No doubt you have heard of this ‘OM’ – or Operation Midland – and how the police grovelled and tried to claim it was all in order. It too was claimed the Met officers simply had ‘no malice’ of any sort against any of the accused when it came to the work of investigating the claims of a certain person then only known as Nick. Enormous damage was done in a drive to ‘convict’ others who were in fact the victims of this misadventure. As Henriques showed, there was indeed a police bias. And the full costs of this ‘operation’ will never be known.
Publication is intended to ‘dispel rumour, to demonstrate transparency…. commitment to learning from past mistakes and help maintain public confidence.’
Today, the 4th October 2019, a more substantial – if not wholly complete, version of the Henriques report was released and despite the above claims (dispel rumour, demonstrate transparency…. learning from past mistakes… maintain public confidence) it doesn’t do the Met any favours.
Commissioner Cressida Dick, in a recent interview with LBC, asserted the Met had ‘no malice’ when prompted about the disaster that was Operation Midland, replied: ‘everybody thinks that it was just just a mistake it shouldn’t have been said I’m sure the officer himself who said that regrets it… he didn’t meant to say that what he will have meant to say was this person appears credible and when the press put pressure he unfortunately said credible and true… that was a mistake it was unfortunate and it vested people’s confidence in the investigation from there on….’ (text taken from the subtitles.)
There have been calls for Commissioner Dick to consider her position. There has been no response to that however her Deputy Commissioner 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.’
By the way the Henriques report says ‘Operation Midland was conducted incompetently, negligently and almost with institutional stupidity.’
Have we not heard the word institutional expedited in regards to the Met before? Of course we have! It was Sir William MacPherson who said ‘institutional racism …. permeates the Metropolitan Police Service.‘
Its almost as if the Met has a collective consciousness that somehow excuses them of certain types of wrong. Certainly the Henriques report used that word (institutional) because the force’s police officers had an almost unshakeable belief they were right, and that was despite a number of warnings they had been given by other top legal advisors. As the tweets below show, the police went on to plough through a number of lives quite wrongly with that unshaken belief they held.
Warr is quite right when he implies the Met were among a bunch of willing helpers. If one got mugged and they had accomplices too – wouldn’t one want to see these accomplices also served justice? Exactly! So why have the Met Police not been taken to court for it? The reason is the law says they can’t be taken to court, its an immunity of considerable extent – and that is a major problem in terms of modern policing.
We can all make mistakes, of course; but now that the Met have lost their battle to prevent Sir Richard Henriques’s devastating report being published virtually in full, we can at last fully understand that the words ‘credible and true’ were not the sloppy usage of one middle-ranking officer. They were part of a policy. (Source: Telegraph)
Exactly! Henriques stressed again and again the Met were quite strong in their bias when it came to believing the claims of their ‘Nick.’ He says:
The plain intended consequence of this policy is that, by believing allegations when they are made, the investigation is started with no existing doubt. Doubt or indecision at the start of an investigation is the hallmark of impartiality. A starting point that eliminates doubt has the hallmark of bias. (p25 of the Henriques report.)
Its absolutely clear that even when one has convictions one must have doubts. Its quite scientific – in fact a sort of internalised falsifiability. Its a means of checking and double checking to see if what one believes to be a truth must be checked against any possible untruths. Even Poirot has his doubts when he sees a fact is showing up very strongly and there must in fact be a simpler and more rational truth behind it.
Headlines at the Daily Mail – when the Met realised they had not one single bit of evidence and had been totally duped.
Geoffrey Robertson QC has said Operation Midland may well lead to the end of police immunity:
Mr Robertson predicted that the result of Operation Midland may be that the police will lose their historic immunity from being sued for negligence. “The negligence in this case was so gross and so repetitive and so damaging to innocent individuals that the Home Secretary should decide that the time has come for the UK – like other advanced countries – to permit victims of police incompetence to sue for negligence and obtain compensation for it.” He said the Supreme Court may be moving in their direction after a recent decision by the Canadian Supreme Court to abolish police immunity for negligence, but it would be better it parliament passed a law to this effect. He said that a claim for negligence is the usual way for victims to obtain damages for losses caused by carelessness or incompetence but British courts have historically declared that police are immune.
I think this would be a good move. The fact the British police are immune from this strikes me as odd. Its not justice of any sort, especially when the investigation ombusdmans (IOPC, DPS etc) do appear to have an issue with impartiality. Of course they say they do not, but the problem is whether this is enough for some victims of injustice. They may sense that an injustice has been done and naturally that would be the way forward – to sue the police for negligence. It can presently be done but its very difficult and its the very rare case that sees this happen. I would agree this kind of action, if permitted as a normal course of the legal system, would see more of the current wrongs put right.
‘Operation Midland was conducted… almost with institutional stupidity.’
Its clear from the above there were many wrongs in terms of how Operation Midland was processed. The Met insist they went through the correct procedures however Henriques clearly thinks they didn’t, that the police acted unlawfully – especially in regards to obtaining warrants.
In terms of major misgivings, the police were warned on a number of occasions they were on the wrong path. Ben Emmerson, a QC, was given the opportunity to interview Beech. His view was Beech was a fantasist and he warned Met Police officers in 2015 of these findings. Emerson says the claims:
had a ring of outlandish fabrication about them. I also received a full briefing from the Operation Midland investigation team … I expressed my view to the investigating officers that Carl Beech’s allegations were inherently implausible, and that there were grounds to suspect him of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
This is interesting. The Met were warned that they guy was attempting to pervert the course of justice but officers continued regardless. That indicated the officers had removed any sense of impartiality with regards to Operation Midland.
Despite being warned by a QC, another police force and several other credible legal people, the Met continued its onslaught, even in early 2016 when the police had not yet even found a single tangible piece of evidence to back up their beliefs. As the Guardian reported at the time, the Met were still standing by their guy, who at the time was known as ‘Nick.’ ‘Most of the detectives drawn from the Met’s sexual abuse and homicide divisions believe Nick is credible.’
The Henriques report has a discussion, several pages long, on the notion of victims. According to Henriques the Met fell into this trap. Apparently a victim is classed as such when the courts have found the person (the attacker, the rapist, whomever) guilty. A ‘victim’ isn’t legally a victim before that stage of the court procedure – which is when the accused is found guilty. By describing Beech as a victim, well in advance of any possible court hearing, it seems the Met had already passed judgement on the matter and their minds were made up about Beech. This, according to Henriques, is what enabled the whole thing to snowball.
Extract from the Henriques report on the use of ‘victim.’
This is where, in her report, Report of the Independent Review into the Investigation and Prosecution of Rape in London published in 2015, Dame Elish Angiolini was careful to describe those in question as complainants. This is also recommended by the College of Policing and other bodies. Its a tough call especially as ‘victim’ is one word everyone naturally uses when they get to learn of a crime or an atrocity, its an emotive word, but it clearly could not be used in the way the Met had because it signified a totally wrongful consensus on the nature of Operation Midland.
Henriques says that if police cannot restrain themselves from using such emotive words then the investigation cannot be seen as impartial. In other words they had a bias.
Any process that imposes an artificial state of mind upon an investigator is, necessarily, a flawed process. An investigator, in any reputable system of justice, must be impartial. The imposed ‘obligation to believe’ removes that impartiality. (p23/24 of the Henriques report.)
The original Henriques report, redacted and published only in part, no longer seems to be on the Met Police’s website but a copy is here.
The Guardian today published an article with what most would consider to be the five main critical points in regards to Operation Midland:
- Warrants to search the homes of wrongly accused suspects were obtained ‘unlawfully’ after police misled a magistrate, the report finds.
- Scotland Yard officers agreed to publicly say they believed Beech when publicising their ill-fated inquiry, Operation Midland, the report reveals.
- The deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson, pressured detectives investigating Beech’s claims, according to the report.
- Beech’s incredible’ claims were littered with inconsistencies that should have led to Scotland Yard closing the 16-month investigation sooner, the report finds.
- Beech received information from Exaro, the discredited investigative news agency that publicised his claims, and other journalists that ‘misled’ detectives and led to them concluding he was credible, according to the report.
The much maligned Exaro News has since undergone a major change with a quite different news focus, however the reinvigorated website did a lengthy report on Beech’s trial.
I haven’t commented on any of the accused simply because my focus is on the Met – although I agree there are serious cases of abuses and there’s a context of historic CSA still awaiting the fullest possible investigations to be made. The failings of the Met will have of course inflicted a considerable amount of damage towards other inquiries where there are real victims and real perpetrators involved.