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Judge to review Met abuse probe

Officers' handling of VIP paedophile ring claims will come under spotlight

By Pat Hurst

Britain's top police officer Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has spoken of a "moral crisis" as he announced a former judge will probe the controversial handling of claims of a VIP paedophile ring in Westminster.

The embattled Scotland Yard boss has called in former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques to independently review how abuse claims against public figures were conducted by the Met's officers.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner yesterday again refused to bow to calls to apologise to Lord Bramall amid fierce criticism over the conduct of Operation Midland, which saw police raid the home of the D-Day veteran. The case against him was later dropped.

Sir Bernard said Operation Midland would come to an end "at some point" but for the time being inquiries continue as the independent review gets under way.

He added: "Let's bear in mind, investigating historical child sex abuse is very difficult.

"We've had quite a moral crisis over the last 18 months, where initially it was said that very senior members of government had lost dossiers, that they themselves were subject of allegations and now, here we are the very obverse of that criticism, that in fact we weren't ignoring things, we have gone too far.

"Well surely it's right that someone should look at that and try and produce some balance and perhaps give some guidance about how police officers and others approach difficult historical allegations where the evidence sometimes is lost, where people's memories have sometimes faded. It's so easy to make allegations, but then how do we prove them?"

Operation Midland, which had cost £1.8m as of November last year, has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks after the Met announced Lord Bramall would face no further action over historical child abuse allegations.

But amid a clamour calling for the Met boss to apologise, Sir Bernard said his men were only doing their jobs.

He added: "I cannot apologise for carrying out an investigation into a serious allegation. That's our job and that is what we are here to do.

"I have already expressed, as we (the Met) have, regret about any distress that we have caused to him and his family.

"I think a good next step is for Sir Richard to look into the concerns that Lord Bramall has expressed, and others have expressed. Let's get to the bottom of whether they are things that when we know all the facts are valid, and if they are, let's acknowledge it and if they're not, then let's say it.

"I have said at the right time I'm quite happy to see him. I think it has to be at the end of Operation Midland and perhaps at the conclusion of what Sir Richard may consider."

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