Scotland Yard chiefs 'covered up their mistakes' says new report

The shaming of Scotland Yard: Scathing ‘Nick’ report says Met Police were more interested in covering up their mistakes over handling of fantasist Carl Beech than learning lessons from them

  • Met chiefs more interested in covering up mistakes than learning from them 
  • New report revealed Scotland Yard did little to improve practices for three years
  • Senior officers ignored criticisms made by Sir Richard Henriques in 2016
  • Findings raise questions about the leadership of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who took over the force in early 2017 
  • Former High Court judge Sir Richard had identified 43 major blunders  

Scotland Yard chiefs were more concerned with ‘restricting access’ to a damning judge-led report into the VIP child sex abuse scandal than learning lessons from it, according to police watchdogs.

The Metropolitan Police’s shocking response to its disastrous ‘Nick’ inquiry is laid bare in a devastating report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary today.

It revealed the force did little to improve practices for nearly three years, training regimes were outdated and nearly half of officers polled in a survey had received no training on how to apply for warrants.

‘Inexperienced supervisors, weaknesses in understanding, inconsistencies and a superficial approach to supervising crime investigations aren’t the most promising findings to have to report,’ the HMIC said.

On another day of shame for the Metropolitan Police over the ‘Nick’ affair, the inspectorate report said senior officers largely ignored criticisms made by retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques in a 2016 review.

Pictured: Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick makes her way to Southwark Cathedral in London, before the funeral of PC Keith Palmer (April 2017)

His dossier identified 43 major blunders in the inquiry – known as Operation Midland – and made 25 recommendations.

The HMIC inspection found the Metropolitan Police had ‘initially not done enough to learn the lessons from the Henriques report’. 

‘There were things the Met could and should have done when it received the report on October 31 2016. However, the force only properly began implementing the recommended changes much more recently,’ it added.

Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, falsely accused of being a child sex killer by serial liar ‘Nick’, real name Carl Beech, said today’s report ‘clearly indicates the Met tried to cover-up its wrongdoings in Operation Midland’.

Pictured: CPS screengrab from video interview of serial paedophile fantasist Carl Beech, known as ‘Nick’ during Operation Midland, who made up claims of murder and rape (July 2019)

Pictured: Former MP Harvey Proctor, falsely accused of murder and rape (November 2019)

The HMIC inquiry was instigated by Home Secretary Priti Patel last October after the Daily Mail led the way in exposing the scandal of the ‘Nick’ affair after Beech was jailed for 18 years for his VIP abuse lies and other offences.

Its bombshell findings raise questions about the leadership of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who took over the force in early 2017 in the wake of the Henriques report.

HMIC inspectors examined a summary of the minutes of 16 ‘gold group’ meetings of senior officers at the Met which took place between February 2018 to August last year.

Its report stated: ‘We were left with the impression that the group saw no particular role for itself in overseeing implementation of the recommendations or ensuring that the Met had learned the wider lessons. The discussion was heavily weighted towards restricting access to the report, rather than learning the lessons from it.’

It said it believes it would have been ‘appropriate for the force to carry out some form of review into its use of search warrants’ while a police watchdog investigation into the conduct of five Midland officers was under way. 

HMIC investigators reviewed 61 search warrant applications which suggested that some officers making applications to raid properties still do not understand what they should disclose to courts.

Just under half (48 per cent) of 1,700 police officers who responded to a survey said they had never had any training in how to apply for a search warrant. The HMIC added: ‘Some officers told us the focus was on increasing the number of search warrants executed rather than improving the quality of the applications.’

HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said: ‘The Henriques report made uncomfortable reading for the Met and the force has been slow to learn the lessons.’

However, he added: ‘I’m pleased to see that, since October 2019, the force has been taking bolder steps to learn the lessons.’

How lies perpetuated by a paedophile fantasist were swallowed by police, fanned by Tom Watson, and led to the blighting of the lives of former MPs and Britain’s most decorated wartime hero  

Pictured: Former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, who identified 43 major blunders in Operation Midland and made 25 recommendations in 2016

Allegations made by Carl Beech sparked the million-pound Metropolitan Police investigation known as Operation Midland, with officers raiding the homes of several high-profile figures who were falsely accused.

Here are the key dates along the way.

2012:

  • December 6 – Carl Beech is interviewed by Wiltshire Police Detective Constable Mark Lewis after making a complaint about child sex abuse;
  • He says his stepfather, Major Ray Beech, and shamed celebrity Jimmy Savile, who died the previous year, both abused him. The force later marks the case as ‘undetected’ and takes no further action.

2014: 

  • October 23 – After meeting reporters, Beech brings to the Metropolitan Police a string of allegations against high-profile figures;
  • November 14 – Police announce the launch of the Operation Midland investigation into claims of ‘possible homicide’ linked to an alleged VIP paedophile ring. The investigation centres on claims by ‘Nick’;
  • December 18 – Scotland Yard appeals for information regarding the alleged murders of three young boys linked to the supposed paedophile ring. People who lived in or visited London’s Dolphin Square apartments in the 1970s are asked to come forward. A Met officer describes the allegations made by ‘Nick’ as ‘credible and true’;

2015:

  • March 4 – The home of former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor is searched by officers investigating ‘historic child sexual abuse’. He denies being part of a ‘rent-boy ring’ or attending sex parties. The homes of Lord Brittan – the former home secretary Leon Brittan – and Lord Bramall are later searched;
  • April 30 – Normandy veteran Lord Bramall, 91, is interviewed under caution;
  • August 25 – Mr Proctor denounces the allegations made by ‘Nick’ and claims he is the victim of a ‘homosexual witch hunt’;
  • September 22 – Alison Saunders, the then-head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), admits Scotland Yard may have ‘overstepped the mark’ in describing the allegations as ‘credible and true’;

2016:

  • January 15 – Lord Bramall is told he faces no further action and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, then Metropolitan Police commissioner, apologises to him.
  • March 21 – Mr Proctor reveals he has been told he will face no further action. Operation Midland is closed without a single arrest. Days later, the widow of Lord Brittan is told her husband would have had no case to answer.
  • November 2 – Beech’s three-bed home in Gloucester is raided by police.
  • November 8 – A report by retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques finds Scotland Yard made ‘numerous errors’ in Operation Midland.

2017:

  • September 7 – Northumbria Police passes a file to CPS to determine if ‘Nick’ should face charges of perverting the course of justice and fraud.

2018:

  • February – Aware that charges may follow from Northumbria Police’s investigation, ‘Nick’ flees the country to start a new life in Sweden.
  • July 3 – ‘Nick’ is charged with 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud.
  • October 20 – Having been extradited from Sweden, ‘Nick’ appears in court.
  • December 3 – ‘Nick’ is unmasked as Carl Beech after Judge Paul Sloan QC lifts a reporting restriction preventing the media from naming him.

2019:

  • January 22 – Beech pleads guilty to voyeurism, making indecent images of children and possessing indecent images.
  • February 18 – Beech denies perverting the course of justice and fraud.
  • May 14 – His trial begins with prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC describing his account to detectives as ‘totally unfounded, hopelessly compromised and irredeemably contradicted’.
  • July 3 – Beech stands by allegations he made to detectives when he gives evidence.
  • July 22 – The jury takes just four-and-a-half hours to convict the ex-NSPCC volunteer after hearing evidence including that he made a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority for £22,000, which was used to put down a deposit on a Ford Mustang.
  • The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) clears three detectives after looking into how a district judge granted warrants to raid the homes of Beech’s innocent victims.
  • July 26 – Beech, a 51-year-old former nurse and divorced father, is jailed for 18 years.
  • Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson is accused of being the ‘cheerleader in chief’ of the false claims. The then-West Bromwich MP had spoken with Beech in 2014 and raised the issue of a possible high-profile criminal VIP ring during a House of Commons debate two years earlier.
  • July 30 – Lord Bramall said it was ‘completely ridiculous’ that no officer involved had faced criminal or disciplinary action.
  • Sir Richard said police officers involved in the probe should be investigated.
  • August 8 – It emerges police spent £4,670 on a trip to Sydney only to find that Scott Masterton – named by Beech as a murder victim – was still alive, according to reports.
  • August 21 – Beech appeals against his conviction and sentence.
  • September 4 – It emerges the saga could cost the Metropolitan Police more than £4 million: £2.5 million for the Met investigation; £900,000 spent by Northumbria Police in investigating and convicting Beech, which will be charged to the Met; Mr Proctor is suing the Met for £1 million
  • September 9 – Mr Proctor said the Henriques report revealed ‘staggering incompetence’, and his lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said the investigation had been conducted with ‘institutional stupidity’.
  • October 3 – The Home Secretary asks chief inspector of constabulary Tom Winsor to review the force over the bungled probe.
  • October 4 – More findings from the Henriques report are released, which pinpoint the main cause of the investigation as ‘poor judgment and a failure to accurately evaluate known facts’.
  • Mr Proctor said should ‘consider her position’. The next day, he also called on Mr Watson to resign.
  • October 7 – The IOPC identifies ‘shortcomings and organisational failings’ but find no evidence of misconduct by five officers involved in Midland probe.
  • Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she is ‘deeply sorry’ for mistakes made in police investigations into the ‘appalling lies spun by Carl Beech’.
  • November 4 – Mr Proctor reported five former Met officers to the police in a bid to spark a fresh inquiry into their investigation.
  • November 6 – Mr Watson stepped down as deputy leader of the Labour Party, for ‘personal, not political’ reasons. Mr Proctor said the MP had done his constituents a ‘great favour’ by standing down.
  • November 12 – Lord Bramall, one of the victims of Beech’s lies, died aged 95.
  • November 28 – The court grants Mr Proctor £500,000 in compensation from Scotland Yard.
  • December 21 – Dame Cressida is referred to the IOPC over her role in the Beech investigation following a formal complaint from Mr Proctor.

2020:

  • January 17 – The Met voluntarily refers itself to the IOPC over complaints the force had failed to fully investigate two men known as ‘A’ and ‘B’, who gave accounts that apparently backed up Beech, for lying about being abused as children.
  • January 25 – The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) finds no evidence of a ‘Westminster paedophile ring’.
  • March 9 – Dame Cressida is cleared by the IOPC.
  • March 13 – Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) publishes its report on the Met’s response to the Henriques report.

A redacted copy of the Henriques report was first released in November 2016, with the Metropolitan Police publishing a much fuller version in October last year, prompting the HMIC inquiry.

In July last year Sir Richard used an article for the Mail to accuse Midland officers of using false evidence to obtain warrants for raids on the homes of leading figures accused by Beech.

Among those falsely accused by the former nurse were retired Armed Forces chief Lord Bramall, former home secretary Lord Brittan and Mr Proctor.

Scotland Yard said yesterday that it noted the criticism in the inspectorate report that ‘despite some initial good work, more could have been done after Sir Richard’s report was received’.

‘However, the Met was deliberately cautious so as not to impact on the ongoing criminal investigations into Carl Beech by Northumbria Police or the independent investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into the conduct of our officers,’ it added.

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