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

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

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.