Carl Beech scandal: why the police watchdog is under fire
Five officers exonerated despite 43 errors shown in review of Operation Midland
A former High Court judge has criticised the police watchdog after five officers were exonerated over the Carl Beech scandal.
The detectives were cleared of wrongdoing in their handling of the VIP sex ring allegations made up by Beech.
Beech, 51, from Gloucester, was jailed for 18 years in July after he was found guilty of 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one of fraud. He falsely claimed that a series of public figures abused, tortured and even murdered children in the 1970s and 1980s.
A report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), released today, found that no officer should face disciplinary action, “triggering claims of a whitewash”, says The Guardian.
Former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, one of Beech’s targets, criticised the findings, saying: “This report shows the IOPC is worse than useless.”
The IOPC investigation began in 2016 on the basis of a report by retired judge Sir Richard Henriques into the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the case, known as Operation Midland.
Henriques’ report, large parts of which were published by Scotland Yard in full for the first time on Friday, pinpointed 43 mistakes by officers looking into the Beech allegations. The most serious was that police misled a judge to get warrants to search the homes of falsely accused suspects.
The IOPC “identified shortcomings and organisational failings”, and made 16 recommendations to the force. However, with regards to the officers, it concluded that “the allegations Nick [the name that Beech was known by] made were grave and warranted investigation and we believe those involved in applying for the search warrant acted with due diligence and in good faith at the time”.
But in an article for the Daily Mail, Henriques says the IOPC failed to mount a “vigorous investigation” and the “tardy” publication of its report “should give rise to the most serious public disquiet”.
While all five officers “must be presumed innocent”, the IOPC’s three-year delay in reaching its findings is “gross and inexcusable and goes some way to inhibiting any further investigation”, he says.
In a statement on behalf of the Met, Deputy Commissioner Sir Stephen House said: “I am deeply, deeply sorry for the mistakes that were made and the ongoing pain these have caused. I promise we will do all we can to prevent them in the future.”
He added that the force had already acted on Henriques’ recommendations and would act on the IOPC’s in the coming days.
Michael Lockwood, the director general of the IOPC, said: “Did the officers involved make mistakes? Yes. Could police processes have been improved? Almost certainly. But did they deliberately exclude information to secure the warrants? Our investigation found no evidence of that,” the Guardian reports.
The watchdog described its own investigation as “thorough and detailed”, involving “an experienced team of investigators reviewing over 1,800 documents and over 300 statements held by Operation Midland”.