Victims of the VIP paedophile scandal accused Priti Patel of shirking her responsibility as Home Secretary last night after she dismissed growing calls for a fresh inquiry.
Miss Patel was under pressure to act after six of her predecessors said confidence in the police had been seriously damaged by Scotland Yard’s investigation into false claims by fantasist ‘Nick’ of a Westminster paedophile ring.
They called for a new investigation into the Metropolitan Police’s disastrous Operation Midland probe, which led to raids on the homes of ex-MP Harvey Proctor, former home secretary Leon Brittan and former head of the Armed Forces Lord Bramall.
The unprecedented cross-party intervention came after former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, who carried out a damning review into Midland, wrote an open letter to Miss Patel, published in the Daily Mail.
Miss Patel was under pressure to act after six of her predecessors said confidence in the police had been seriously damaged by Scotland Yard’s investigation into false claims by fantasist ‘Nick’ of a Westminster paedophile ring
Miss Patel’s response comes as Lord Brittan’s widow Lady Brittan (pictured) prepares to give evidence today to a home affairs committee probe into the running of the IOPC
In it, he urged the Home Secretary to order an independent criminal investigation into five Midland detectives cleared by the police watchdog, saying that confidence in the criminal justice system had been ‘gravely damaged’. He was backed by the former chief magistrate for England and Wales, Howard Riddle, who granted the search warrants used to raid the homes of innocent Establishment figures.
Mr Riddle also called for a criminal probe, saying the omission of crucial information on the warrants signed off by senior officers gave him ‘reasonable grounds to suspect a criminal offence has been committed’.
Widely viewed as one of the worst investigations in the history of Scotland Yard, Operation Midland was based on the testimony of fantasist Carl Beech, known as ‘Nick’. The former nurse said he was abused in the 1970s and 1980s. He was jailed for 18 years for perverting the course of justice in 2019, having been found to be a paedophile himself.
Miss Patel responded to Sir Richard’s concerns last night. In a letter seen by the Mail, the Home Secretary, who has overall responsibility for policing in England and Wales, said she had no legal basis to instruct another police force to intervene.
However, she made no reference to calls by MPs, peers and legal experts for a public inquiry.
Instead, she said some of Sir Richard’s questions regarding the Met’s failed probe and the clearing of detectives by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) would be answered by those accused by victims of being involved in a ‘cover-up’ – Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and IOPC boss Michael Lockwood.
The unprecedented cross-party intervention came after former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques (pictured), who carried out a damning review into Midland, wrote an open letter to Miss Patel, published in the Daily Mail
Widely viewed as one of the worst investigations in the history of Scotland Yard, Operation Midland was based on the testimony of fantasist Carl Beech (pictured), known as ‘Nick’
In her letter, Miss Patel expressed ‘great sympathy’ for those who have ‘suffered so much as a result of this dark chapter in the history of policing’.
She added: ‘I feel a sense of profound regret for the harm that has been caused to them, their families and others impacted by the errors of Operation Midland.’ Miss Patel pointed to the Metropolitan Police’s response to a probe she ordered by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to ensure the force had learned from Midland.
The report, when it was delivered last year, was scathing. It said the force was more concerned with ‘restricting access’ to Sir Richard’s review than learning from it.
However, Miss Patel added the Met was now making ‘good pro-gress’ under Operation Larimar, a Scotland Yard project designed to implement his recommendations.
She added: ‘I shall consider how best to receive assurances that…allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse are investigated both thoroughly and impartially.’
Praise for Mail’s exposé
The Mail’s ‘forensic’ reporting on the Midland scandal was praised by peers yesterday.
Award-winning Associate Editor (Investigations) Stephen Wright, who revealed police concerns about witness Carl ‘Nick’ Beech in 2015, was singled out by Lord Campbell-Savours for exposing a litany of police mistakes at the highest level.
At a House of Lords debate on police watchdog the IOPC following the Mail’s exposes, the Labour peer said: ‘My Lords, shouldn’t we congratulate the Mail, and in particular journalist Stephen Wright, for his forensic work in unravelling the Beech affair.’
Earlier ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor, a victim of Nick’s smears, said: ‘I wish to place on record my appreciation for the courageous campaign which is being conducted by the Daily Mail.’
In closing comments, she said: ‘The mistakes of Operation Midland must not be allowed to happen again. I believe that we have made significant strides towards achieving that aim and I will not be swayed until we achieve it.’
Lord Bramall’s son said the Government’s decision not to hold an inquiry was ‘shameful’. He added: ‘Operation Midland was a disaster from start to finish. Good men’s lives were trashed. I maintain there should be a public inquiry. It’s very disappointing that it has been decided that this is not required.’
Mr Proctor, who received almost £900,000 from the Met in compensation and costs after he lost his home and job as a result of Beech’s smears, said: ‘I regret that the Home Secretary has apparently palmed off on to the Met and the IOPC Sir Richard Henriques’ and Howard Riddle’s very important questions concerning alleged criminality by Met officers.
‘Failure to establish a public inquiry into the Met and the IOPC… will be regarded as a dereliction of duty by government.’
And Lincoln Seligman, godson of former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who was smeared by Beech as well as being the focus of the controversial Operation Conifer probe into alleged historic offences, said: ‘As the Home Secretary acknowledges in her letter, she has ultimate responsibility for the police. If she accepts she has ultimate responsibility for policing then she has ultimate responsibility for sorting this nightmare out. She can’t just walk away.
‘She is responsible for taking action given that everyone else who could has shown a marked reluctance to do so and that will continue to be the case.
‘If she had any decency she would personally intervene, not leave it to people she know won’t do anything. Talk about kicking it into the long grass. I do really think it’s outrageous.’
Miss Patel’s response comes as Lord Brittan’s widow Lady Brittan prepares to give evidence today to a home affairs committee probe into the running of the IOPC.
Earlier, the Home Secretary had been accused of ‘hiding’ behind a junior government minister who revealed in the Lords yesterday that the Government would not commission a public inquiry.