By Anna Sterling.
In July this year, Carl Beech was jailed for eighteen years after making false allegations against high profile public figures – such as politicians and military officers – of child sexual abuse and murder. Former MI6 boss Sir Maurice Oldfield and former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath were among those who Beech named.
After an investigation, named Operation Midland, that cost more than £2 million and spanned 16 months, the Metropolitan Police found no evidence of the so-called sadistic sexual abuse that Beech claimed to have witnessed. Instead they discovered that Beech himself was a paedophile, who later admitted to hoarding hundreds of child abuse images.
In 2014, the Metropolitan Police were under particular pressure to investigate allegations of historical sexual abuse, especially involving children, following the Jimmy Savile scandal. When claims of a paedophile ring consisting of high profile figures was presented to the Metropolitan Police, they deemed the accounts Beech gave as “credible and true”, but this has now been retracted. The Met Police have now stated that they “did not get everything right”.
The case has been under particular scrutiny from the government and the public due to how the Metropolitan Police handled issues of transparency. In 2016 the Metropolitan Police released a heavily redacted report of the investigation. This report was heavily criticised and further sections have now been released showing a series of police failings. In the report not only were Metropolitan Police officers criticised for illegal warrants and the lack of investigation into Beech’s background, but it was also found that Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, pressured detectives into investigating Beech’s claims. Tom Watson has claimed the report “contains multiple inaccuracies” amid calls for him to resign. Former MP, Harvery Proctor was one of public figures that Beech accused and whose home was searched. Proctor has stated that Tom Watson should “leave the public arena” and “the Metropolitan Police should admit and atone for their complicity in what was a politically motivated manoeuvre”.
The then Commissioner of the Met Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, ordered a report into the investigation to be conducted. Sir Richard Henriques, a retired judge, headed an investigation into the enquiry where he stated that he is “unable to conclude that every officer acted with due diligence and in good faith”. His report concluded that 43 errors were made during Operation Midland.
Sir Richard also stated that believing victims was a “major contributing factor” to the failings throughout the investigation. A previous report by the Independent Office of Police Conduct is expected to be published next week, which examines the roles that the investigating detectives played in applying search warrants that were illegally obtained to search the homes of the high-profile figures who were accused.
Dame Cressida Dick, who is the Met Commissioner and oversaw Operation Midland in the early stages of the investigation, has previously rejected demands for a new investigation into the police officers involved. Home Secretary Priti Patel, has ordered a third enquiry into the Metropolitan Police.
In a letter to the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor, the Home Secretary stated that it is “imperative that the public receive assurance that the Metropolitan Police has learned from the mistakes”. The Judge who sentenced Beech in July stated that Beech was a “manipulative and devious person”. Some of those who were accused by Beech, as well as relatives of those accused who died in the course of Operation Midland, have stated that they were victims of a “totally unjustified witch-hunt”.