Carl Beech: IOPC clears Metropolitan Police detectives over non-existent Westminster paedophile ring

Investigation branded ‘whitewash’ after watchdog finds no evidence of misconduct or criminality 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 07 October 2019 19:31
Met Police apologises for failures in Westminster paedophile claims case

None of the Metropolitan Police officers who oversaw the botched Operation Midland investigation into a non-existent “VIP paedophile ring” will face misconduct proceedings.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found no evidence of criminality or wrongdoing in the investigation of claims made by fantasist Carl Beech.

An independent review by a retired High Court judge said Scotland Yard had unlawfully obtained court warrants to search high-profile suspects who had been falsely accused.

But the IOPC said there was no evidence that officers had deliberately misled a district court judge, although there had been “gaps in processes and systems”.

Director general Michael Lockwood said: “Did the officers involved make mistakes? Yes. Could police processes have been improved? Almost certainly. But did they deliberately exclude information to secure the warrants? Our investigation found no evidence of that.

“The IOPC is very clear that there must be accountability and assurance to the public that the weaknesses we have identified are addressed so these mistakes can never be repeated.”

Harvey Proctor, a former Conservative MP who was among those searched, branded its findings a “whitewash”.

Mr Proctor said the IOPC report was a “pathetic attempt to excuse the police for their mistakes, incompetence and negligence by saying they acted in good faith” to maintain public confidence in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Daniel Janner QC, whose late father Lord Janner was also accused by Beech, said the IOPC had “overlooked clear evidence of serious failings and negligence”.

He said: “I am calling for a judge-led independent inquiry into Operation Midland and how patently false allegations are handled by the police.“

Beech, who was known as “Nick” until his identity could be legally revealed, originally presented his allegations to police following a documentary on Savile in 2012.

Despite warnings over his credibility and lack of corroboration, Scotland Yard launched Operation Midland to investigate Beech’s claims in 2014 and it ended 16 months later without a single arrest.

Officers obtained warrants to search the homes of D-Day veteran Lord Bramall, Lady Diana Brittan, the widow of former home secretary Leon Brittan, and Mr Proctor.

Beech is now serving an 18-year jail term for fabricating a series of claims of rape, torture and murder by innocent, well-known names from the military, security services and politics.

Carl Beech fed police extraordinary tale of VIP paedophile ring

A review by former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques identified 43 police failings, saying several could be “explained by an unwarranted and disproportionate belief in ‘Nick’s’ credibility”.

As a result of the Henriques review, the Metropolitan Police referred a number of allegations involving five officers to the then Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in November 2016.

An initial assessment concluded that all allegations but one did not constitute misconduct, leaving only the matter of search warrants under investigation.

The watchdog looked at the accuracy of the information provided to a court in February 2015, relating to properties linked to Lord Brittan, Mr Proctor and Lord Bramall.

While the IOPC found no evidence of misconduct by the officers investigated but made 16 recommendations to reduce the risk of future failings.

They cover processes for search warrants, media handling, press statements and communications with suspects.

Mr Proctor joined a campaign led by Sir Cliff Richard to make identifying alleged sex offenders before charge illegal earlier this year, but the IOPC said that suspects could be named before prosecution “in exceptional circumstances and for a clear policing purpose”.

Following Sir Richard’s call for police not to automatically “believe” alleged victims of sex crimes, the IOPC said that “in the highly charged atmosphere of the time, guidance was to believe the victim”.

“This is absolutely right at the recording stage but should not be at the expense of investigating allegations objectively and thoroughly,” the watchdog said.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Sir Richard expressed concern over the watchdog’s “lack of knowledge of criminal procedure” and called on the home secretary to take action.

He said the IOPC investigation was flawed, that “no effective interrogations” took place and that he found it “difficult to conceive that no misconduct or criminality was involved by at least one officer”.

Priti Patel has called for a third probe into Operation Midland 

“The delay in reaching their findings of almost three years is gross and inexcusable, and goes some way to inhibiting any further investigation,” he wrote.

“The investigative process itself was minimal, unprofessional and the decision-making was flawed.”

Sir Richard said the two most senior officers among the five investigated – Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse and Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald – had not been asked “a single question in interview ... written answers having been accepted without questioning”.

The IOPC said its investigation was independent, thorough and detailed, seeing investigators review more than 1,800 documents and 300 statements, and gather accounts from three officers put under misconduct notices and 14 witnesses.

A spokesperson added: “As Sir Richard writes: ‘No subject should be tried without proper investigation’. And, as he acknowledges in his own review, the IOPC is the right and correct authority to do this. Our investigation was both independent and impartial.

“To suggest there is no accountability is also wrong. Our report contains 16 learning recommendations that advocate systemic change so this never happens again.”

Priti Patel has called for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to launch a new investigation into the Metropolitan Police, and said she would “consider whether any further steps are needed to address any wider issues with policing practice”.

The current Metropolitan Police commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, said she was “deeply sorry for the mistakes that were made” after her predecessor apologised to those falsely accused.

She said officers would be working closely to support the HMIC probe and added: “I believe it is vital for public confidence that we have independent assurance of how we make often difficult decisions. The Met takes its responsibility to learn from any failings with the utmost gravity.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson had confidence in Dame Cressida.

“This is a deeply troubling case which has raised a number of serious issues,” he added. “It is vital the public have confidence that the police not only exercise their powers in a correct and proportionate way, but that they are properly held to account.”

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