Home Secretary to meet police watchdog after collapsed VIP abuse probe

Home Secretary Priti Patel will meet with the police watchdog following a disastrous investigation into Carl Beech’s claims of a murderous VIP paedophile ring.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), whose senior staff commonly meet any new Home Secretary, has concluded that none of the officers involved in Operation Midland committed misconduct or broke the law.

A Home Office spokesman said:  “The Home Secretary looks forward to meeting with a number of policing partners, including (director general) Michael Lockwood of the IOPC.”

Police recruitment drive
Home Secretary Priti Patel will meet with representatives of the police watchdog (Toby Melville/PA)

Former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques has said he believes warrants used in the investigation to search the properties of high-profile figures were “obtained unlawfully”.

Sir Richard was called in to review Operation Midland, a £2 million Scotland Yard investigation that ran from 2014 to 2016 and did not result in a single arrest.

It was sparked by a series of wild claims by fantasist Beech, 51, who last week was given an 18-year prison sentence for lying to police.

He had falsely claimed that he had been sadistically abused by high-profile figures from the worlds of politics, the armed forces and security services.

Carl Beech
Former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, who in 2016 ran a review of the investigation into claims by Carl Beech (pictured), has said he believes warrants to search the properties of high-profile figures were ‘obtained unlawfully’ (CPS/PA)

One of those accused, former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, told the Daily Mail he took “no satisfaction” in Sir Richard saying Scotland Yard was wrong in how it investigated Beech’s claims.

And Lincoln Seligman, godson of former prime minister Edward Heath who was also wrongly accused, told the paper: “For so many senior and junior police to choose to believe Beech without corroboration or other evidence is astonishing.

“It suggests a lack of education or training in both analysing evidence and in the importance of the presumption of innocence. Or a wilful and reckless disregard for both.

“Given that the IOPC have already cleared every officer involved, something stronger, genuinely independent and less myopic is needed.”

A Home Office spokesman told PA: “It is right that allegations relating to the seeking of warrants as part of Operation Midland were referred to the IOPC – the public need to have confidence that the police are exercising their powers in a correct and proportionate way.”

In a statement, the IOPC said it had “conducted a careful assessment of whether there were any criminal offences to consider.

“In this case no suspicion of criminality was identified. The investigation did not identify any information to suggest that officers deliberately withheld evidence from the applications, with the intention of misleading the district judge.

“We have acknowledged the delays in the investigation and are now in the process of preparing the final publication report, which we expect will be published in September.”

Lord Bramall, whose home was searched as part of Operation Midland, has dismissed the watchdog’s conclusion and called for the whole report to be published.

Lord Bramall
Lord Bramall has criticised Operation Midland (Tony Harris/PA)

“I find, in light of Sir Richard’s comments today, the conclusion of the Independent Office for Police Conduct that their investigation did not identify any information to suggest that officers deliberately withheld evidence from the applications for the warrants to search my home and others, with the intention of misleading the district judge, completely ridiculous,” he said.

Lord Bramall is a highly decorated retired soldier who fought in the Second World War and later served as the head of the armed forces.

He added in a statement through his solicitor Drew Pettifer: “The report by Sir Richard made a number of recommendations that should be implemented as soon as possible.

“Never again should the presumption of innocence be reversed on the say so of one person and for the convenience of one organisation.”

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