Police ‘must be investigated’ over Operation Midland, says former top judge

Carl BeechImage copyright Crown Prosecution Service
Image caption Carl Beech’s fake claims of abuse by senior figures led to a £2.5m investigation and suspects’ homes being searched

Police officers involved in the probe into an alleged VIP paedophile ring should themselves be investigated, a former High Court judge has said.

Sir Richard Henriques says that, when applying for warrants to search suspects’ homes, the police claimed Carl Beech was a consistent witness.

But Sir Richard said, at the time, Beech “had not been consistent”.

Last week, Beech was jailed for 18 years for inventing false allegations of murder and child sexual abuse.

The police watchdog – the Independent Office for Police Conduct – has cleared the officers of any misconduct over search warrants.

Last week, it said there was no evidence that officers deliberately misled the district judge, who approved the search warrants.

Operation Midland, which was based on Beech’s lies, took two years, cost the Met £2.5m and ended in no arrests.

The investigation involved searching the homes of Lady Brittan – whose late husband was one of those accused by Beech – former head of the armed forces Lord Bramall, and the former MP Harvey Proctor.

Image copyright Gloucestershire Police
Image caption Beech, from Gloucester, was sentenced for 12 counts of perverting the course of justice, one of fraud, and for several child sexual offences

They were among a string of establishment figures who had been wrongly accused by Beech of being part of a paedophile ring active in the 1970s and 1980s. Beech falsely claimed some of them had been involved in murder as well as child abuse.

When the investigation ended, retired judge Sir Richard was brought in by the Met Police itself to review Operation Midland. His damning report was published, with some redactions, in November 2016.

It prompted an investigation into Beech by Northumbria Police, which revealed that the former nurse and NSPCC volunteer was himself a paedophile.

Sir Richard’s report, which also covered seven other Met Police investigations into allegations of past sexual abuse, identified 43 failings in Operation Midland and said the decision to abandon it should have been taken much earlier.

It said police believed Beech for too long, should not have announced his claims were “credible and true”, and applied for search warrants with flawed information.

Now, three years later, Sir Richard has written a scathing comment piece in the Daily Mail on Tuesday.

In the piece, he said when officers applied for warrants to search the homes of Lady Brittan, Lord Bramall and Harvey Proctor, they told a district judge that Beech had been consistent with his allegations.

But, Sir Richard writes: “Beech had not been consistent.

“In order to obtain a search warrant, an applicant must establish that he or she has reasonable ground to believe that an indictable offence has been committed.”

Sir Richard adds: “The fact remains, however, that Beech had not remained consistent, the Metropolitan Police informed the district judge that Beech had remained consistent and ‘he is felt to be a credible witness who is telling the truth’.

“A criminal investigation should surely follow.”

Image caption Sir Richard Henriques’ review into Operation Midland, part of which was published in 2016, was damning

Last week, the Independent Office for Police Conduct cleared three detectives following an investigation into how a district judge granted police warrants.

It said there was no evidence that officers deliberately withheld evidence from the applications with the intention of misleading the district judge and would have no case to answer for misconduct.

IOPC interim deputy director general Jonathan Green said: “The allegations Nick made were grave and warranted investigation and we believe those involved in applying for the search warrant acted with due diligence and in good faith at the time.”

All those involved are no longer working as Metropolitan Police officers.

Last week, the Met Police said they had been working in “good faith” but “did not get everything right” and said they would strive to learn lessons about “complex and challenging” sexual offences cases.

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