Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, the head of the paedophile unit, has been taken off Operation Fernbridge, the historic sex abuse investigation centred on Elm Guest House in Barnes and the London borough of Richmond’s children’s services.
A report by my colleagues on Exaro news reveals that this appears to be part of a shake up of police operations in the badly staffed paedophile unit which has now seen the number of officers investigating cases rise from seven to twenty two.
Reports suggest he is on sick leave as the operation has come under pressure after two MPs complained about the way it had handled one case and also how much information it gave to the Crown prosecution Service over another case. These two disclosures on Exaro led in the latter case to the reinstatement of charges against one of the people facing a trial next February on alleged sexual abuse in Richmond.
A detective sergeant in the paedophile unit, which is based in the Empress State Building in Earl’s Court, west London, has taken over the Met’s investigations into historical allegations against MPs and other VIPs. These include ‘Operation Fernbridge’, which was sparked by Exaro and began nearly two years ago – amid strict secrecy – with an investigation into activities at Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London.
The investigations also cover ‘Operation Cayacos’, which is looking into claims of a paedophile ring linked to politicians after Tom Watson, Labour MP, raised the issue in Parliament.
All these changes suggest the Met is facing a tough time handling these cases at the moment.
Before Settle was appointed to the paedophile unit, he had been a staff officer to John Yates, who oversaw one of the operations revisiting the murder of private investigator, Daniel Morgan and headed the “cash for honours” investigation into the Labour administration under Tony Blair.
Settle, then a detective sergeant, was also an investigating officer on Operation Abelard II, which probed the axe murder of Daniel Morgan. The handling of the murder case by the police and press is now being investigated by an independent panel set up by the Home Office.
The Met are declining to comment about the move of Settle from the paedophile unit investigation.