Metropolitan Police ‘suppressed’ report into second false Lord Brittan claim

Robert Mendick
Tom Watson, the deputy leader of Labour, is expected to face criticism in the report into Operation Vincente - PA

Scotland Yard has been accused of suppressing a second damning report criticising both police and Tom Watson for pursuing a false rape allegation against Lord Brittan.

The review of the police inquiry, called Operation Vincente, raises serious questions over police handling of the historic rape allegation, made by a woman who can be identified only as Jane, The Daily Telegraph understands.

The 40-page report was written three years ago by the same High Court judge whose devastating exposé of Operation Midland, the police inquiry into VIP child sex abuse, led to the conviction of Carl Beech, a fantasist, for perverting the course of justice.

Lord Brittan was also investigated over the lurid claims made by Beech.

Sources are convinced that police kept both inquiries going to target the politician.

Carl Beech Credit: PA

Sir Richard Henriques’ report into Operation Vincente is also understood to highlight the role played by Mr Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, in the inquiry and concerns that senior police were influenced by him.

The initial rape investigation was shut down by Det Ch Insp Paul Settle after he concluded that the allegation made by “Jane”, a Labour Party activist who had a history of mental health problems, was false.

But the case was reopened six months later, shortly after Mr Watson had lobbied the then director of public prosecutions.

As a result, when Lord Brittan, the former home secretary, died of cancer in January 2015, he was unaware he had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

On Friday night Det Ch Insp Settle, who was sidelined and has since retired, called on the Metropolitan Police to publish in full the report into Operation Vincente.

He said: “The Met absolutely must publish this report. There is no honesty and transparency if they continue to cover it up. They have already suppressed this report for three years. I am deeply concerned they will carry on doing so.”

A well-placed source suggested the Operation Vincente report was not ready to be made public.

But the Met insisted last night that all reports submitted by Sir Richard in 2016 to Lord Hogan-Howe, the then commissioner, following the collapse of Operation Midland, would be published “as soon as possible”.

Lord and Lady Brittan in 2013. Credit: John Stillwell/PA 

The police insisted Sir Richard’s report into Operation Midland also included his findings on Vincente and that they were part of the same bundle.

In a statement, a Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The MPS is intending to publish Sir Richard Henriques’ report as soon as possible. We will not be commenting about its contents in advance of publication.”

It added: “Given the contents of the report we are considering the views of those most affected by it, our legal obligations and our desire to be as transparent as possible. We are not considering withholding any material because it may be embarrassing or critical of the MPS or its officers.

“Sir Richard Henriques’ report includes Operation Vincente.”

Both Vincente and Midland, which investigated the fabricated Westminster paedophile ring, were overseen by Steve Rodhouse, the former deputy assistant commissioner who was at one stage gold commander in both inquiries.

He is now director general (operations) at the National Crime Agency. Lord Brittan was interviewed under caution in July 2014 over the claim by “Jane” that she had been raped at his flat in 1967.

It has since been reported that Jane had endured a troubled life, including “bouts of severe depression” and “paranoid delusions”.

Prior to her allegations against Lord Brittan, she had, according to sources, previously suspected – also wrongly – that a close relative was a paedophile.

Det Ch Insp Settle had established that key details in her claim against Lord Brittan were demonstrably untrue and concluded that it was unnecessary to interview him when he closed the case.

But when the case was reopened in May 2015, officers decided to interview Lord Brittan. Details of the interview were leaked to the press, causing Lord Brittan and his wife Lady Brittan huge distress.

In testimony to the home affairs select committee in October 2015, Det Ch Insp Settle described the renewed rape inquiry as a “baseless witch hunt” and described the decision to interview Lord Brittan as “unlawful”.

Mr Watson was forced to apologise to Lady Brittan after the committee said the Labour MP had behaved “inappropriately” in describing the former home secretary as “close to evil as any human could get” days after he died.

Mr Watson was, it later transpired, quoting an email sent to him by Beech.

The committee also found that detectives should have told Lord Brittan before he died that he was not going to be charged with rape.

Mr Rodhouse told the parliamentary inquiry that officers had acted in “good faith”.

He told MPs: “I think it has been a very difficult and unusual set of circumstances … the investigation was a search for the truth.”

The handling of both Midland and Vincente threatens to engulf Scotland Yard. Beech’s claims of a VIP gang that murdered and tortured children were initially described as “credible and true” by a senior detective.

As a consequence, the homes of Lady Brittan, Harvey Proctor, the former Conservative MP and Field Marshal Lord Bramall, the former head of the Army, were raided.

But Beech’s claims were exposed as false by Sir Richard who recommended an outside police force investigate him for perverting the course of justice.

Beech, 51, was sentenced in July to 18 years in jail for perverting the course of justice and fraud.

At a previous hearing he had pleaded guilty to making indecent photographs of children, possessing indecent images of children and voyeurism.