The wife of former Home Secretary Leon Brittan has accused the Metropolitan police of ‘lacking a moral spine’ in their conduct of the investigation of the false allegations of a fantasist. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Lady Brittan talked about the traumatic impact of Scotland Yard’s disastrous Operation Midland into claims made by Carl Beech who had said that he had been the victim of a Westminister paedophile ring.
Lady Brittan’s home was searched by police whilst she was still grieving his death, which she described as leaving her feeling ‘violated’. Lord Brittan’s reputation was seriously tarnished in 2014 after testimony was given to Scotland Yard by a fantasist named Carl Beech, who falsely claimed to have been the victim of a historic VIP paedophile ring. The police fell for the claims, launching Operation Midland, and raided properties linked to Lord Brittan, along with the D-day veteran Lord Bramall, former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor and Sir Edward Heath, amongst others. Proctor spoke to the Justice Gap about his experience of the investigation.
The operation failed to find any evidence to support the claims and collapsed in March 2016 without any charges or arrests being made. Carl Beech, meanwhile, was found to be a paedophile himself, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison for perverting the course of justice. A retired judge, Sir Richard Henriques, was commissioned to review the investigation. His report, published in November 2016, was damning of police conduct.
Sir Henriques, noted that the District Judge who granted the search warrants for Lady Brittan’s homes had since come out saying that he was misled by officers, however, no police officers who were part of Operation Midland have been disciplined. Lady Brittan accused the Metropolitan police of a ‘culture of cover-up’ and said that the ‘buck stopped with the leadership’.
Lady Brittan has now submitted evidence about her experience of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to the Commons’ Home Affairs committee. She described IOPC’s own report as being ‘as good as whitewash’, noting that it controversially cleared five of the Operation Midland officers of misconduct. This includes Operation Midland’s commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse, who was exonerated from blame without even being interviewed. The committee is due to review the police watchdog at an upcoming hearing.
‘I suppose as a former magistrate, indeed the wife of an ex-home secretary, I’ve always believed that a strong moral compass is essential to every public body and especially to police forces, and above all, to its leadership. I think it’s very important. However, it just seems to me the Metropolitan Police has preferred its corporate or personal ambitions to a strong moral compass.’
Lady Brittan has also accused the former deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, of doing the ‘most despicable thing a human being can do to another’, for writing an article detailing the things her husband had allegedly done just three days after he had died. Tom Watson has since apologised.