MP Tom Watson should resign and police must ‘atone’ over bungled sex abuse probe
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson should “leave the public arena” for his part in promoting the false claims of a VIP Westminster paedophile ring and Scotland Yard “must atone” for its handling of the case, according to ex-MP Harvey Proctor.
The Conservative former politician, whose home was raided on the basis of claims made by fantasist Carl Beech, then known as “Nick”, spoke out after a damning report found search warrants in the case were “obtained unlawfully”.
Retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques – who was called in after the 16-month Operation Midland ended in 2016 without a single arrest – said the main cause of the botched probe was “poor judgment and a failure to accurately evaluate known facts”.
Mr Proctor said: “The Metropolitan Police should admit and atone for their complicity in what was a politically motivated manoeuvre.”
The 72-year-old added that the Labour deputy should resign because Sir Richard’s report had found he had added to the pressure on investigating officers.
“His judgement has been found to be consistently at fault – a fatal character defect for a politician,” Mr Proctor wrote in the The Daily Telegraph.
“He should apologise to Field Marshal Lord Bramall and Lady Diana Brittan and others and leave the public arena to reflect on the harm he caused.”
Raids were also conducted on the homes of D-Day veteran Lord Bramall and Lady Diana, the widow of former home secretary Leon Brittan.
Sir Richard’s review concluded the search warrants were “obtained unlawfully” and that the magistrate who granted them was “misled”.
“The written applications stated that ‘Nick’s’ account had remained consistent and he is felt to be a credible witness who is telling the truth,” it said.
“‘Nick’s’ account had not been consistent throughout. Further, there were, in my judgment no reasonable grounds to believe ‘Nick’ and the statement that he had told the truth was not consistent with information then available.”
Beech is serving an 18-year jail term for fabricating a series of claims of rape, torture and murder by innocent, well-known names from the military, security services and politics.
More findings of the highly critical review of operation, which has to date cost the Metropolitan Police around £4.5 million, were published by the force on Friday after mounting pressure to be open and transparent.
Sir Richard identified 43 police failings in his report.
Daniel Janner, the son of the late Labour politician Lord Janner who was one of those accused by Beech said Mr Watson was “partially responsible”, claiming he “applied pressure on the police and should hang his head in shame and resign”.
But Mr Watson said the review contained “multiple inaccuracies” about him and said it did not make clear letters from him were received by police after they had already interviewed Lord Brittan.
In a statement he said it “cannot be argued that it was pressure from me that led to Lord Brittan being interviewed”.
He added: “I have always said that it wasn’t my place to judge whether sexual abuse allegations were true or false – that was for the police.”
The officer in charge of both operations, Steve Rodhouse, apologised for the “distress” caused as a result, saying the report shows there are “clearly lessons to be learned for future investigations”.
He said: “In hindsight I can see I did not ensure that we got the balance right” between a “determination to maintain confidence” and the police’s “duty to robustly test the allegations being made”.
Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House said: “Mistakes were made in Operation Midland and we have apologised for those. We apologise for them again today.
“However, we do not agree with everything Sir Richard wrote in his report or indeed all of his recent statements regarding further investigations into the actions of officers.”
On Thursday, Home Secretary Priti Patel wrote to Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor, asking for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to review how officers handled the case.
Five officers were referred to another police watchdog now known as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). But the body found no evidence of wrongdoing or criminality.
Ms Patel has also asked the HMICFRS inspection to take into account this subsequent IOPC investigation, known as Operation Kentia. The full report is yet to be published.
Mr Proctor is suing the Met for £1 million and a settlement has yet to be reached.