Metropolitan Police Statement: Op Midland

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The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) recognises the media’s and the public’s interest in its historic child abuse investigations, and in particular, in Operation Midland. The focus of this investigation is on allegations of the homicide of three young boys. There are also allegations of sexual abuse but the MPS has made clear from the outset that this is, and remains, a murder investigation.

The historic nature of the allegations means this is a complex case where the normal avenues of evidence-gathering from CCTV, DNA and telephone data, are not open to us. These cases take time, but the public can have confidence that allegations from witnesses will be investigated thoroughly. We can all see the legacy that has been created by police and other authorities who appeared not to take allegations seriously in the past and the impact that has had on the confidence of victims to come forward.

There are particular challenges where details of the allegations and those facing accusations are in the public domain. This can create potential conflicts between media and criminal investigations, and have an impact on vulnerable witnesses and those accused. This has been especially true in Operation Midland, and we wish to highlight to the media and to the public the risks that our investigation may be compromised. We raised this concern when we initially appealed for more witnesses and it continues to be an issue. We also need to clarify our investigative stance in cases of this kind

Our starting point with allegations of child sexual abuse or serious sexual assault is to believe the victim until we identify reasonable cause to believe otherwise. That is why, at the point at which we launched our initial appeal on Midland, after the witness had been interviewed for several days by detectives specialising in homicide and child abuse investigations, our senior investigating officer stated that he believed our key witness and felt him to be ‘credible’. Had he not made that considered, professional judgment, we would not have investigated in the way we have.

We must add that whilst we start from a position of believing the witness, our stance then is to investigate without fear or favour, in a thorough, professional and impartial fashion, and to go where the evidence takes us without prejudging the truth of the allegations. That is exactly what has happened in this case.

The integrity of our investigation is paramount, and the public can have confidence that allegations of homicide are being investigated thoroughly. Our officers have the resources to test all the evidence, and we have not yet completed this task. It is then for the Crown Prosecution Service to make a decision on whether to prosecute. More significantly, only a jury can decide on the truth of allegations after hearing all the evidence. We should always reflect that in our language and we acknowledge that describing the allegations as ‘credible and true’ suggested we were pre-empting the outcome of the investigation. We were not. We always retain an open mind as we have demonstrated by conducting a thorough investigation.

In this respect, our approach in Operation Midland is the same as if we were investigating a contemporary rape allegation. Anyone familiar with the history of child abuse and rape investigations will recall that for many years, the first instinct of investigators appeared to be to disbelieve those making the allegations, which had a negative impact on people’s confidence to report to the police or other authorities. This undoubtedly led to crimes going unreported and un-investigated, and we do not want to return to that situation.

The media has shown in recent years how important they are in bringing issues concerning historic abuse to public notice and has been both challenging and supportive of the way in which police and the criminal justice system have adapted our approach. Reporting has also rightly questioned the official response to allegations. The media is also valuable in witness appeals and to show possible victims that they can have confidence their claims will be investigated.

What can be overlooked, at times, is that those making allegations are very often vulnerable individuals. A useful definition of ‘vulnerable people’ is set out in the Ofcom code for broadcasters (8.22). It is important to note that the police must take account of this vulnerability at all stages, irrespective of whether the allegations can be substantiated or not. We ask the media and those asked to comment to do likewise. We also think the press should consider following Ofcom’s approach by amending its code to recognise that vulnerability in reporting of crime is not just a matter of the age of witnesses or victims.

Our other main concern is the risk that media investigations will affect the process of gathering and testing evidence in our criminal investigation. In recent weeks, one journalist reporting on Operation Midland has shown the purported real identity of someone making an allegation of sexual assault to a person who has disclosed that they have been questioned by police concerning those allegations. This action has a number of potential impacts.

First, for those who have made allegations of sexual abuse, it is extremely distressing to discover that their identity might have been given to anyone else, particularly if that is to someone who may be involved in the case. Secondly, possible victims or witnesses reading the article may believe their identities could be revealed as well, which could deter them from coming forward. Ultimately, that could make it harder for allegations to be proved or disproved. This might not just deter those who could provide information for this investigation but also concern anyone thinking of coming forward with sexual abuse allegations. Finally, the potential disclosure by a journalist of a name may possibly hamper an investigation. Names will be disclosed by police to those involved in the case, but that will be at the appropriate time for the investigation depending on how those lines of enquiry progress.

We do understand that there are occasions when people making allegations of crime – including sexual abuse – disclose their own identity to the media and disclose facts associated with the case. Again, we ask that the media exercise care and caution when these are the circumstances and recognise our earlier point about vulnerability.

We would also like to make it clear that the Metropolitan Police Service does not name or confirm names of those arrested or interviewed. That is our clear policy. We will be as open as we can be about policing activity – for example confirming arrest activity – but not confirming the names of individuals. If a police employee revealed the name that would be a clear breach of policy and dealt with in the appropriate manner. Moreover, the Commissioner told the Home Affairs Select Committee in March that he supports the proposal for granting accused people anonymity until charge.

We expect the challenges for media and police alike to continue once witnesses start to give evidence to the Goddard Inquiry. We think it is important, therefore, to offer this context now so that journalists and police officers can continue to do their job, and pursue a shared interest in justice for victims and fairness to those facing allegations.

Met.police.uk

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Metropolitan Police Statement: Op Midland

  1. Andy Barnett

    Dare I say “I told you so” ?

  2. gw

    Fourth para deals with “credible” but the issue is that they were regarded as “true”. However I suppose its worth distinguishing the officer’s opinion that it is “true” and operations of the… operation.

  3. Andy Barnett

    I note the remarkable similarity between the acts described in the 10th paragraph of the Met’s statement today and the report by James Hanning in the Independent on Sunday (30th August) that he had shown a list to Harvey Proctor that contained what he believed to be ‘Nick’s’ real name. Could they perhaps be related?

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  5. Great comment to the Daily Mail article on the Met Operation Midland Statement:

    QUOTE: “Sounds like a bowing to political pressure to me. Whose future peerage is being threatened in the met?”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3244053/We-shouldn-t-called-VIP-paedophile-ring-claims-credible-true-says-Met-Police.html#ixzz3mQfnpxeE

    A very apt observation indeed.

    The elites who want to cover up VIP paedo networks are trying to intimidate the police.

    To be clear, the officer who originally described Nick’s allegations as “credible and true” was a Detective Superintendent.

    That is (roughly) the police equivalent of a Lieutenant-Colonel in the army.

    A senior and experienced officer of that rank would be very unlikely to make wild, irresponsible or unconsidered statements.

    I don’t know if Nick is telling the truth, but I do believe that Operation Midland is being obstructed and nobbled by very powerful persons.

    Let’s not forget that the godson of Prince Philip (Baron Mark Henniker-Major) has his estate searched by police dogs looking for dead bodies.

    Perhaps some very influential people have a reason to want Operation Midland discredited and sabotaged.

    Meanwhile across the pond in America, neo-con elitist presidential candidate Jeb Bush bizarrely wants to put Margaret Thatcher’s face on the U.S. ten dollar bill.

    Presumably the American public are unaware of Saint Margaret’s pro-paedophile cover-up activities.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34276001

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2015/09/18/irish-americans-insulted-by-jeb-bushs-pick-of-margaret-thatcher-for-10-bill/

  6. File simply titled “Sir Leon Brittan”, closed until 2022.

    I wonder what’s in it?

    http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11061595

    • Terribly sensitive information regarding the Libyan embassy shooting of Yvonne Fletcher and other onerous matters of State don’t you know old chap. Whatever are you suggesting quiet observer !

    • If you believe the safety valves like ‘private eye’ the security services had it in for the poor man because he was a Jew, in which case one would have expected it to be titled vicious paedophile activities of Sir Leon Brittan to be opened as soon as the ink dries.

  7. http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/423107/Teenage-rent-boy-who-spied-on-VIP-paedophile-ring-at-Westminster-vanished-afterwards?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+daily-star-latest-news+%28Daily+Star+%3A%3A+News+Feed%29

    Article on the alleged disappearance of a “rent boy” who reportedly spied on VIP abuse ring.

    (I know, the Daily Star is not exactly the most reliable source, but I just thought I’d post the link, for what it’s worth).

  8. Somewhat more nuanced than the daily fail ancien regime propaganda machine, although admittedly it does look like the wheels have fallen off. One would love to take the statement at face value, unfortunately there is much cynicism abroad due in no small part to the historic conduct of the police and cps. The complainants be they are adult or juvenile are often vulnerable is undoubtedly true, however, due to the aforementioned cynicism one has the option of reading it as the police meaning ‘take no notice they are lying/exaggerating/round the twist’. The allusion to ‘without fear or favour’, fine words but historically somewhat empty. The investigation continues – hopefully, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. They mention, albeit obliquely, media interference, a difficult one indeed, the media generally are as culpable as the police, cps and the rest of the establishment. If the police could be relied upon we wouldn’t need everyone looking over their shoulder, if the media were straight they could keep the police honest unfortunately we are fucked on both fronts.

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  10. Anonymous upon request

    It’s actually quite likely that the National Archives file on Leon Brittan deals merely with his invited submission to a Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (so unlikely to be related to CSA). The description of where the file is held and under what category of information it is filed can be found in the NA’s records. So that one looks harmless at this point, in all honesty.

  11. Andy Barnett

    For what its worth (and since noone else is offering a view), I will give my opinion of the report by James Hanning that he showed Nick’s identity to Harvey Proctor, albeit hidden in amongst a list of others. As I understand it, he did this as a way of determining whether Proctor recognised Nick and hence whether he is likely to be guilty. Proctor did not show any recognition, we are told.

    The only justification I can think of for why a journalist should be conducting this level of investigation is that they do not trust the police – either because of incompetence or corruption. This might be an acceptable defence, given the history of such cases. On the assumption, however, that Op Midland is both competent and not corrupt, such activities should have been left to the professionals.

    The defence that has been suggested for Hanning’s actions is that Proctor did not know that Nick’s identity was amongst those shown to him. The two problems with this defence are that by reporting his actions in the IoS, (i) it is now reasonable to assume that Proctor does know that Nick was amongst those shown to him, albeit he is unlikely to remember the face/name that he saw; and (ii) everybody else is now aware that Nick’s identity is known by journalists who have been happy to pass this on to his alleged abusers. Whether Proctor is now aware of Nick’s identity or not, therefore, the fact that Hanning reported his actions in a national newspaper means that any survivor thinking of going to the Police will now perceive a greater risk of their identity being leaked (and hence a greater threat to themselves) than they would otherwise have done.

    As the Met have now said: “possible victims or witnesses reading the article may believe their identities could be revealed as well, which could deter them from coming forward. Ultimately, that could make it harder for allegations to be proved or disproved.”

    We have to remember that our only chance for justice – our ONLY chance – is that the Police do their job properly. This means that those seeking justice should work with the Police not against them, and they must encourage, not discourage, others from doing the same.