I won't be bullied into saying sorry to Lord Bramall, says Met commissioner
Britain's most senior police officer has declared that he will not be "bullied" into apologising to Lord Bramall after the D-Day veteran was embroiled in Scotland Yard's inquiry into VIP paedophile allegations.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe refused to say sorry to the 92-year-old, whose home was raided while he had breakfast with his terminally ill wife.
A furore erupted last month when Lord Bramall was told he would face no further action over historic abuse claims almost nine months after he was interviewed under caution as part of the Met's controversial Operation Midland.
After he was cleared, Sir Bernard and his force came under intense pressure to apologise to the former head of the Army.
Appearing at the Commons Home Affairs committee on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner expressed "regret" over the episode but repeatedly refused to apologise.
During one terse exchange, Tory MP Tim Loughton referred to a "media circus" surrounding the case.
Sir Bernard said: "Ah the media circus. If what you mean is that you want me to be bullied into apologising then that won't happen."
Mr Loughton replied: "So you think you're being bullied, do you?"
Sir Bernard said: " I'm asking you whether that's what you think."
Scotland Yard has faced fierce criticism over its investigation into allegations against Lord Bramall, but so far has only "expressed regret" about the case.
Sir Bernard held the same line today, telling the committee: "First of all we have expressed regret. Regret of course, that is not an apology.
"There are difficulties...with apologies to suspects."
When initially challenged by Mr Loughton over whether he would apologise, he said: "I'm not at the moment. I've said that at least four times today, and I've said it previously."
The MP claimed that publicity around whether the Met chief would apologise to Lord Bramall undermined the "competence and credibility" of the force, and public confidence in the police.
In a heated discussion with the Worthing East and Shoreham MP, Sir Bernard went on: "It would be the easiest thing wouldn't it, just to say sorry if I thought it would ease the burden that you've described. But if I can't find it is the right thing to do at the moment, then I don't think I can. "
He later added: "I've explained numerous times why in this case it was not possible to apologise for an investigation. We don't treat anybody differently by their background, we don't only apologise to people because they're famous. We apologise where there's good cause."
Sir Bernard insisted the refusal to apologise was not down to "arrogance".
He said: "It's not the fact that we are arrogant and we don't want to apologise for failure. Certainly in the case of suspects there are difficult things we have to consider."
The commissioner also defended the deployment of 22 officers to search Lord Bramall's home.
He said: "The number of searchers is not to do with trying to alert anybody to the event but to do with doing something thoroughly and efficiently."
Committee chairman Keith Vaz asked if police were trying to "in some way compensate" for a "failure to investigate more thoroughly" Jimmy Savile.
Sir Bernard replied: "I hope not. I am sure that's one of the things Sir Richard (Henriques, the former High Court judge carrying out a review into investigations into historical sexual allegations against public figures) will consider."
Last week Sir Bernard apologised to the widow of former Home Secretary Lord Brittan for not informing her earlier that he would not have faced prosecution over an allegation that he raped a 19-year-old woman in 1967.
The rape investigation was later reviewed by Dorset Police.
The late politician was also named in connection with Operation Midland, a separate investigation into historical claims of a VIP paedophile ring.
Labour MP David Winnick asked Sir Bernard: "Do we take it that all allegations made against him have been cleared, or are there aspects which are being investigated?"
The Scotland Yard boss replied: "The only thing I can say is that Lord Brittan is now dead and no action can be taken against him.
"We've talked very clearly about this particular allegation that was talked about and then reviewed by Dorset. That's all I can say."
There have been suggestions that Operation Midland, which had cost £1.8 million as of November, is on the brink of collapse amid questions about the reliability of the central witness in the investigation, a man known as "Nick".
Earlier this month it was confirmed Sir Bernard will remain in his post until at least September next year after the Home Secretary awarded him a one-year contract extension.
He told MPs he was "happy" with the extension and said he would consider remaining in the post longer if asked by the next Mayor of London, who will be elected in May.