Allegations of abuse accepted by police with little evidence

Three chapters from the report drafted by Sir Richard Henriques into the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) handling of the investigation into allegations of abuse made by ‘Nick’ (real name Carl Beech) against Lord Brittan, Lord Bramall, Harvey Proctor and others, were re-published on 4 October 2019. Click here to read the report.  The three chapters alone run to 391 pages and were previously released three years ago, but were heavily redacted at the time.

Of the many findings made by Sir Richard, one of the most damning is that he found that police had “misled” the Magistrates Court by asserting that Carl Beech’s allegations were “consistent and credible”, when they sought search warrants for the homes of those who had been accused.  Sir Richard went on to say that Beech’s claims “had not been consistent” and there were “no reasonable grounds” to have accepted his allegations as being true.  Accordingly, those search warrants had been obtained “unlawfully” and searches of those homes should not have taken place.

The retired Judge also criticised the MPS’s decision to hold a press briefing during the investigation, where they repeated that they believed Beech’s story and considered the allegations to be “credible and true”.  Two senior police officers had agreed before the press briefing that they would say that they believed Beech. Sir Richard says of that agreement that “I find it an error for two very senior officers who have never met a witness and, in the DAC’s case, not himself read either ‘Nick’s’ interviews or blogs, to announce to the press and public that they believe the witness.”

Sir Richard said a policy of believing complainants did not appear to be compatible with the core principle that a person is innocent until proved guilty of an offence beyond reasonable doubt, and went on to make several recommendations, including:

  1. Those who make complaints to the police should be referred to as ‘complainants’ and not as ‘victims’, through the police investigation and judicial process. (rejected by the MPS)
  2. The stated policy of the College of Policing that when someone makes an allegation of crime, the police should believe the account given, should cease. (accepted in full by the MPS)
  3. Investigators should be informed that false complaints are made from time to time and should not be regarded as a remote possibility. (accepted in full by the MPS)

The current Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Stephen House, said the force would learn lessons and improve its future response.

No arrests were made at the end of the investigation which cost in excess of £4m.  Beech was jailed for 18 years in July 2019 for perverting the course of justice, one fraud and several child sexual offences.

The work of the police in balancing the interests of those who make complaints about abuse and those against whom the complaints are made, is difficult.  It is clear that in the investigation into Carl Beech’s allegations, the balance swung too far to the complainant and with seriously detrimental effects to the reputation of the MPS.  Hopefully, the findings of Sir Richard will be considered and followed so far as possible by the MPS and police forces throughout the country, in trying to achieve a proper balance between proper and sympathetic investigation of allegations of abuse, and the rights of those who have been accused.


Chambers_J-18_print

James Chambers, Associate, BLM
james.chambers@blmlaw.com

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