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.”

Police arrest man on suspicion of stalking a child sexual abuse survivor

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Met Police arrest man on suspicion of stalking Pic Credit: Wikipedia

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The Met Police this morning arrested a 51 year old man in Kendal after obtaining a warrant to search his property  under the Harassment Act.

A statement from the Met Police said : “Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service carried out a warrant under the harassment act at an address in Kendal, Cumbria, on the morning of Wednesday, 4 January.
Police arrested a 51-year-old man on suspicion of stalking.
He was taken to a police station in Cumbria for questioning.
He has been bailed to return on a date in mid-May.”

I understand the man arrested was Simon Just and the person who was being allegedly stalked was Esther Baker, who has publicly disclosed that she is an abuse survivor.

The arrest comes while there is a separate police investigation by Staffordshire Police into  historic child sex abuse allegations involving the abuse of Esther Baker and other people. Staffordshire Police have referred the investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service.

In a separate move  earlier another  man – understood to be Darren Laverty – has also been arrested  and charged with stalking Esther Baker and another woman, a journalist.

 

 

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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Exaro: Survivors and witnesses details safeguarded

There have been rumours on the internet that details of survivors and witnesses have been leaked from Exaro following its sudden closure last week.

This is to tell you that both I and Mark Conrad have received full assurances that all information not only affecting  our child sexual abuse allegations but  a wide area of other investigations have been safeguarded as required to comply with privacy and data protection laws. Anyone suggesting anything to the contrary is wrong.

 

 

Westminster Paedophile Inquiry Row: A shrewd move by Scotland Yard

Sir Richard Henriques.

Sir Richard Henriques. Pic Credit: Blackpool Gazette

The decision by Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, the Met Police Commissioner, to ask Sir Richard Henriques, a distinguished  retired judge, to review police procedures covering Operation Midland is very shrewd.

At a stroke it will knock down the hysterical coverage in some newspapers of the investigation which has involved prominent VIPs being interviewed by the Met following allegations of sexual abuse and murder from a survivor known as Nick.

The papers- some of whom seem to act as judge and jury  before the investigation has been completed – in wanting to clear prominent people and cast doubt on the veracity of the victim in alleging such crimes. They have  also complained about the Met Police spending time and money looking at historic child sex abuse cases.

It will also prevent Keith Vaz, the  Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, grandstanding when  Sir Bernard comes before him at the end of this month.

He will know as a lawyer that he can hardly grill Sir Bernard about the procedures of the investigation while there is an inquiry by a retired judge looking into the same issues. Nor can he second guess Sir Richard’s findings.

Indeed instead he may have to explain why his committee was so quick to condemn the Met for its handling of  its investigation into the historic alleged rape  against the late Leon Brittan  brought by  ” Jane” now an independent review by Dorset Police has largely cleared the Met of any errors.

It should also provide a valuable breathing case for the Met to take a balanced decision on whether it can proceed further with Operation Midland rather than all this orchestrated hue and cry that it must be stopped now.

Obviously it has been painful for Leon Brittan’s family and the 92 year old war hero  Lord Bramall to be at the centre of such allegations but that doesn’t mean that the police should not investigate them.

Also it is not only cases brought by Nick that will come under scrutiny but also Darren where the Met Police appear to have taken the opposite decision and decided that Darren’s claims were not worth pursuing.

One of the most interesting findings by the judge will be how he sees the police handled two entirely different victims and  their allegations and what standards were applied.

In a statement announcing the review on Wednesday, Hogan-Howe said the aim was “whether we can provide a better balance between our duty to investigate and the interests of suspects, complainants and victims.”

The Met commissioner added: “We are not afraid to learn how we can do these things better, and that’s why I’ve announced today’s review in to how we have conducted investigations in to non-recent sexual allegations involving public figures.”

Henriques is a former high court judge who conducted an inquiry into how Lord Janner escaped justice over abuse claims.

He is  also the prosecutor who  brought the killers of James Bulger to justice and nailed Harold Shipman,the GP who murdered his patients..

Before retiring he was a judge presiding over  terrorist trials including the trial of eight terrorists who would have slaughtered almost 3,000 people had their plan to bring down transatlantic airliners been successful.

So he seems a good choice to cut through all the hyperbole surrounding the VIP paedophile ring  allegations and make sound recommendations on how the Met should handle such allegations in the future. My main reservation is how much of the report will be made public. Transparency is very important in this case.

 

 

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.