Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick referred to police watchdog over investigation into fake Westminster paedophile ring

Complaint made by Harvey Proctor, who won £500,000 compensation from Scotland Yard

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Saturday 21 December 2019 17:06
Dame Cressida previously said she was ‘deeply sorry for the mistakes that were made’
Dame Cressida previously said she was ‘deeply sorry for the mistakes that were made’

Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has been referred to the police watchdog over her role in an investigation into a fake Westminster paedophile ring.

Several officers have been investigated over the handling of allegations made by fantasist Carl Beech, who is serving an 18-year prison sentence for perverting the course of justice.

Former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, who was among the high-profile figures falsely accused, made a formal complaint over Dame Cressida’s conduct.

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac), which oversees Scotland Yard, has asked the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to look into the matter.

Mr Proctor, 72, accused Dame Cressida of failing to correct false claims of abuse that were made by Beech in 2014 and echoed by another senior officer as “credible and true”.

He previously won £500,000 in compensation from the force and £400,000 in legal costs.

Beech fabricated claims of historical rape, torture and murder by prominent figures in the military, security services and politics, triggering the £4.5m Operation Midland probe.

It saw the homes of Mr Proctor, D-Day veteran Lord Bramall, and Lady Diana Brittan (the widow of former home secretary Leon Brittan) raided before the investigation ended without a single arrest.

Beech was later jailed for perverting the course of justice, fraud and child sex offences.

The IOPC said it had received a voluntary referral from Mopac “regarding a complaint about public comments made by the Metropolitan Police commissioner about Operation Midland”.

“The referral also alleges the commissioner failed to take action to correct a statement made to the media by an Operation Midland detective,” a spokesperson added.

“We are assessing the information provided to determine whether an investigation is necessary and, if so, what level of involvement is required by the IOPC.

“We will provide a further statement once our decision is made.”

Scotland Yard said Dame Cressida, who was honoured by Theresa May in September, would cooperate with the inquiry.

Met Police apologises for failures in Westminster paedophile claims case

She was not considered by a previous IOPC investigation into Operation Midland that concluded none of the officers involved should face misconduct proceedings.

The watchdog found no evidence of criminality or wrongdoing by investigators, and said they had not misled a judge to gain search warrants.

The IOPC made 16 recommendations to reduce the risk of future failings, including changes to processes for search warrants, media handling, press statements and communications with suspects.

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

Priti Patel has called for HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) 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”.

“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 the HMIC said: “We will publish the terms of reference for the related inspection in due course.”

Dame Cressida previously 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.”

In October, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said Boris Johnson had confidence in Dame Cressida.