Operation Midland: blind justice gets a kicking
Operation Midland is closed. The Metropolitan Police’s investigation into allegations that a ‘ring’ of paedophiles operated out of Westminster is dead. After 16 months of lurid headlines and wicked whispers, the Met came up with zilch.
Midland is one of a number of inquiries that began after Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said in the House of Commons in 2012 that there had been “a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10”. He went on to call ex-top Tory MP Leon Britton “evil”. The Met called Nick’s claims “credible and true”. He was not an accuser. He was a victim.
Before the completion of an inquiry, let alone any charges brought or a trial, the people behind the inquiry knew its outcome. It was all credible and true. No evidence. No matter. The victim would be avenged. Objectivity and impartiality were no longer important barriers to justice. What followed would resemble not so much justice as a ritual cleansing, in which the morally right would purge the past and make clean the present. You might call it a witch-hunt.
Let’s review the coverage.
And we can begin with the Mirror, the paper that put so much stock in “Nick’, the man who said he knew children had been killed at sex parties. Nick said he had witnessed ‘VIP’ paedophiles rape and murder children between 1975 and 1984.
How many words does the Mirror tell its readers on the closure of Operation Midland, much of which was based on Nick’s claims? Nothing. Not a single word. Zippo. Wow, indeed. This is the paper that told its readers:
The Sun (front page): “VIP Paedo Probe Collapses”
Readers are asked, “Howe can he stay?” Howe is Met chief Bernard Hogan-Howe.
Page 4-5: “Probe was based on ramblings of a lying fantasist madman.”
ANGRY Harvey Proctor last night accused the Met of wrecking his life with a VIP paedophile ring investigation based on the ravings of a mad fantasist.
The gay ex-Tory MP, one of several prominent figures named by an anonymous accuser known only as Nick, wept with relief yesterday as the £3million Operation Midland inquiry shut down and he was told he faced no further action.
He said: “Operation Midland was based solely on the ramblings of a liar and a madman. The damage that has been done can’t be undone. The Met allowed me to be wrongly depicted as a paedophile, child abuser and child murderer by a fantasist. These are some of the worst things that can be said of another human being. Nothing the Metropolitan Police do or say, no weasel words of regret, can remove that indelible stain. I hope they are proud of themselves for irreparably ruining my life.”
To be innocent and accused of something you never did in such a public fashion is hideous. Proctor deserves our sympathy. For those readers late to the story, the Sun gives a potted history of Nick’s allegations:
He claimed he had witnessed Mr Proctor strangling and beating to death two young boys at one of these parties.
Nick also alleged former Home Secretary Lord Brittan, Britain’s most decorated soldier Lord Bramall, another senior Army officer and two ex-heads of MI5 and MI6 also attended sex parties in London.
The claims caused a sensation when they were publicised by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and the Exaro News website. The homes of 92-year-old D-Day veteran Lord Bramall and the late Lord Brittan were raided. And one senior detective described Nick’s claims as “credible and true”.
But doubts began to surface when Nick’s stepbrother and ex-wife described him as a fantasist who was having a mid-life crisis. The claims against Lord Bramall were eventually dropped. Police also found there was no case against Lord Brittan.
What say the police?
Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse yesterday insisted Operation Midland had been “handled well”. He refused to apologise to Mr Proctor and said: “I regret any distress caused to any individual but the Met can’t apologise for investigating serious allegations.”
But why were these allegations played out in public? Was it all a panicked reaction to Jimmy Savile, a man celebrated in life but in death dug up and beaten with sticks – a papal and British knight who had “groomed the nation”?
Page 10: “Met’s disgrace”
The Sun’s lead editorial is given to a review of the Met, the police force that not so long ago was harassing Sun journalists.
FROM start to finish there was a loathsome arrogance about the way Bernard Hogan-Howe’s Met Police conducted its “VIP paedophiles” witch-hunt. It was still evident yesterday even as Operation Midland was shut down in failure and disgrace…
They publicly insisted from the start the claims, from one man, were “credible . . . and true”. They turned out to be baseless smears blackening several distinguished names.
But no one is held to account and no one resigns.
And, despite zero evidence, no one prosecutes the “victim” for perverting justice or wasting police time.
The Mail (front page): “Humiliation of the Yard”
Only, they are not humiliated. They just carry on. The police do not listen. The police only tell.
Controversially, there are no plans to prosecute Nick, despite calls for him and a news website which peddled his claims to be put on trial for allegedly perverting the course of justice. One of the most extraordinary claims was that former Prime Minister Ted Heath persuaded former MP Harvey Proctor not to castrate Nick with a penknife – which was then handed to him to keep as a souvenir. The tone of the Met’s statement was in sharp contrast to its media appeal to ‘victims’ 15 months ago in which senior investigating officer Det Supt Kenny McDonald described Nick’s allegations as ‘credible and true’.
We should cheer this:
Mr Proctor last night paid tribute to the ‘free, inquisitive and independent-minded media, who have all supported me over the last year’.
Free speech matters. Journalism must not be regulated with licenses and a State-run board deciding what is and what is not important for people to know.
Mr Proctor said: ‘I believe Operation Midland should now be the subject of a truly independent public inquiry. ‘I consider that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, (Assistant Commissioner) Patricia Gallan, (Deputy Assistant Commissioner) Steve Rodhouse and (Det Supt) Kenny McDonald should tender their resignations. I believe Nick… should be prosecuted for seeking to pervert the course of justice.’ Lord Bramall told the BBC: ‘If they’d taken any trouble to put their effort into questioning the so-called victim, I think they would have found that (his allegations) were very unlikely.’
The Mail features the story over pages 4-5:. Guy Adams lists the “charge sheet” against the Met. He begins:
In December 2014, Det Supt Kenny McDonald held an emotional press conference and described Nick’s story as ‘credible and true’. McDonald has never explained why he made this extraordinary comment, given that Nick’s claims hadn’t been tested in court. At that point McDonald hadn’t interviewed a single suspect, didn’t know who the alleged murder victims were, and hadn’t found a single body.
So why did the police make such a big noise about the investigation? And how is it that amid the talk of VIPs and powerful people getting way with it, not a single top copper’s name – alive or dead – was dragged into the mire? But surely the biggest issue is that the failures of Operation Midland make us suspicious of all other investigations into past crimes. In the rush to look on the public’s side and morally correct, the police have damaged their own reputation and made us wary of complainants who allege they are victims of a cover up.