According to the available evidence, on the 19th May 2014 DCI Paul Settle was removed from heading the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) investigation into paedophile activity by establishment figures. The previous September Settle had concluded, following advice from the CPS, that the investigation into a rape allegation from 1967 against Lord Brittan by a witness known as ‘Jane’ should not proceed as the allegation could not be ‘made out’ in law. ‘Jane’ was informed and later in February met with DCI Settle who explained to the witness why the investigation had been dropped. Unhappy with the decision, ‘Jane’ contacted Exaro News and Tom Watson MP, both of whom she had previously had contact with. Tom Watson wrote to the Director of Public Prosecution requesting that the decision not to question Lord Brittan under caution be reviewed and Exaro News reported these developments.
Media pressure mounted and by the 17th of May, the weekend preceding DCI Settle’s removal, a flurry of media reports appeared – notably on the Exaro News website and in The Mirror giving an account of ‘Jane’s’ alleged rape which, it was later said, differed from the statements given to the police.
What actually happened on the morning of Monday 19th May 2014 within the MPS, following these weekend media reports is difficult to ascertain. What we do know with some certainty is that DCI Settle had refused to interview Leon Brittan under caution, believing such a course of action to be unlawful and that as a consequence he was removed from the investigation. The decision to interview Lord Brittan was taken on the same day and on the 30th May Lord Brittan was indeed interviewed under caution.
The 19th May 2014 therefore marks a significant turning point for the MPS’s investigation into VIP child abuse and for many key figures. Not least DCI Paul Settle himself who following his removal was considered ‘rogue’ by senior MPS management and has spent the last 2 years in limbo. He also faces an investigation by the IPCC on trumped up allegations made by another Exaro ‘witness’ who was subsequently found to have been lying about VIP child abuse, known as ‘Darren’. As a consequence it is unclear how much longer the MPS will be able to count on DCI Settle’s experience and integrity as an available resource to them.
The 19th May 2014 was also a turning point for Field Marshal Lord Bramall and former MP Harvey Proctor, though neither could know that at the time, for it seems unlikely that had DCI Settle remained in post, the incredible allegations made by their accuser known as ‘Nick’ would not have led to the disgraceful situation that we can see now, for it was only a few months after DCI Settle’s removal that Exaro News published its first story about ‘Nick’ and his allegations and Operation Midland was conceived.
Much criticism has been levelled at Det Supt Kenny McDonald who led the investigation, especially for his public description of Nick’s allegations as “credible and true” but in the interests of fairness perhaps we should consider the context in which he came to the job. He would have seen his predecessor DCI Settle removed from his position by the MPS management for failing to do Exaro News’s bidding, he would have seen his predecessor labelled ‘rogue’and his career stalled. Given the circumstances, it is easy to see why Det Supt McDonald took the road he did. Under such pressure, it is certainly understandable even if it is not quite forgivable.
Less understandable are the decisions taken by Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse (but that is a different article).
The 19th of May 2014 not only marks a turning point for the high profile people mentioned above but also for genuine victims of child sexual abuse. Child abuse is not restricted to any strata of society. Cyril Smith, Lord Janner and Sir Peter Morrison are all examples of politicians that have sexually abused children and there are almost certainly others. I have always said that the best way of discrediting genuine cases of child abuse is to hype up false allegations building them higher and higher, until they eventually fall and bury the truth under the rubble of lies.
What is welcome is that the press seem to be differentiating between the genuine cases and the false allegations. It would have been a far simpler narrative just to label all allegations as false and the media much prefer simple narratives to such complex issues. Still, it will be harder than it has been over the last few years for genuine survivors of child sexual abuse to be heard, especially if the abuser is well known.
Leon Brittan died before he was cleared of raping ‘Jane’, the investigation unnecessarily extended due to media pressure and the cowardly inability of Rodhouse and others to admit that they were wrong to reopen the investigation. At least Lord Bramall is around to learn that this ludicrous investigation has been dropped but the fact that Rodhouse only notified Bramall and the press of this development on Friday evening, and that the statement should be so weak and equivocal reflects badly on those behind it.
It is media management at its worst and as a consequence pressure will mount on the Met to be more forthcoming about the paucity of evidence against Lord Bramall and their failure to recognise their mistakes and apologise to him.
I’ll end with one piece of advice to Steve Rodhouse and the Metropolitan Police Service’s management which I’m confident Field Marshall Lord Bramall will appreciate for it is from Napoleon:
“Never Reinforce Failure.”