Sir Richard Henriques says confidence in the criminal justice system has been ‘gravely damaged’ by the failure to hold officers to account following the disastrous VIP child abuse inquiry
A retired High Court judge today urges the Home Secretary to order an independent criminal investigation into five detectives at the centre of the ‘Nick’ scandal – and the watchdogs who cleared them.
In an open letter to Priti Patel, Sir Richard Henriques says confidence in the criminal justice system has been ‘gravely damaged’ by the failure to hold officers to account following the disastrous VIP child abuse inquiry.
He adds that the ‘apparent condoning of police criminality by its notional watchdog, will inevitably give rise to allegations of political manipulation of the police’, ‘an orchestrated cover-up’ and ‘corruption at the highest level’.
Sir Richard spoke out after Leon Brittan’s widow attacked a ‘culture of cover-up and flick away’ at the Metropolitan Police in an interview with this newspaper.
Her husband, a former home secretary, was among the public figures falsely accused of child sexual abuse and murder by Carl Beech, originally identified only as ‘Nick’.
Beech, a serial liar and paedophile, was eventually jailed for 18 years after being convicted of perverting the course of justice.
Sir Richard spent several months investigating the Met’s shambolic Operation Midland in 2016 before recommending five officers face a misconduct probe.
The hunt for justice
Four inquiries have attempted to deal with the fallout – yet no-one directly involved in Operation Midland has been held responsible…
Henriques review: In 2016, the Met’s then-commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe asked Sir Richard to carry out a review into Operation Midland. The report identified 43 failings, and five officers were referred to the watchdog.
The IPCC: The Independent Police Complaints Commission cleared the two most senior officers within four months, without interviewing them. Its successor, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, later announced that all the officers had no case to answer. Only one was spoken to face-to-face.
Priti Patel: In 2019, the Home Secretary Patel ordered Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to investigate whether lessons had been learned. Published last March its report was highly critical, saying the Met had made ‘slow progress’.
House of Commons: The Home Affairs Select Committee opened a probe into the IOPC in October 2019 following criticism over its ‘whitewash’ report into the five Midland officers.
Following a pandemic-related delay, it is currently accepting submissions from interested parties such as Lady Brittan.
The committee is due to hear live evidence soon.
He today attacks not only the conduct of those officers but officials at the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), previously known as the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), who cleared them.
Sir Richard says a district judge was ‘knowingly misled into issuing search warrants’ to raid the homes of Lady Brittan, D-Day hero Lord Bramall and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.
He urges Miss Patel to order an investigation by an independent police force ‘so that public faith in our police service, our judicial processes and our rule of law can be fully and finally be restored’.
His letter to the Home Secretary will place more pressure on the Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick, who sanctioned the setting up of Operation Midland in November 2014. She has previously refused to call in an outside force to investigate the officers at the centre of the scandal.
The most senior of the five – former deputy assistant commissioner Steve Rodhouse – also faces an uncertain future. Now deputy head of the National Crime Agency, with a salary package of around £300,000, he was cleared of misconduct after four months, without even being interviewed.
Among Sir Richard’s questions for Miss Patel is how the promotion came about.
Others facing scrutiny include IOPC chairman Michael Lockwood, an accountant who previously ran a suburban London council.
A House of Lords debate yesterday saw peers question why no officers involved in Operation Midland have been disciplined.
Lord Garnier, a former solicitor general, said any officers who had perverted the course of justice by misleading a district judge should be prosecuted.
Yesterday the Mail revealed detectives used the infamous words ‘credible’ and ‘true’ to persuade a judge to let them raid Lady Brittan’s homes in March 2015.
Dame Cressida had claimed a senior officer ‘mistakenly’ used the words to describe Beech at a notorious press conference in December 2014.
SIR RICHARD HENRIQUES: Why we must now launch a criminal inquiry into the Met and its watchdog
As you know, in 2014 Carl Beech (AKA Nick) gave false information to the Metropolitan Police that gave rise to a lengthy and detailed investigation into allegations of child abuse and murder by a number of high profile individuals.
That investigation, Operation Midland, was a travesty that ruined the reputations of many decent and highly regarded fellow citizens.
In the process, our criminal justice process was perverted. A judge was duped by false information. A former home secretary’s high reputation was tarnished and his widow’s grieving was crudely interrupted.
A former chief of the general staff in his nineties was treated as a common criminal in a shameful and inappropriate police interview conducted by a detective constable. Lord Bramall’s home was searched for an entire day during which his terminally-ill wife was moved from room to room.
As part of their investigation into Beech’s claims, Metropolitan Police officers gave false information to a district judge and thereby unlawfully obtained search warrants. All five officers involved in that process have been exonerated after referral to the police watchdog
A former MP lost both his home and his employment and has suffered greatly.
Several others of the highest standing and repute, who had been so treacherously named by Beech as his alleged assailants, found themselves named in public.
The devastation that they and their families endured has been brought back into the spotlight this week by the testimony of Lord Brittan’s widow. I congratulate Lady Brittan on her courage in bringing this injustice to the attention of the public, and the Daily Mail in giving these events the publicity they demand.
Confidence in our processes has been gravely damaged. A single uncorroborated liar was allowed to run amok due to a combination of stupidity, incompetence, an ill-conceived doctrine that victims must be believed, and an apparent ambition to rectify errors made in the Jimmy Savile investigation – in which one senior officer in Operation Midland had been involved.
My independent review of Operation Midland, called for by the former head of the Metropolitan Police Service, Lord Hogan-Howe, found a total of 43 basic errors in the investigation.
The operation was conducted in a disordered and chaotic manner and was littered with mistakes, all of which could and should have been avoided by officers who were subsequently promoted. I made a total of 25 recommendations designed to avoid similar catastrophic investigations.
Lady Brittan has spoken this week about what she calls ‘a culture of cover-up and flick away’ within Scotland Yard
I was therefore deeply concerned to learn last March, following publication of a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, that Scotland Yard had been more concerned with covering up its mistakes in the case than learning from them.
The force did little to improve practices for nearly three years.
So far as I know not one of my recommendations has either been accepted or rejected by the Metropolitan Police.
I visited New Scotland Yard in October 2019, at the invitation of the present Commissioner, Cressida Dick. I was assured that a team led by a deputy assistant commissioner ‘was working on improving the investigative skills of the Met focusing on warrants and searching, and ensuring that ‘belief’ is well understood’.
Last January, Dame Cressida wrote to me confirming that work was under way. I have since heard nothing.
It is now over four years and four months since I handed my review to Lord Hogan-Howe. I am dismayed at the delay in acting upon my recommendations.
A general election and Covid have twice prevented the Home Affairs Select Committee from considering either Operation Midland or the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation into its manifest failings.
I implore it to find time to consider them both. These shocking events have seriously damaged public confidence in both the Metropolitan Police and the IOPC.
The absolute lack of accountability, coupled with apparent condoning of police criminality by its notional watchdog, will inevitably give rise to allegations of political manipulation of the police, an orchestrated cover-up by the IOPC and others, and corruption at the highest level. Positive action is now urgently called for.
A district judge was knowingly misled into issuing search warrants. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and its successor, the IOPC, failed in its duty to investigate.
There are reasonable grounds to believe that criminal acts have been committed.
Today, therefore, I am writing to you to request that an independent police force should now be asked to investigate not only the conduct of Metropolitan Police officers involved in authorising and applying for search warrants, but also those in the IPCC and IOPC whose duty it was to investigate. Northumbria Police is fully aware of the facts and has demonstrated competence where others have failed.
May I respectfully invite your attention to a number of key questions that should be central to this inquiry. As part of their investigation into Beech’s claims, Metropolitan Police officers gave false information to a district judge and thereby unlawfully obtained search warrants. All five officers involved in that process have been exonerated after referral to the police watchdog.
The most senior officer (a deputy assistant commissioner, or DAC) and the senior investigating officer (a detective chief inspector, or DCI) were promoted before the investigation by the IOPC had been completed.
Q1: Who caused or permitted promotions to take place before the investigation was completed?
Q2: Was the promotion board informed that the investigation was not complete when the officers were promoted?
Q3: Were either of the candidates supported by references from those with knowledge of Operation Midland?
Five Metropolitan Police officers were referred to the police watchdog and a decision was taken to investigate them for misconduct, rather than gross misconduct or criminal conduct, notwithstanding the fact that false documentation had been placed before a district judge on oath in order to obtain search warrants.
Q4: Whose decision was it to investigate mere misconduct as opposed to gross misconduct or criminal conduct when a district judge was misled by false evidence?
The applications for a search warrant falsely stated that the account from ‘Nick’ had remained consistent when in fact he had given conflicting accounts to the Wiltshire and Metropolitan police forces. He told the former that he was raped in a hotel off Oxford Street by foreigners, but told the latter he was raped in the Carlton Club and Dolphin Square by named politicians and retired Army officers.
The search warrant application also indicated that there were no undermining factors. There were at least six matters which required disclosure within the knowledge of the DAC authorising the application for search warrants.
In granting the application, the district judge indicated that he relied on the fact that a DAC had overseen the applications.
Q5: How can the exoneration of the DAC without cross-examination be justified?
Q6: Whose decision was it to exonerate the DAC and detective superintendent (DSU) after four months – long before an attempt was made to interview the more junior officers?
The only officer to face questioning, many months later, was the DCI who, by reason of the passage of time, ‘was unable to recollect what information was available at what time’.
During the investigation into Beech’s allegations two further opportunists, known as A and B, both with histories of criminal offending, also made allegations calculated to support his claims.
Richard Henriques says in a letter to Priti Patel (left) that he visited New Scotland Yard in October 2019, at the invitation of the present Commissioner, Cressida Dick (right). He says: ‘I was assured that a team led by a deputy assistant commissioner ‘was working on improving the investigative skills of the Met focusing on warrants and searching, and ensuring that ‘belief’ is well understood’. Last January, Dame Cressida wrote to me confirming that work was under way. I have since heard nothing’
Both were serial liars, and Operation Midland officers – after lengthy investigation – properly concluded that both had invented their accounts.
In my review of Operation Midland I advised that A and B be reported to an independent police force with a view to their being prosecuted for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Lord Hogan-Howe, the then commissioner, agreed and accepted my advice. Yet subsequent to his retirement, a decision was made to take no further action against A or B.
I am at a loss to comprehend that decision. A and B had committed the same offence as Beech and if convicted faced lengthy prison sentences. The evidence against them was contained in their own witness statements.
Q7: Who decided that no action should be taken against A and B and on what grounds?
It took almost three years for the IOPC to publish their findings into the Operation Midland affair. The ‘lead investigator’ contacted me 20 months into the investigation and readily conceded a lack of knowledge, training or education in relevant criminal procedure.
One or more officers caused a false document to be placed before a judge and supported on oath. This was no proper investigation by the IOPC.
In my review of Operation Midland I had called for a rigorous investigation and indicated that there were many questions to be asked. The IOPC failed in both respects.
Q8: Why did it take some three years to complete an investigation when the two most senior officers were exonerated after four months?
Q9: Why was a person lacking the appropriate skill and experience appointed as lead investigator in such a high profile and important investigation?
In the years since Operation Midland, the Metropolitan Police has paid a total of more than £1million in damages and costs to those persons whose homes were searched pursuant to the warrants unlawfully obtained.
Q10: How can the exoneration of all officers responsible for the application for and obtaining of the search warrants be reconciled with the payment of very significant sums of compensation to those wronged by the issue of those warrants?
All these questions, and more, have troubled me greatly. Carl Beech is now serving 18 years in jail for perverting the course of justice and other offences. Yet I still do not believe the full truth has been exposed about the decisions, many taken at the highest level, that saw so many innocent individuals suffer as a consequence of his wicked lies.
Lady Brittan has spoken this week about what she calls ‘a culture of cover-up and flick away’ within Scotland Yard.
I urge you now to act on such claims, so that public faith in our police service, our judicial processes and our rule of law can be fully and finally be restored.