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Priti Patel orders investigation of Met Police over VIP paedophile claims case

The Home Secretary asks for a review of the Met’s response to Operation Midland, while a victim’s son calls for Labour’s Tom Watson to resign.

The Metropolitan Police will release parts of a review by former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The Metropolitan Police will release parts of a review by former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Flora Thompson, Home Affairs Correspondent, and Margaret Davis, Crime Correspondent, PA

The Home Secretary has asked a police watchdog to investigate Scotland Yard’s disastrous investigation into fabricated claims of a VIP paedophile ring in Westminster.

Priti Patel wrote to the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor, asking him to review the actions of the Metropolitan Police over Operation Midland.

Her letter asks him, as part of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), to examine the bungled inquiry as the force on Friday publishes more of an already heavily critical report into the same investigation.

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Carl Beech being interviewed by police in January 2016 (CPS Handout/PA)

The Metropolitan Police will release parts of a review by former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, who was called in after 16-month Operation Midland ended in 2016 without a single arrest.

It saw the homes of D-Day veteran Lord Bramall; Lady Diana Brittan, the widow of former home secretary Leon Brittan; and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor raided on the basis of false claims made by fantasist Carl Beech.

Daniel Janner, the son of the late Labour MP Lord Janner who was one of Beech’s victims, called for a judge-led inquiry, saying referring the force to HMICFRS was “wholly inadequate”.

He also accused deputy Labour leader Tom Watson – who raised the matter in Parliament after speaking to Beech – of being “partially responsible”, claiming he “applied pressure on the police and should hang his head in shame and resign”.

It is imperative that the public receive assurance that the Metropolitan Police Service has learned from the mistakes identified Priti Patel

Beech 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 politicians.

In Ms Patel’s letter, entitled “Maintaining public confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) following the publication of Sir Richard Henriques’ review”, she said: “I am grateful to the MPS for the steps they are taking to ensure that there is transparency around the failings identified by Sir Richard that had such a distressing impact on those falsely accused.

“It is imperative that the public receive assurance that the MPS has learned from the mistakes identified in Sir Richard’s report and have made – and continue to make – necessary improvements.

“To this end I am writing to you to request, under the provisions in s54 of the Police Act 1996, that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) undertake an inspection at the earliest practicable opportunity to follow up on Sir Richard’s review.”

Some details of Sir Richard’s report were released by the force three years ago, in which he criticised the Met for believing Beech for too long; one officer announcing publicly that his claims were “credible and true”; applying for search warrants with flawed information and failing to close the investigation sooner.

Then-force chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe made a series of extraordinary apologies over the disastrous investigation, that has to date cost the force around £4.5 million.

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Former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor (Danny Lawson/PA)

This includes payouts to the Brittan family and Lord Bramall. Mr Proctor is suing the Met for £1 million and a settlement has yet to be reached.

A story in The Daily Telegraph claims the barrister leading the Government’s child sex abuse inquiry warned Scotland Yard that Beech was “bogus” months before officers shut down the investigation.

Ben Emmerson QC interviewed Beech in 2015 and says he told senior police officers on September 30 that year not to believe his claims of rape and torture.

“I was extremely sceptical about the allegations made by Carl Beech from the very outset,” Mr Emerson wrote in a comment article in the paper.

“They had a ring of outlandish fabrication about them. I was concerned to try to understand why the Metropolitan Police had publicly described them as ‘credible’ when they appeared at face value to be so obviously bogus.”

Five officers were referred to another police watchdog now known as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). But the body found no evidence of wrongdoing or criminality.

Ms Patel has now asked for the HMICFRS inspection to take into account this subsequent IOPC investigation, known as Operation Kentia. The full report is yet to be published.

She added: “Following publication of Sir Richard’s review and the IOPC report, I will consider whether any further steps are needed to address any wider issues with policing practice.”

The force will also publish details of Sir Richard’s review of an investigation of a separate rape claim against late former home secretary Lord Brittan.

Operation Vincente looked at an allegation that the politician had raped a 19-year-old woman in 1967.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse was referred to the police watchdog over the inquiry but the body did not take it on as an investigation.

The Met has declined to publish other parts of the report because they do not relate to anyone like Beech who has been proved in court to be a liar.

The chapters that will remain secret relate to Operation Bixley – part of a larger investigation named Operation Fairbank into historical allegations of sexual abuse by politicians; four sections about Operation Yewtree into allegations of historical abuse by celebrities; and a further, separate inquiry into an allegation of abuse by a celebrity.

PA

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