Independent Police Complaints Commission largely drops investigation into Met Police handling of Operation Midland

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IPCC largely clears Met Police of disciplinary charges in their handling of Operation Midland Pic Credit: Wikipedia

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The IPCC has announced on Budget Day  that it is dropping disciplinary proceedings against most of the police officers who carried out the £3m investigation into  allegations of a historic Westminster paedophile involving prominent figures, Mps and former government ministers.

In particular they have cleared all the officers facing possible disciplinary charges who investigated complaints by ” Nick ” who has been accused in a separate  independent report of possibly perverting the course of justice by raising the allegations. This is subject to a separate investigation by Northumbria Police.

The IPCC says: “The IPCC has also discontinued its investigation into allegations the DAC, DSupt and DCI failed to properly investigate allegations made by a complainant ‘Nick’ which lead to an extended investigation causing prolonged and undue stress to those under suspicion.

“There is no evidence to indicate bad faith, malice or dishonesty and no indication any of the officers may have behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings.

” The information available indicates the investigation was extensive and carried out diligently with the majority of the decisions made appropriately recorded.”

They have dropped  complaints made by some of the people involved that the police exceeded their powers in seizing material from the homes they raided once they got search warrants.

The only investigation that will continue is into whether the police breached rules in applying for a search warrant on homes by not disclosing all the relevant information to a district judge

The Met Police had previously apologised to Lord Brittan’s family for shortcomings in the investigation-particularly the delay in informing him that they had dropped the investigation.

The full statement from the IPCC is as follows :

Following a comprehensive assessment of the available evidence relating to the conduct of five Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers linked to its Operation Midland, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has determined the scope of its investigation.

Operation Midland was an investigation into allegations of non-recent sexual offences said to have been committed by prominent public figures.

There is an indication that a detective chief inspector (DCI), a detective inspector (DI) and a detective sergeant (DS) may have behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings in that they may have failed to accurately present all relevant information to a district judge when applying for search warrants for three properties.

It has been determined that there is no such indication in respect of similar allegations against a deputy assistant commissioner (DAC) and a detective superintendent (DSupt). As a result this part of the investigation against them has been discontinued.

The IPCC has also discontinued its investigation into allegations the DAC, DSupt and DCI failed to properly investigateallegations made by a complainant ‘Nick’ which lead to an extended investigation causing prolonged and undue stress to those under suspicion. There is no evidence to indicate bad faith, malice or dishonesty and no indication any of the officers may have behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings. The information available indicates theinvestigation was extensive and carried out diligently with the majority of the decisions made appropriately recorded.

The MPS also referred the conduct of the DAC relating to allegations that an investigation into Lord Brittan was extended without good reason to do so thereby causing significant distress to Lord Brittan and his family. The evidence indicates a significant delay in making the decision to take no further action in the case but does not indicate the DAC may have behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings. As a result the IPCC has discontinued this part of theinvestigation.

The IPCC has also discontinued investigating allegations that there were irregularities in the seizure of exhibits during the subsequent searches. There is no evidence to indicate that any of the officers involved may have breached professional standards.

IPCC Commissioner Carl Gumsley said:

“The allegation that incomplete information may have been provided to a district judge when applying for search warrants is serious and the IPCC will thoroughly investigate this matter.

“However, a thorough assessment into the other matters that were referred to the IPCC has been carried out. After considering the information resulting from that assessment, I am of the opinion that there is no indication that these matters would amount to behaviour which would justify disciplinary proceedings. Consequently, I have taken the early decision todiscontinue the independent investigation into those matters.

“In coming to that conclusion I have been very conscious of the fact that the force has already acknowledged its shortcomings in the investigation into the late Lord Brittan and has apologised to Lady Brittan.

“It is also important to acknowledge the climate in which Operation Midland and the investigation into Lord Brittan were being undertaken. At this time there was much concern that cover-ups by the ‘establishment’ had taken place and there was widespread intense scrutiny on both investigations. The way both investigations were conducted should be considered in that context and in line with policies which existed at that time.”

Britain: A nation of paedophile voyeurs

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Police chief Simon Bailey, also in charge on Operation Hydrant co-ordinating cases of allegations of child sexual abuse Pic credit :BBC

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Simon Bailey,  the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, has caused a storm of controversy this week by suggesting  that people who view pornographic pictures of children on the net should not be prosecuted.

He wants to limit prosecutions to people who direct  child sexual abuse on line and those seeking to groom young people on line so they can later rape them. As he says:

“There are tens of thousands of men seeking to exploit children on line with a view to meeting them with a view to then raping them and performing the most awful sexual abuse on them. That’s where we believe the focus has got to be, because they’re the individuals that pose the really significant threat.”

He wants people who just view child sexual abuse to be given a caution and put on the sex offenders register because he says the police haven’t the resources to prosecute them.

He told the Times : “We’re able to asses whether a paedophile viewing indecent images of children is posing a threat of contact abuse and in circumstances where that individual does not pose a threat of contact abuse they should still be arrested, but we can then look at different disposal orders than going through the formal criminal justice system.”

He described this group as the ” tip of the iceberg”.

Now what is shocking about this is the scale of the problem. We are now having the police say although they are prosecuting 400 people a month they cannot cope with the numbers who are committing this  crime because it is so widespread. What does this say about the nation we now live in?

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Yvette Cooper Pic credit : Twitter

Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, has responded very robustly to this in a letter she released to Simon Bailey.

” This raises some very serious concerns about the scale of online child abuse, about the level of resourcing the police have available for it, about the systems the police has in place to deal with this new and increasing crime and also about the priority being given to it by police forces.”

“You also referred to there being a significant number of “very low-risk” paedophile offenders and you stated that the police have become very adept at assessing the risk to children in terms of which offenders will move on from viewing indecent images to committing contact abuse offences.

“This was certainly not the case a few years ago when the police indicated that making such assessments was very difficult. I would therefore be grateful if you could set out the evidence to support your statement, including the changes which have taken place in the last few years to bring about the improvements in risk assessment to which you refer.”

Finally she warns that will people who are not prosecuted still go on the Disclosure and Barring Service.

“Specifically, could you explain, under the current disclosure and barring rules, if a case was dealt with outside the criminal justice system, what information would then be available to organisations carrying out checks on people applying for voluntary or paid positions with children. ”

He has until March 7 to reply. I hope he will be summoned to explain himself before Parliament.

His assessment seems to suggest we are turning into a nation of paedophile voyeurs because the offence is so widespread. This would suggest we are becoming a very sick nation indeed.

Home Office rewrites definition of child sexual exploitation

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Home Office: trying to define child sexual exploitation Pic credit: gov.uk

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This week  the Home Office quietly announced a new definition of child sexual exploitation which will be used by all practitioners in the field – from the police and social workers to voluntary organisations and charities.

The decision was overshadowed by an announcement that the Government was spending an extra £40m tackling child sex abuse.

It included the launch of a new Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse, an extra £20 million for the National Crime Agency to tackle online child sexual exploitation, £2.2 million for organisations working to protect children at risk of trafficking and the launch of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs) in 3 early-adopter sites across the UK.

The latter service will initially be provided by Barnardo’s in Wales, Hampshire and Greater Manchester ahead of a full national roll out.

However the change in the wording of what constitutes child sexual exploitation had been a minefield for the ministry. The consultation paper admitted the existing definition of child sexual exploitation adopted since 2009 had not worked and had hampered investigations.

It described  current rules as ” unclear and out of date.”

“Voluntary organisations, devolved administrations and local agencies have responded over time by developing a number of alternative definitions. Partners have told us that this has led to local agencies using different definitions or using the terms ‘child sexual abuse’ and ‘child sexual exploitation’ interchangeably, resulting in ineffective multi-agency working, inconsistent risk assessments and poor data collection.”

But changing the definition has not been easy. The first draft proposed a year ago has been attacked as both being too broad – and threatening to include all sexual relations between 16 and 17 year olds – and too narrow in its definition of exploitation over the internet.

The original proposed draft said:

“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status. Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.”

The Home Office received criticism from organisations over under 18 year olds being ” persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity”.

” There were concerns that the definition was too broad and had the potential to be interpreted as covering age-appropriate sexual experimentation as well as cases of child sexual exploitation. In particular, a number of respondents felt that the inclusion of the word ‘persuaded [into sexual activity]’ could cover a range of ‘normal’ behaviours within the relationships of 16 and 17 year olds that would not fit the coercive nature of child sexual exploitation.”

Persuaded has now being dropped in favour of ‘coerce, manipulate or deceive’..

The Home Office was also thought to have too narrowly defined exploitation using the internet.

“Respondents thought the phrase ‘may occur online’ in the proposed definition did not adequately capture exploitation that might occur through the use of mobile phone applications and other forms of technology.
We have amended the definition to refer to ‘the use of technology’.

The new revised definition which comes into force next month now reads:

“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.”

The full results of the consultation can be read here.

It goes to show how difficult it can be to define what people might think is a simple issue – and also if you get it wrong it may explain while child sexual exploitation has not always been properly tackled by the police and social services if no-one agrees what it is.

Henriques: Help or Hindrance

 

Sir Richard Henriques.

Sir Richard Henriques. Pic Credit: Blackpool Gazette and loucollins.uk

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The heavily censored Henriques Report – only 84 out of nearly 500 pages released – comes firmly down on the side that all the prominent people investigated in Operation Midland are innocent of sexual abuse allegations made by “Nick” and the Met police should have closed down the investigation.

It has also triggered an investigation by Northumbria Police into whether ” Nick ”  should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice by making such allegations.

More significantly  it  questions the whole approach of the police  in handling future complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse across the country.

It amounts to a rebalancing of the way the police handle child sexual abuse and rape cases from protecting the accuser to offering more support to the suspect.

In doing so it exposes a rift between the  judge and Operation Hydrant, the national co-ordinating investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by prominent people headed by Simon Bailey, the chief constable of Norfolk.

Basically Henriques wants to  revert to the earlier situation where people who allege a crime was committed against them are treated as complainants and not victims of crimes and anyone who alleges child sexual abuse is not necessarily believed.

Simon Bailey clearly disagrees with this and makes it clear  that he believes  it will be detrimental to the trust people who have been abused  have in dealing with the police.

I disagree with both of them and think  they should be called survivors – as the use of the word victim  implies powerlessness- something I have not seen with the survivors I have met.

Henriques seems to want a return to historic times where from North Wales to London an accused paedophile could get away with it much more easily and die peacefully in his bed.

His assurances that people complaining have nothing to fear from telling the truth has  not worked in the past or we wouldn’t have this huge backlog of cases.

Savile and Sir Cyril Smith managed to avoid prosecutions altogether. But by taking abused people seriously years later North Wales paedophiles  Gordon Anglesea and John Allen have been convicted as a result of the Pallial investigation.

Operation Fernbridge also led to the  successful conviction of a well connected Roman Catholic priest who had escaped justice for some 40 years. Among celebrities who have been successfully convicted is Rolf Harris.

However the treatment of  the police of suspects like Paul Gambaccini, Cliff Richard and Lord Bramall that Henriques declares innocent  during the police  investigation seems to have been excessive and looks ( though he doesn’t go into the full detail in his heavily redacted report) that many procedural  mistakes were made.

He also challenges Bailey over the small number of false claims – and seems to suggest that there are likely to be more false claims against prominent people.

He says there is an imbalance between the anonymity granted to the accuser and the danger of the anonymity of the suspect being disclosed. However the police do not name the suspect until charged

His solution is to limit information released by the police while they are investigating the case by removing the age and the location of the person involved being interviewed,arrested or their home searched. I can see being reasonable over home raids and interviews but it is dangerous if it is extended to an arrest.

At present if a journalist becomes aware someone is arrested they will limit their coverage to avoid prejudicing a trial. If the police refuse to confirm this  they risk a  prejudiced trial because journalists won’t know and could  publish information that will damage their case.

There is also one serious error in his conclusion over Exaro’s coverage. He says the news organisation used a photo identity test on the survivor.  He implied we did it while there was an ongoing police investigation. Wrong. It took place before the police ever interviewed ” Nick”. It was done because if the person couldn’t recognise any of the people who he claimed had abused him, it would throw doubt on his claims. The  late Lord McAlpine case is an example where this did not happen with disastrous consequences.

I am also sceptical of him seeking ” confidentiality  agreements ” with survivors binding them forever to secrecy over their allegations which even he admits survivors would face no sanctions if they ignored it.

The survivors would in theory if the police decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute be left unable to tell anyone about his or her case. As a result they would  be left in a worse position than if they never complained to the police in the first place.

So help or hindrance? With firm evidence that there are at least 100,000 people now in this country viewing children being sexually abused for pleasure on the internet  there is a danger that a substantial shift in the balance from protecting the survivor to protecting the suspect could hinder the advances being made in bringing paedophiles to book.

You do not change the law  for the whole country based on a few very high profile cases even if a judge rules  that they were unjustly accused and there was no corroborative evidence.

Yes make some adjustments to officially confirming information to protect people who could be innocent. Don’t put back the present  direction of travel – otherwise you are giving comfort to that small minority who still persist in believing that child sexual abuse is just a ” conspiracy theory ” created by  a few people trying to make money out of innocent public figures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why prosecuting “Nick” for perverting the course of justice may not stand up in court

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Will Scotland Yard prosecute Nick? Pic Credit: Wikipedia

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The storm after the damning Henriques report  into  how the  Met Police police handled a series of high profile paedophile investigations -including Operation Midland and Yewtree  -has led to demands that one of the principal accusers called ” Nick ” be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.

I have never met ” Nick” as the story was handled by my colleague Mark Conrad but am aware of the circumstances of the Exaro investigation.

Henriques himself – while deciding that all the prominent figures accused in Operation Midland are innocent and were subject to false allegations – stops short of actually recommending this despite being pressed by the Janner family and seeing the strong demands from former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.

He says “Such a course  is well outside my terms of reference and may well be cited as a ground for staying any criminal action against ” Nick.”

But the Met Police decided to ask Northumbria Police to investigate whether ” Nick” had indeed done this.

Unless Henriques, who has only released 84 pages of a 500 page report,has secret information on Nick proving how he made all this up I have considerable scepticism that the police could make a charge of perverting the course of justice stick or even be accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

My reason is that there is a precedent. Just 16 months ago a person was tried at the Old Bailey in a court case that most of the national newspapers could not be bothered to cover.

I was a prosecution witness  alongside other journalists in that trial  in a case brought  by the Met Police against Ben Fellows   who had accused the former  Tory chancellor, Ken Clarke, of sexually abusing him.Clarke denied it vehemently and Henriques backs him up.

My involvement – which is contained in a statement on this website after the trial was over – was because I had given a statement to the Met Police while they were investigating his claims.

Fellows was a member of an undercover sting by the Cook Report which was looking at Ian Greer Associates, a long defunct lobbying company, and it was while he was working with us he alleged this had happened.

The Met Police in the end not only did not find any evidence but decided to prosecute him for perverting the course of justice.

He was acquitted of this charge by the jury.

We do not know why the jury decided this. However it was put  to them by his defence barrister that  it was the police that sought his statement not Fellows  who had actually initially refused. So he had not deliberately set out to pervert the course of justice.

The survivor Nick is in the same position. He did not go to the police demanding they investigate the Westminster paedophile ring. The police sought him as a potential witness when they contacted Exaro asking whether  we could provide his details to them.

Exaro made it clear to the police that it would be up to Nick whether he talked to them. Exaro also remained neutral on whether he wanted to talk to him – we did not pressurise him to go to the police. In the end he decided he would – but it was because the police requested it.

Given that – unless again there is something secret that Henriques knows but is not telling the public – it is going to require a high bar to prove he deliberately set out to force the Met Police to spend £2m on an investigation.

There is also another point to this. If the police ask a survivor to make a statement to them so they can pursue people where child sexual abuse crimes are  alleged to be committed are they now going to issue  a warning to the survivor. Are they going to tell survivors that if they cannot prove the case – or no other witnesses come forward – they will liable for prosecution for perverting the course of justice. If that is the new era  survivors are going to be very reluctant to come forward to the police in future.

 

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The Keith Vaz Westminster fan club: Why do they protect this man

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Keith Vaz MP: Now on the Justice committee

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An extraordinary event took place in Parliament last night only hours after Amber Rudd, the home secretary, made the really bad decision to turn down an inquiry or independent panel into the  ” battle of Orgreave ” in the 1984 Miners’ Strike.

Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for Leicestershire North West, moved a rare motion objecting to the appointment of :Labour MP, Keith Vaz, to the Commons Justice select committee.

Keith Vaz, the MP for Leicester, East stood down  as chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee after an exposure in the Sunday Mirror, that he was involved in sex with two male prostitutes while posing as a ” washing machine salesman” in a flat he owned in North London. Police are at present assessing whether Mr Vaz committed any offences as a result of the scandal.

Mr Bridgen’s main point was that he should not stand for the post – because he himself had ruled out standing a home affairs committee chairman.

During his speech, Mr Bridgen told the Speaker Mr Bercow: “You have often spoken that this place must reflect the society with which we make the laws and I agree with you.

“I respectfully point out to the House that in any other sphere of activity a candidate with so much hanging unresolved over him would be very unlikely to be considered for such an important office.

“I believe and if (Mr Vaz) was in his place today I’d ask him to stand down from his nomination, but he’s not.”So I’d ask this House to reject his appointment otherwise I think we cannot blame the Great British public for having a low opinion of its politician and its politics – we can only blame ourselves.”

Earlier he had been warned by Mr Bercow to ” desist” after he also referred -under Parliamentary privilege- to a current historical child sex investigation said to be being conducted by Leicestershire Police where four people had come forward alleging child sexual abuse crimes.

However the view of Vaz’s supportive  MPs was that it was perfectly proper for him to be a member of the justice committee -despite the recent scandal. And it was 159 Tory MPs and ministers that came forward in droves to support the Labour MP. Labour MPs were remarkable in their absence – though a number of MPs who have raised child sexual abuse cases did vote for him – notably Simon Danczuk and Tom Watson.

But it was the Tory Cabinet that stood out in support of him. They included Amber Rudd, the home secretary, who decided that there has been no ” miscarriage of justice in Orgreave” and was obviously happy to think that Mr Vaz had committed no offence.

Other key supporters included Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, Liam Fox, the International Secretary; James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary and  former home office minister: David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury;Andrea Leadsom, the environment secretary,and Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, who is advised by Craig Woodhouse, a former Sun journalist and David Lidington, leader of the House.

Only nine MPs supported Mr Bridgen’s motion. They were Nicholas Soames; Jake Berry, Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen; James Duddridge, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East; Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering; Scott Mann, Conservative MP for North Cornwall;Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon; and Mr Bridgen himself. Two other MPs acted as tellers, Karl McCartney, Conservative MP for Lincoln, and Nigel Mills, Conservative MP for Amber Valley.

On these occasions Parliament seems to resemble more a members’ club than a body representing the nation. And it does itself no good. I have a feeling that the loyalty of MPs to Mr Vaz’s rehabilitation plan will be misplaced and a large swathe of the Cabinet might regret their hasty decision to follow their whips advice. Parliament should not be used to play games or it will fall even more into disrespect.

 

 

 

 

Operation Pallial: Bringing too long awaited justice for child sexual abuse survivors after nearly 30 years

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Gordon Anglesea: Now a convicted paedophile Pic Credit: BBC and John Price

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The conviction of former North Wales police inspector Gordon Anglesea for indecent assault against two teenage boys has been a long time coming. Too long.

His conviction last week along with John Allen, the former owner of Bryn Alyn  and Bryn  Estyn children’s homes in North Wales, who was convicted of a further 33 offences against children, are the high spots of the National Crime Agency’s Operation Pallial investigation.

This investigation along with the Macur inquiry  into child sexual abuse in North  Wales would never have been set up unless Theresa May when she was home secretary, had seen the need for it.

And some of the victims would never had any justice or ever believed.

I  have reservations about the openness of the Macur inquiry but the police investigation has been a success contrary to views of some naysayers. My Macur reservations are heightened by revelations on Paddy French’s Rebecca website which suggests that Lady Macur was less than open about Angelsea. See the link here.

Those like Harvey Proctor  who condemn Theresa May for establishing the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse might well pause. For this police investigation has yielded results. It proved those who said that there was no need for  further investigations into the North Wales and it is not worth investigating claims of historic sexual abuse were wrong.

Both convicted men were arrogant, evil and thought because of their powerful positions in the North Wales hierarchy they were untouchable and could abuse vulnerable children at will.

Both mounted similar defences. John Allen said he wasn’t gay, was not sexually attracted to children and had suffered a “miscarriage of justice ” when he was convicted in 1996 of sexually assaulting six boys.in the first place. His accusers were making it up to get compensation money, his defence lawyers said. He is now rightly in jail for life.

Gordon Anglesea took a similar line saying it was a conspiracy by the survivors to accuse him of indecent assault so they could obtain  money.

This is the man who won  £375,000 damages  in 1994 against The Observer, the Independent on Sunday, Private Eye and HTV, the holder of the ITV franchise in Wales over allegations that he had abused children during visits he made to the Bryn Estyn children’s home just outside Wrexham. He also pursued the satirical magazine Scallywag  through its distributors.

It is worth looking at the Inforrm blog today which carries a report on how the libel case was successful.

Operation Pallial – which ceased  handling new claims last month –  has now succeeded in convicting  nine men.A total of 340 people have made contact with the investigation and 84 complaints were still being actively investigated at the end of July.

It would be a good idea if  the National Crime Agency shared with other police forces how they managed to secure convictions for historic child sexual abuse – as they seem to have made a good fist of it. And the police need advice on how to proceed with such cases – particularly in North Wales where former police officers were accused.

For the survivors it has been particularly grim – waiting all that time for justice. As Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, pointed out : ” I can’t help thinking of the witnesses who came forward to assist our case at the time, one of whom later committed suicide telling his wife that he never got over ‘not being believed”.

That about sums up the injustice survivors have had for 30 years.