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.”

A bloody nose for Keith Vaz: Met Police cleared in “Jane” rape case

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What I suspected was a flawed finding by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee into the Met Police’s investigation of the allegations by ” Jane” that she had been raped as a teenager by Leon Brittan has now been proved correct.

An independent review by Dorset Police of Met Police’s investigation into the case – slipped out in an appendix to a report from the committee – has upheld that the investigation was “necessary, proportionate and fully justified despite the significant passage of time.”
This contradicts the critical findings of MPs who preferred to rely on the evidence given by  Det Chief Inspector Paul Settle  rather than senior Met officers. Their description of Paul Settle’s conduct as ” exemplary ” now looks a trifle hollow.

His decision not to interview the late Lord Brittan despite this being standard procedure in the case of rape allegations is unsurprisingly not described as ” exemplary conduct” by Dorset Police.

Instead They say: “The initial SIO was, by his own admission, inexperienced in rape investigation and whilst he appropriately sought specialist assistance and referred the case for Early Investigative Advice, he drew an early erroneous conclusion that the offence of rape was not made out, due to his perceived issues with consent.

” The reviewer concludes that there were ample reasonable grounds to conduct an investigative interview of LB and that the enquiry could not be properly progressed without doing so. Such action was necessary, proportionate and justified and far from unlawful  (their emphasis) as was contended by the SIO when he subsequently gave evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee.”

“The Early Investigative Advice file lacked essential detail and was incomplete. It is surprising that a relatively junior member of staff made the decision to close this case without auditable reference to senior command.”

Their views  about ” Jane” are also significant.

They say:”The complainant provides a fairly compelling account of events. She is a competent witness,who displays no malice in her motivation.

Her accounts of her situation in 1967 are corroborated and it is plausible that she was moving in similar social circles to LB. The early disclosures in later years provide some consistency in her account and she appears to have little to gain from making a false allegation.There is some ambiguity surrounding the issue of consent, which would prove difficult before a properly directed jury.”

Her case  was superbly reported by Mark Conrad for Exaro. I met her and her husband and would agree with Dorset police’s assessment.

There were mistakes notably taking a broken tape recorder to interview Leon Brittan when it was eventually done – but it does not deserve the highly biased report in the Mail on Sunday on the findings.

Keith Vaz has opportunity to make amends. Perhaps he could either apologise or clarify his position on this investigation when the Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard  Hogan Howe appears before him on February 23.

 

 

 

The “Jane” date rape case: A flawed report from MPs on the Home Affairs Committee

Keith Vaz MP, chair                  Leon Brittan

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The House of Commons home affairs select committee has produced a number of outstanding reports on the criminal justice system. But its latest report on the Met Police’s handling of an investigation in allegations that Leon Brittan was involved in an historic ” date rape” case is not one of them.

The MPs have admonished the Met Police, demanded that a prominent MP, Tom Watson apologise to Leon Brittan’s family for helping the woman who made the allegation; produced a biased conclusion of how the Met handled the case and given fresh impetus to the idea that celebrities should be given special treatment. The report can be read here. 

Since then my extremely assiduous colleague Mark Conrad has found new information from witnesses interviewed by the Met Police which  are  at odds with the account given by the  original investigating officer and what was broadcast on the BBC  Panorama investigation into child sex abuse. You can read his article on the Exaro website. Mark Watts, Exaro’s editor in chief, has also done an analysis of the police evidence to the committee here.

My main quarrel with the MPs is the conclusions of the report. Not only do they seem biased towards  the investigating officer Paul Settle whose work they describe as ” exemplary” but they appear to ignore compelling evidence given his superiors, notably Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse.

As Rodhouse put it “I think this investigation was following the evidence where it could and conducting a thorough investigation of all the circumstances. That was not done within DCI Settle’s investigation. I understand his rationale but there were other inquiries that needed to be conducted before we could say we had done the job thoroughly.”

Or “. It is highly unusual to undertake an investigation of this nature without interviewing the person who is accused.”

Not only is this ignored in the conclusions but the report indemnifies Mr Settle before, as the report itself says, there has been a  thorough review by another police force to see if the Met Police got it right. One would have thought the MPs would await its findings rather than act like a kangaroo court in  this instance.

And what are MPs doling praising a senior police officer for NOT following standard procedure in  rape cases which is to interview the accused? Or do they think important people deserve special privileges?

They also attack Tom Watson for intervening in the case. As far as I can see the evidence shows that his points had already been acted on independently by senior Met Police officers, so, in effect, it had no influence. In fact the senior police officers agreed with him. His language about the Brittan at a very sensitive time might be another matter.

Finally the report makes a big point about the police not informing Leon Brittan’s family that the case was not proven. They emphasise that this was appalling because he was a high profile figure.

I understand the problem here is that the police aren’t required to inform any accused person that the case is dropped – whether it is Lord Brittan or Joe Bloggs. That is the point the MPs should take up – they are not elected just to represent celebrities but all the people. And they should  not want special treatment just because someone is famous.

All in all , this strikes me as a report rushed out to meet a media feeding frenzy rather than  considered findings of a group of MPs on how the police should handle a very difficult and complex issue.

 

 

 

How Leon Brittan lost his job as home secretary – Charles Moore’s fascinating account 30 years on

Leon Brittan when he was EU commisisoner in late 1980s

Leon Brittan when he was EU commissioner in late 1980s

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While the  Met police continue to investigate  now into whether top figures were involved in a Westminster paedophile ring in the 1980s a fascinating account of the beginning of the fall of Leon Brittan in British politics has appeared in the second volume of Charles Moore’s authorised biography of Lady Thatcher. Amid all the rows over the miner’s strike, Westland and Europe, are three pages describing the events that led effectively to the demotion of Leon Brittan and how rumours of child sex abuse reached the ears of Lord Armstrong, the Cabinet Secretary, and Lady Thatcher herself.

They explain probably why even today there is controversy over Leon Brittan – such as the recent row over Tom Watson’s intervention over whether the Met Police should have quizzed him over an alleged rape. It also explains why they are still today disputes between those like David Aaronovitch and Dominic Lawson who say he has been unfairly maligned for years and those who are convinced that he was involved in hidden sexual activities.

Charles Moore- who is meticulous in researching every fact  from Thatcher’s private papers – reveals that Leon Brittan – was heading for the chop as home secretary  in the September 1985 reshuffle. He is described as ” the weakest link.”

His book – Everything She Wants – shows that without any rumours Brittan had no Parliamentary following,was seen as a bad TV performer, and even suffered from anti-Semitism from some Tory backbenchers.

He writes: ” He also suffered from rumours that, though married,he was homosexual and even that he had been a child abuser (too often in those days the two were conflated in the minds of man). No one produced actual evidence for either accusation.”

Opinion in the press and government was divided. Michael Jopling, a former chief whip,said: ” I never heard a whisper about Leon at the time”. Sir Bernard Ingham, her press secretary said: ” He always seemed as quaint as a coot to me”- but he had no evidence.

However The Mail on Sunday – contrary to  the view of the Mail today – took a different line and all this is reported to Thatcher by Lord Armstrong.

Jonathan Holborrow, an associate editor of the paper, had met Richard Ryder now Lord Ryder, then a junior figure in the Treasury and according to Ryder told him the paper was ” on a very good thing” about Leon Brittan’s private life.

According to Charles Moore though the memos did not spell it out ” they seem to have involved accusations of child sex abuse, including an alleged relationship with a boy in his early teens said to live in Brittan’s constituency”.

He goes on; ” Its sources was a reliable one, Holborrow said, but ” their investigations had run into the sand, and they really had no usable evidence.”

An attempt was made to say Michael Bettany, an MI5 officer caught trying to spy for the Russian in 1984, had got wind of this and had tried to use for blackmail. But this was knocked down by MI5 who said Bettaney had said no such thing.

The book  reveals that Thatcher did not believe the allegations but did believe that they were troublesome for a home secretary responsible for MI5.

But whatever the truth the knives were out for Brittan. John Wakeham, the chief whip, thought Brittan had been ” promoted a bit high and too quick” and ” wasn’t up to the job.”. And Brittan was moved to the Department of Trade and Industry – a post that he regarded as a demotion in the ” pecking order”. He was later to leave altogether to become a trade and industry commissioner at the European Commission.

All this is worth noting because of a sense of deja vu – even after his death. He again faces similar accusations – though this time it is part of a  full scale police investigation into other figures – and again there is a ”  reliable ” source -a survivor of abuse who came forward.

The outcome is still not known – but the divisions about whether Brittan was involved in such unsavoury activities is as strong as it was 30 years ago.

Why let your good smear campaign be spoiled with the facts, David Aaronovitch

David Aaronovitch: Abuse Conspiracies at Westminster? Image Credit: BBC

David Aaronovitch: Abuse Conspiracies at Westminster? Image Credit: BBC

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As the author of Voodoo Histories David Aaronovitch is an expert on modern conspiracy theories. So it is not perhaps surprising that he would treat a story about a  historic Westminster paedophile ring involving VIPs as the latest manifestation of mad conspiracy theorists fuelled by deluded people.

This month he published a detailed article in The Times (behind pay wall) saying the whole VIP paedophile ring scandal at Elm Guest House was in effect one of these fantasies. He said the story had been ” largely created and reiterated by a  former Labour councillor and convicted fraudster,Chris Fay”.

He accused me of spreading this  incredible story ” that I always wanted the public to know”. He concluded  by asking journalists like me ” Why am I doing this? And am I sure I’ve got this right.”

This is my answer to why David Aaronvitch has got this wrong. First it is not true that Chris Fay, who worked for an organisation helping children in care, is my sole source. He should know me better that that. I never rely on sole sources. Nor do I rely or refer to this list of VIPs – which appears to be notes from the  wife of the Elm Guest House’s long dead owner, Carol Kasir. I know it is not accurate. I have  seen part of the log of who stayed at this guest house which , of course, tells you nothing because people booked in under pseudonyms.

Second even Chris Fay does not claim the list is accurate.. Indeed in an article on The Needleblog he says almost the opposite saying he compiled a list of victims who claimed they had been abused at the Elm Guest House not abusers.He rightly casts doubt on that list – saying they may have been guests not abusers of children. Given that in 1982 it was not as acceptable as it is now for people to be gay, this is hardly surprising since people also used Elm Guest House as a rare haven for consenting adults to meet each other as well as paedophile activity.

So what is the evidence? There are two separate sources. First my original source – not Chris Fay – who a colleague met – was a former local government officer on Richmond Council. It was he who led me to investigate why Elm Guest House was raided in the first place in 1982.

It wasn’t complaints from survivors but the residents who lived on this smart Barnes street. They were fed up with people coming at all hours, seeing children going into the guest house, and having posh chauffeur driven cars drawing up there. Most ordinary people do not have large posh cars or chauffeurs at their beck and call. It was one of the then residents who identified Leon Brittan not a survivor. Separately in answer to a direct question from a Dispatches investigation, the police confirmed that Sir Cyril Smith visited Elm Guest House and contrary to reports,have not withdrawn it.

The second stream of sources came from either people who stayed at Grafton Close children’s home or were other former staff on Richmond Council who had responsibility for the home. Here the main allegation was that children were taken there and abused at Elm Guest House and elsewhere. Not everybody was, One was rescued  from that fate by a vigilant social worker.

It is a FACT that there was abuse at Elm Guest House. Why? Because one child was taken from Elm Guest House by Richmond Council  to Grafton Close was given a medical examination which revealed horrific abuse. This is confirmed by two former senior officials from the council and the Met Police may have the medical file. The person has long since left the country, has a new life abroad, and has decided in view of the furore over this, not to testify.

Also if John Stingemore, the former deputy manager of Grafton Close, had lived to face trial at Southwark Crown Court, he would have faced a conspiracy to commit buggery charge, which was linked to taking children to Elm Guest House. His friend, Father Tony McSweeney, was convicted  and sent to jail for three years. Evidence was given that showed children were taken by Stingemore and McSweeney from the home to Bexhill and abused,without their parents knowledge.

And Stingemore, it would have emerged, was a convicted paedophile , having sexually assaulted Peter Bornshin, another resident of Grafton Close  said to have been taken to Elm Guest House.  Richmond Council  paid him compensation. He later committed suicide.

Finally it will be a little premature to assume that the Elm Guest House investigation is over.It is not. There are links to the Operation Midland investigation and there are a number of unfinished leads. But that would be tantamount to speculating on a current police investigation.

Am I right to pursue this? Yes. I don’t have the certainty that commentators like David Aaronovitch to make a polemical point. But I am still certain enough that something went very wrong in the London borough of Richmond at that time and it could still be linked to other inquiries in Westminster.

Leon Brittan: Why Lawson is wrong and there is a real case to answer

Leon Brittan

Leon Brittan

There has been anger  and disbelief among many of the late Leon Brittan’s friends that his name has become public in connection with the current Met police investigation into  historical child sex abuse dating back to the 1980s. In one sense it is understandable. Who would want to believe that the person they invite to dinner, meet in the House of Lords, have known for years, could be remotely considered a serial paedophile. So the reaction from Lord Deben ( better known as John Selwyn Gummer), Edward Garnier MP and David Cameron after his recent death is not unusual.

But the attack in the Sunday Times by Dominic Lawson, a former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, is a different matter. By taking the argument that those who say that he could be a paedophile – such as Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk  are part of a  frenzied Labour left-wing plot to get back at Tories close to Margaret Thatcher,he is way off the mark.

As an investigative  reporter  not only does this line of argument not stand up – but the facts of the case are against him.

For a start  he questioned whether “Nick’s ” account  about  Leon Brittan and others sexually abusing him was accurate. Yet ” Nick” has already been described by the  Met Police as ” a credible witness”. They do not do such a thing lightly. and they certainly don’t do it just because Tom Watson or Exaro News say so. They make up their own mind.

Second if he started to examine the known facts about  the allegations against Leon Brittan he might have pause for thought. ” Nick” is not the only person to make these allegations. Separate allegations have been made by more than a handful of other survivors and a number are still being followed up by the police because they involve other people.

As a journo if you want to establish the probability of a fact – one of the most compelling arguments is when two or more people who did not know each other give a similar story. So unless Dominic Lawson is going to argue that there is a wicked conspiracy among survivors across England to name and frame Leon Brittan for some unknown reason this does not stand up.

People also forget that the case against Leon Brittan is not only made by survivors – who as kids as young as nine or eleven would not easily recognise Cabinet ministers – but by members of the public.

The original reason why Elm Guest House was raided in 1982 was not initially because children complained about sexual abuse but because the residents in Barnes got thoroughly fed up with an unruly B & B in a  quiet street, with cars turning up at all times of night. It was a resident who allegedly said she saw Leon Brittan going there. Certainly the police from separate sources have established that Sir Cyril Smith went there.

And other people, not just survivors, are now coming forward saying at least there was one flat in Dolphin Square where young people were invited to gay sex parties.

Of course they may now be a clamour for the Met to stop investigating him – but the investigation is on going because they are people who were allegedly there with Leon Brittan who are still alive.

Finally if  some one is likely to be charged – the most likely person which both Leicestershire and Met Police say they are currently investigating – it is Lord Janner. Now unless Dominic Lawson knows something I don’t ,I can’t recall Lord Janner ever being in Thatcher’s Cabinet. He is a  former Labour MP and if his argument is that the sex abuse scandal is based on Leftie political revenge on the Tories – I have not seen Tom Watson or Simon Danczuk rushing to protect him for the sake of Ed Miliband.

Frankly the thesis of Dominic Lawson is a bit of old tosh – pressure for an overarching child sex abuse inquiry had all party support – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green. It was precisely the idea of Conservative Mp, Zac Goldsmith, to do it this way – to prevent it becoming a party political matter.

In his frankly partisan piece Lawson – I suspect in grief for a friend he sees unjustly accused- has broken that. And shame on him for suggesting it.

I now see following the Times revelations today(July 23) that indeed the Cabinet Office did have documents which named Leon Brittan in connection with child sex abuse allegations but they were suppressed. I hope Dominic Lawson will reflect on the findings.

Survivors speak: Fiona Woolf must declare how well she knows Leon Brittan

The remarkably busy Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, needs to come clean about her links to former home secretary Leon Brittan, according to a number of child abuse survivors who have contacted Exaro.

They want the newly appointed chairman of the inquiry – who is yet to chair her first meeting –  to explain exactly how much contact she had with the Brittans.

A report by my colleagues Mark Conrad and Tim  Wood  on Exaro highlights the concern by survivors -particularly among those involved in an alleged Westminster paedophile ring.

Two witnesses who gave accounts to Exaro of how MPs and other VIPs sexually abused them and other children at a series of parties at Dolphin Square, a residential block close to Parliament, expressed deep unease about Woolf’s appointment.

One said: “I would like to see a full and transparent statement from Fiona Woolf as to her links, and why survivors should have confidence in her ability to chair this inquiry.”

The concern about Brittan centres round the disappearance of a dossier submitted to him by former Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Dickens, allegedly naming VIP paedophiles.

Once again this seems to emphasise the need for Fiona Woolf to clear matters up  so that survivors have confidence in the inquiry.