliged to accept the home secretary’s recommendations.

Ms Patel said following the publication of Sir Richard’s review and a separate IOPC report, she would “consider whether any further steps are needed to address any wider issues with policing practice”.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, welcomed the probe and said it was “clear that further action is needed to address things that went badly wrong”.

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