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Met Police boss: I cannot really apologise for Lord Bramall sex abuse probe

Britain's top police officer has said he "can't really apologise" for his force's widely discredited investigation into sex abuse allegations against D-Day veteran Lord Bramall.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said he had "genuine regret" if the former head of the Army had been "damaged" by the investigation but insisted the Metropolitan Police had been right to investigate the "serious" allegations.

The Met commissioner has said d etectives investigating historical sex crimes should not be ordered to believe alleged victims "unconditionally" in the future and has launched a judge-led review of Scotland Yard's controversial handling of claims of a VIP paedophile ring in Westminster amid mounting pressure over Operation Midland.

But Sir Bernard again refused to apologise over the handling of the investigation into Lord Bramall.

"I can't really apologise for investigating a serious allegation and that is what we have done," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I have expressed regret and it's a genuine regret, if he, Lord Bramall, or his family have been damaged in this process, in this investigation."

The commissioner said if the inquiry found the force could have "done it better" he would "acknowledge" the criticism.

"It may be, of course, that he discovers there are things there that aren't in the public domain that affected the way the investigation went forward which didn't help Lord Bramall but was necessary for the overall investigation."

He added: " I can't look into every inquiry that we carry out. We have 800,000 crimes in London a year and if I only have to look into the ones that are pertinent to the press then I don't think that is a reasonable way forward."

In prickly exchanges, Sir Bernard disputed suggestions that the force had "trawled" for victims.

He said that treating allegations as though true had "confused" officers.

"I think we have really got hung up on this word of belief. It's confused officers. Of course we have got to be empathetic, we want people to believe we are going to listen to them, we want to be open minded."

Sir Bernard, whose contract is up for renewal, insisted he had not set up the inquiry to "divert attention" away from himself.

"I have been very consistent all along, ever since I came in in 2011, I said I would like to stay in the Met for up to seven years. I use those words because I don't think that any leader should give away when they are going because what happens in your final year is you are dismissed. I have no intention of being dismissed."

The findings of the review, to be led by former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, will be published later in the year, although the full report will remain confidential.

But it has been dismissed as a "PR campaign" by former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, who was questioned under the controversial inquiry before facing no further action.

Operation Midland, which had cost £1.8 million as of November last year, centred on allegations by a man known as "Nick", which were described by a detective at the time as "credible and true".

An NSPCC spokesman said: "We are deeply disturbed that the proposed change of police approach to sexual abuse victims could be a serious bar to them coming forward. At a time when people have at long last found the confidence and courage to report these crimes, it would be a tragedy to bring this progress to a juddering halt.

"Victims of sexual abuse have the right to be believed just as much as anyone reporting a burglary or physical assault. Police officers should have an open mind and execute the normal tests and investigations to verify the veracity of what is being alleged.

"Telling those who have been sexually abused they will no longer be automatically believed seems to be a panic measure which could have an adverse effect on a crime the Government has classified as a 'national threat'."

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