The concepts of accountability and modern-day policing seem to exist in parallel universes. This is the main lesson to be learned from the belated publication of a still-redacted version of the Henriques Report into the ill-fated fiasco known as Operation Midland – probably the worst scandal in UK policing since the exposure of widespread organised corruption in the Flying Squad and elsewhere back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when over 250 London police officers resigned in the wake of Operation Countryman (another damning inquiry report that has, by the way, never seen the light of day).
This is not the first edition to be released to the public of former high court judge Sir Richard Henriques' - right -report of an inquiry into the Metropolitan Police’s conduct during Operation Midland. An even more heavily-edited version was grudgingly circulated back in 2016. However, despite repeated promises by Met chiefs that the Henriques’ report would appear in full after the trial of Carl Beech (aka ‘Nick’), the key hoaxer and fraudster behind Operation Midland, there are still substantial parts of the document that remain redacted. Why? What else – beside professional embarrassment – are the police still trying to hide from the public? Perhaps we’ll never know, although the very fact that some of the inquiry findings are still being withheld inevitably fuels suspicions of an ongoing whitewash.So what are the main revelations – laughingly referred to by the Met top brass as ‘learning points’?
Perhaps one of the most serious issues is that the inquiry concluded the search warrants used by the Operation Midland team to search the homes of suspects such as Lord Bramall, Leon Brittan and Harvey Proctor had been unlawfully obtained because officers had misled the district judge, Howard Riddle, about Carl Beech’s consistency of claims and his overall credibility. These searches – which caused catastrophic distress to the men and their families – appear to have been nothing more than a police ‘fishing expedition’, designed to add weight to a very flimsy case. (My own home was raided in 2012 by the Suffolk police and I've since wondered how on earth they managed to convince a district judge or magistrate that there was a good reason to invade every area of my private life simply on the word of a repugnant fantasist, without a smidgen of actual evidence).
The Henriques’ Report also focuses on the infamous statement made to the media by Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald - left- that ‘Nick’ (as Beech was then known publicly) was making claims that were “credible and true”. What the latest version of the report reveals is that McDonald’s boss, the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Steve Rodhouse, personally authorised confirmation that the police believed ‘Nick’ in order to show the public that they were out to nail anybody, no matter how rich and famous, who was accused of historical abuse. They were collectively embarrassed after having failed to prosecute Savile and they were now going to show everyone that they were going to make good their previous errors. This authorisation from Rodhouse blows sky-high any attempt to attribute the disastrous claim to a slip of the tongue by McDonald. In fact, we now know that it was official Met policy.
As Henriques observes in his report, “I cannot conceive that any fully informed officer could reasonably have believed ‘Nick’. Yet they did. And they said so very publicly.
In fact, Henriques points out that the investigating team behind Operation Midland should have recognised that Beech’s various accounts, including his blogs and personal writings of what he claimed he’d experienced, were full of inconsistencies and of claims which were palpably incredible. Sir Richard highlights the fact that there was no factual evidence of any kind to support Beech’s lurid allegations that he was regularly abused in the most violent physical manner by his ‘torturers’: no medical evidence, no scars, no bruising or cuts that would surely have been noted by his own mother at the time. Nor was there any evidence that he had been absent from school frequently. There was no sign of any missing, murdered boys as Beech claimed. There was absolutely nothing.
Reading the report, the extent to which police seem simply to have accepted the most preposterous nonsense and perverted sexual fantasies being spouted by Beech - right - as credible evidence of an organised VIP paedophile ring becomes painfully clear. Yet none of the supposedly trained and experienced detectives appears to have spotted that they were dealing with a compulsive liar and fraudster. Or if they did, they didn’t dare to speak up and risk challenging the ‘you will be believed’ dogma imposed by successive Directors of Public Prosecutions. There was a culture of collective mindset, with no room for any ostensible doubt. And then there was the malign role played by Beech’s cheerleaders, including specific journalists and the disgraced Exaro agency. In fact, the Henriques’ report goes as far as stating that Exaro and its team actually ‘misled’ the police during Operation Midland. There was also evidence of active interference during the investigation, including reporters showing Beech photographs of suspects and taking him on a tour around London to identify specific locations where he had claimed he’d been abused, thus wholly contaminating the case.
Sir Richard Henriques names names and it remains to be seen whether any of those he singles out for criticism will ever face any legal consequences in court. I won't be holding my breath.
This latest, less redacted, version of the report also shines a very unflattering spotlight on the political pressures that were being brought to bear on the Met, especially by the now Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP - left. Although at the time of Operation Midland Mr Watson was only a backbencher, he had met Beech personally and then proceeded to pass ‘hundreds of pieces of information’ to the Met, according to the report. I presume much of this was perverted twaddle and lies that the MP was being fed by Beech and his enthusiastic supporters at the Exaro news agency. It should be remembered that Mr Watson was responsible for the vicious and vile ad hominem attack launched against Lord Brittan shortly after the former Conservative Home Secretary's death in 2015. Now, why would Watson want to traduce a prominent Tory in this ruthless manner? It doesn't take much working out.
In the aftermath of the strident criticism made in the Henriques report, Mr Watson’s continued role in political life must surely be called into question. Yet, he seems determined to play Pontius Pilate and wash his hands of the whole sordid affair, in which we now know he played so central a part. Any chance of a resignation? I very much doubt it. An apology? No chance.
Despite the Met claiming that 'lessons will be learned' from the Operation Midland fiasco, senior officers are still determined to reject some of Henriques' key findings. There seems to be no genuine awareness of the reputational damage that the Met has suffered, nor any acceptance that the cultish dogma of 'believing' each and every complainant - and referring to them as 'victims' from the outset - undermines the presumption of innocence of the person accused.
How can a so-called investigative team conduct a fair, balanced investigation if it takes sides from day one? All this is not rocket science. Yet the College of Policing, which is the professional body responsible for police training, as recently as last month reconfirmed, in an official policy document, that anyone making a claim of sexual abuse should be considered as a 'victim' from the start. It goes even further and states that in the event an investigation ends with no charges being brought, ‘victims should not be left feeling they have not been believed’. Presumably, unless they are Carl Beech… or Jemma Beale… or any of the other notorious liars and fraudsters who have been caught lying their heads off and are now serving time in prison - not to mention the myriad liars and perjurers who have got away with their deceit.
This is the reason the two friends who accused me have not faced any consequences for their false allegations, despite it being obvious they lied and lied to the police and then committed perjury at Ipswich Crown Court in 2014.
Sadly, it seems that the police have learned nothing whatsoever from the whole shameful Operation Midland fiasco. What does shine through is the invincible, damnable arrogance of the Met's most senior officers, some of whom have been promoted, despite their roles in the Beech affair. Perhaps they really don’t care. The sad thing for me is, through my own unfortunate experience, I am not in the least surprised by any of this cowardice and chicanery.
© Simon Warr 2019
Simon Warr is a BBC broadcaster, author and former languages teacher.
This article was first published on The Warr Zone on Thursday October 10, 2019.
You can read more from Simon on 'The Warr Zone' here - http://thewarrzone.blogspot.com