Met boss makes series of apologies after damning verdict on VIP 'abuse' probe
Britain's most senior police officer has made a series of extraordinary apologies over the "numerous errors" in a disastrous investigation into baseless claims of a VIP paedophile ring.
Retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques criticised Scotland Yard for a catalogue of failings in its £2.5 million Operation Midland, which closed without a single arrest earlier this year.
The controversial 16-month probe saw raids on the homes of D-Day veteran Lord Bramall; late former home secretary Lord Brittan and ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor after lurid claims were made by one alleged victim, known as "Nick".
Sir Richard, who was called in to review the force's handling of sex crime claims against high profile suspects, said the trio's reputations "were shattered by the word of a single, uncorroborated complainant". Nick is now facing investigation for allegedly attempting to pervert the course of justice.
As key parts of the report were published, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he "fully recognised" the peers and Mr Proctor, who was accused of three murders, were all innocent. He apologised to Lord Bramall, Mr Proctor and Lord Brittan's widow for raiding their homes and "the impact of Operation Midland on their lives".
Mr Proctor and figures close to Lord Bramall and Lady Brittan reacted with fury at the timing of the publication of the report - on the day of the US election - but Sir Bernard, who is set to retire in February before the end of his current contract, denied trying to bury bad news.
A friend of Lady Brittan said: "We've no intention of being handled or managed by the Met's PR machine."
Sir Richard's damning review found 43 failings in the inquiry, including believing Nick for too long; one officer announcing publicly that his claims were "credible and true"; and applying for search warrants with flawed information.
The former judge said: "The principal cause of the many failures in this investigation was poor judgment and a failure to accurately evaluate known facts and to react to them. A major contributing factor was the culture that 'victims' must be believed."
In a letter to Sir Bernard introducing the report, Sir Richard said there is an "unjustifiable imbalance" between the scrutiny of complainants and suspects, which was highlighted in Operation Midland.
He said: "The police inspected every piece of paper and recording equipment in the homes of Lord Bramall, Lady Brittan and Mr Proctor, including letters of commiseration and Golden Wedding invitations."
Lord Bramall and Mr Proctor were accused of the gravest of crimes and then left in a state of limbo, while Nick was contacted on a regular basis and given "chapter and verse" on the progress of the investigation.
Sir Richard said applications to a district judge were made for search warrants when there were "no reasonable grounds" to believe a crime had been committed, and it was inaccurately claimed that Nick's account had "remained consistent", along with a series of other errors.
He said: "I have no doubt that the district udge was misled, and had he known the true position he would not have granted the applications. The gravity of a judge being misled in such circumstances cannot be overstated."
Five officers ranked from sergeant up to deputy assistant commissioner have been referred to police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission over potential breaches in professional standards linked to Operation Midland.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse has also been referred over a separate investigation, Operation Vincente, into a claim that Lord Brittan raped a 19-year-old woman in 1967.
Sir Richard found that the inquiry "involved a grave error of judgment" and it was "obvious" while the peer was still alive that there was not enough evidence to charge him.
"I am in no doubt that he should have been informed during his lifetime that no action would be taken," the former judge found.
Mr Rodhouse said: "I do not believe that I, or indeed any officer within Operation Midland, have committed any misconduct. While it is right that lessons should be learned from Operation Midland I want to emphasise that my colleagues and I investigated the allegations made with the best of intentions. Indeed I am grateful that Sir Richard himself recorded that the Operation Midland officers 'conducted this investigation in a conscientious manner and with propriety and honesty'.
"If a further investigation is required then I will, of course, continue fully to co-operate with it."
A spokeswoman for London mayor Sadiq Khan said he will consider the findings over the coming days "but it is clear that a series of extremely serious errors were made by the Met".
She added: "The mayor will now be seeking full assurances from the Met commissioner on the consistency of the quality of the force's investigations into sexual offences and guarantees that the failings of past investigations will not be repeated."