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Ex-Tory MP brands police watchdog probe into ‘Nick’ officers ‘a whitewash’

Harvey Proctor has criticised the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s report.

Harvey Proctor described the report as a ‘whitewash’ (Danny Lawson/PA)
Harvey Proctor described the report as a ‘whitewash’ (Danny Lawson/PA)

By Henry Vaughan, Flora Thompson and Margaret Davis, PA

Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor has branded the police watchdog’s probe into five officers involved in the disastrous investigation into false claims of a VIP Westminster paedophile ring “a whitewash”.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) identified “shortcomings and organisational failings” but found no evidence of misconduct.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she was “deeply sorry” for the mistakes made during the force’s investigations into the false claims made by fantasist Carl Beech, then known as “Nick”.

A damning review of Operation Midland conducted by former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques identified 43 police failings when he was called in after the 16-month probe into ended in 2016 without a single arrest.

He is serving an 18-year jail term for fabricating a series of claims of rape, torture and murder by innocent, well-known names from the military, security services and politics.

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Carl Beech is serving 18 years in jail for perjury and other offences (CPS/PA)

His claims led to raids on the homes of D-Day veteran Lord Bramall; Lady Diana Brittan, the widow of former home secretary Leon Brittan; and Mr Proctor.

Sir Richard found the warrants were “obtained unlawfully” and that the district judge who granted them was “misled”.

But the IOPC found no evidence the five officers investigated had deliberately misled the judge.

The watchdog found gaps in processes and systems, in a report published on Monday, which made 16 recommendations.

Director general Michael Lockwood said: “Did the officers involved make mistakes? Yes. Could police processes have been improved? Almost certainly.

“But did they deliberately exclude information to secure the warrants? Our investigation found no evidence of that.

“The IOPC is very clear that there must be accountability and assurance to the public that the weaknesses we have identified are addressed so these mistakes can never be repeated.”

Dame Cressida said: “I am deeply sorry for the mistakes that were made during our investigations into the appalling lies spun by Carl Beech. They simply should not have happened.

“My predecessor apologised to Lord Bramall, Lady Brittan and Harvey Proctor. I have too. I repeat that apology again today.”

Mr Proctor said the IOPC report was a “pathetic attempt to excuse the police for their mistakes, incompetence and negligence by saying they acted in good faith” to maintain public confidence in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

“The so-called investigation is simply a whitewash,” he said in a statement.

“This report shows the IOPC is worse than useless. It actually defends the police against the authoritative findings of Henriques because they wanted to boost public confidence in themselves.”

The investigative process itself was minimal, unprofessional and the decision-making was flawed Sir Richard Henriques

Writing in the Daily Mail, Sir Richard expressed concern over the watchdog’s “lack of knowledge of criminal procedure” and called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to take action.

He said the IOPC investigation was “flawed”, that “no effective interrogations” took place and that he found it “difficult to conceive that no misconduct or criminality was involved by at least one officer”.

“Whilst all five, absent any proper investigation, must be presumed innocent, the responsibility of the IOPC was to carry out a high-quality investigation in a timely manner,” he wrote.

“The delay in reaching their findings of almost three years is gross and inexcusable, and goes some way to inhibiting any further investigation.

“The investigative process itself was minimal, unprofessional and the decision-making was flawed.”

Sir Richard said the two most senior officers among the five investigated – then deputy assistant commissioner Steve Rodhouse and Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald – had not been asked “a single question in interview … written answers having been accepted without questioning”.

The IOPC found Mr Rodhouse and Mr MacDonald had approved the decision to apply for the warrants, but not the wording of the documents themselves, and there was no indication that they had breached professional standards.

The other three officers, Detective Sergeant Eric Sword, Detective Inspector Alison Hepworth and Detective Chief Inspector Diane Tudway, were subject to a full investigation over the warrants.

The watchdog found: “There were undoubtedly mistakes and misjudgments made by the officers under investigation, influenced by the prevailing organisational culture and policing guidance (see learning report) of ‘believing victims’, which resulted in the search warrant applications not being as considered as they could have been.”

But the report said: “There is no evidence to suggest that the officers doubted ‘Nick’s’ credibility at this point, and although there were inconsistencies identified later on in the investigation, which resulted in charges being brought against ‘Nick’ for perverting the course of justice, it is important to note that at the time of the warrant applications, there is no evidence to suggest that this was something the officers believed to be the case.”

Tory MP Tim Loughton called for the Commons Home Affairs Committee, which he is a member of, to probe the matter, telling the BBC: “I think it’s a cover-up.

“I think it’s feeble, it’s toothless, it’s shoddy, it’s unconvincing and it’s pretty incompetent.

“This whole report is not fit for purpose.”

The IOPC said its investigation reviewed more than 1,800 documents and 300 statements, gathered 14 independent witness accounts and got the accounts of the three officers who were under investigation.

Mr Lockwood added: “The IOPC’s legal remit is to investigate serious incidents involving the police and to consider whether there is a case to answer for police misconduct.

“It was not to conduct a review of the all assertions made in the Henriques Review.

“However, we did consider his review and concur with many aspects, reflected in our final recommendations.”

PA

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