Bungled VIP paedophile ring inquiry run with ‘institutional stupidity’: lawyer

By Margaret Davis, PA Crime Correspondent

An unpublished review of a bungled police investigation into false claims of a VIP paedophile ring reveals “staggering incompetence”, a former MP has said.

Operation Midland, that ran from 2014 to 2016 and ended without a single arrest, caused huge embarrassment for the Metropolitan Police when it was revealed the claims of a murderous sex abuse ring were false.

The force asked retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques to review the case, and he wrote a highly critical report.

Carl Beech
Carl Beech, who lied about the existence of a murderous VIP paedophile ring (CPS handout/PA)

Harvey Proctor, the ex-Tory MP whose home was raided as part of Operation Midland, accused the police watchdog of ignoring Sir Richard’s “explosive” report when it investigated how the inquiry had been handled.

He has been allowed to read the review, that has not yet been released to the public, and claims it is “explosive” and identifies 43 errors in the investigation.

Mr Proctor said: “This report, which the Metropolitan Police must publish immediately, is explosive; it reveals in detail the staggering incompetence of Operation Midland.”

His lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said the investigation had been run “incompetently, negligently and with what might be described as institutional stupidity”.

Mr Proctor claimed that watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct had taken “little notice” of the review.

“By ignoring his findings this office has failed in its duty to protect the public,” Mr Proctor said.

He is suing the Metropolitan Police for £1 million for its handling of the case, which also saw the homes of D-Day veteran Lord Bramall, and Lady Diana Brittan, the widow of former home secretary Leon Brittan, raided.

Fantasist Carl Beech, 51, from Gloucester, is now serving an 18-year jail term for lying to police with a series of false claims about murderous sexual abuse by public figures.

The IOPC found no evidence of criminality or misconduct for the officers involved in Operation Midland, although Sir Richard questioned whether the applications made for search warrants were legal.

A spokesman for the IOPC said it had carried out its own independent investigation, including examining the search warrants and the conduct of three Met officers, a detective sergeant, detective inspector and a detective chief inspector who were involved in the applications.

He said: “While the investigation found that none of the officers deliberately withheld evidence from the applications with the intention of misleading the district judge and would have no case to answer for misconduct, our investigation has identified clear shortcomings in the Metropolitan Police’s handling of search warrants, alongside broader organisational failures.

“These findings and associated recommendations will be published in our final report at the end of the month.

“We appreciate Mr Proctor has experienced considerable distress and anxiety as a result of the allegations made about him, which were ultimately found to be false.

Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard said it had accepted mistakes had been during the investigation (Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire)

“It is important that we identify learning from the experiences of victims and do all we can to ensure the mistakes made are never repeated again.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The MPS has acknowledged that mistakes were made during Operation Midland. Officers co-operated fully with Sir Richard Henriques’ review and the subsequent independent investigation conducted by the IPCC.

The MPS has considered the recommendations made in Sir Richard Henriques’ report carefully to ensure it improves how it handles investigations in the future. Any further findings or recommendations that are made by the IOPC will be considered with similar care.”