Police should inform in 'timely way' if suspects are not going to face charges


Police should inform people questioned for suspected crimes in a "timely way" if it is decided that they will not face charges, Home Secretary Theresa May has said.

Her comments came amid intense criticism of the Metropolitan Police for failing to tell former home secretary Lord Brittan he had been cleared of a rape allegation shortly before he died of cancer.

Mrs May said that while it was important that such allegations were properly investigated, the suspect should be told as soon as possible if they were not going to be charged.

"If somebody comes forward with an allegation, it is right that the police deal with that allegation," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"When the police investigate an allegation, of course it is important that they do that properly, and if they have decided not to take charges against somebody, that of course they tell them in a timely way, when it's appropriate to do so."

There has been growing disquiet among MPs about Scotland Yard's Operation Midland inquiry into historical child sex abuse, including allegations by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson of a Westminster paedophile ring operating in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, Mrs May stressed that it was important that victims of abuse felt that they would be able to come forward and that their claims would be taken seriously.

"I think it is very important that we enable people to come forward with their allegations," she said.

"What has happened in the past is that people who have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse, be it child sexual abuse or indeed rape, have very often felt that they have been sidelined, they have been pushed to one side, they have been ignored. It's not open season."