Lady Brittan blasts ‘fundamentally flawed’ police watchdog
LADY BRITTAN, the widow of the former home secretary, last night hit out at the police watchdog, accusing it of allowing Scotland Yard to trash the reputations of innocent people with complete impunity.
The 78-year-old was said to be deeply distressed after reading the findings of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which absolved all the officers involved in Scotland Yard’s disastrous Operation Midland of any wrongdoing. The force spent 16 months investigating fantasist Carl Beech’s false allegations of child abuse and murder against some of the country’s most prominent public figures, including her husband Leon, Lord Bramall, the former head of the Army, and Harvey Proctor, the former Tory MP.
Last night there were growing calls for the detectives who applied for controversial search warrants to be investigated for perverting the course of justice, after two judges said they believed they had acted “unlawfully”.
Lady Brittan, whose homes in London and North Yorkshire were raided by police weeks after her husband lost his battle with cancer in 2015, said the fact that the IOPC found no evidence of wrongdoing against any of the officers, showed the system was “fundamentally flawed”.
She has complained that Sir Richard Henriques’ damning review of Operation Midland laid bare numerous Met failings and it was extremely concerning that the IOPC chose to ignore them.
Her close friend told The Daily Telegraph: “Reading the IOPC report has been an incredibly difficult and distressing experience for Lady Brittan. The failings of the police are clear for everyone to see in the report from Sir Richard ... and the account of Howard Riddle, the former district judge who says he was misled by police during Operation Midland. Yet the IOPC has
found that nobody is to blame. Either the system is fundamentally flawed or we have reached a stage where innocent people can be traduced and have their lives ruined by the Metropolitan Police with complete impunity.”
In his review, Sir Richard described how more than 20 officers descended on Lady Brittan’s home while she was still grieving, and subjected her to a distressing, humiliating ordeal that included rooting through letters of condolence she had received. Detectives involved in the search of her North Yorkshire property were described as acting as if they were “looking for body parts” as they scoured the garden.
Sir Richard concluded the searches should never have taken place because in applying for the warrants the detectives had wrongly claimed Beech’s story was consistent throughout.
Yesterday, Mr Riddle, the former chief magistrate, who issued the warrants, said he completely agreed with Sir Richard’s findings and accepted that he had been “misled” by police.
Mr Proctor, who lost his home and job as a result of publicity surrounding the searches, said Mr Riddle’s comments represented a “tipping point” in the scandal. In a letter to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, the former MP demanded that an outside police force be appointed to carry out a criminal investigation into the matter.
He wrote: “Failure to institute such a criminal investigation will rightly be regarded as a continuation of a coverup. It is already believed that the MPS and the IOPC are ‘hand in glove’ over Operation Midland. This police investigation should be directed to question under caution the former MPS officers – DAC Steve Rodhouse, D Supt Kenny Mcdonald, DCI Diana Tudway, DI Alison Hepworth and DS Eric Sword – about the allegations.”
He suggested that Northumbria Police, which successfully prosecuted Beech for perverting the course of justice and fraud, would be the ideal force to take on the role.
Lady Brittan accused the watchdog of allowing the Met to ruin innocent people’s reputations with impunity over Operation Midland, in which her late husband was falsely accused