Priti Patel signalled a dramatic new intervention into Scotland Yard’s disastrous VIP child sex abuse investigation yesterday.
The Home Secretary admitted there were ‘outstanding questions’ about the Operation Midland scandal and urged MPs to launch an ‘all-encompassing’ inquiry.
It escalated tensions between Miss Patel and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, after the Home Secretary refused to declare confidence in her earlier this month.
Home Secretary Priti Patel, pictured, wants MPs to launch an inquiry into the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the Operation Midland scandal
Officials in the Home Office and PM Boris Johnson confirmed that Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, pictured, had the backing of Government
Her aides and the Prime Minister later insisted Britain’s most senior police chief had the backing of the Government.
Miss Patel revealed for the first time yesterday that she will meet retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, who has urged her to order an independent criminal investigation into five detectives at the centre of the scandal – and the watchdogs who cleared them.
The Home Secretary said yesterday: ‘There are outstanding questions. I would like to meet with Sir Richard primarily to understand effectively the processes, what has happened, what went wrong.’
She told MPs on the home affairs select committee: ‘This is a difficult issue, because obviously there is a historic timeline where evidence was collected.
‘There is more that clearly needs to be done here. I will absolutely follow the inquiries that the committee is holding. I think I do definitely need to ask some questions in terms of what has happened.’
Sir Richard’s concerns focus on the way Scotland Yard ‘acted unlawfully’ in giving a district judge false information used to obtain search warrants to raid the homes of former home secretary Lord Brittan, D-Day hero Lord Bramall and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.
Sir Richard said in an article in the Mail: ‘There are reasonable grounds to believe that criminal acts have been committed.’ He also blasted officials at the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) watchdog for the way they handled an inquiry into the shambolic Operation Midland investigation. Sir Richard said the ‘apparent condoning of police criminality by its notional watchdog, will inevitably give rise to allegations of political manipulation of the police’, and of ‘an orchestrated cover-up’ and ‘corruption at the highest level’.
Miss Patel yesterday urged Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs select committee, to significantly expand the scope of an inquiry already announced into the IOPC.
Miss Patel revealed for the first time yesterday that she will meet retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, who has urged her to order an independent criminal investigation into five detectives at the centre of the scandal – and the watchdogs who cleared them
‘I would actually urge… to go wider than that, to look at an all-encompassing Operation Midland inquiry, primarily as you’ve highlighted some key questions around accountability, the way warrantry came up,’ she said. Committee member Tim Loughton asked Miss Patel about the ‘extraordinary revelations that have been in the Daily Mail in the last week’. ‘Yet no heads have rolled, and many of the senior officers involved in that whole operation still hold senior positions,’ he said.
‘Why haven’t any heads rolled and what do you propose to do about it?’
Miss Patel replied: ‘This is a very, very sensitive issue, as we all know, and I myself when I first became Home Secretary actually met some of the victims of Operation Midland and I always like to reiterate my sympathy, and also the way in which they’ve been represented themselves throughout what has been a terrible, terrible time.’
She added that she would reply to points raised by Sir Richard in his open letter, published in the Mail on February 12. And she volunteered to give further evidence to the committee at a later date.
Yesterday the Mail revealed how the judge who signed the search warrants, Howard Riddle, has demanded a criminal inquiry into the Metropolitan Police’s role.
Mr Riddle said he had no reason to doubt Sir Richard Henriques’ conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a criminal offence was committed by the police who obtained the warrants.
Former Chancellor Lord Lamont, a close friend of the late Lord Brittan, was among the grandees backing calls for a full inquiry last night. He said: ‘The Home Secretary ought to be looking closely into this as it is extraordinary that no one has been disciplined over it.’
Conservative peer Lord Lexden, who raised the Operation Midland scandal in the House of Lords earlier this month, praised the Mail’s coverage of the saga. ‘Given we have heard from Sir Richard Henriques and now from the judge who dealt with the application for search warrants, the case for further investigation is in my judgment absolutely unanswerable,’ he said.
Dame Cressida Dick insists she ‘won’t quit’
Dame Cressida Dick shrugged off mounting pressure to quit yesterday.
The Metropolitan Police commissioner rejected the idea that she no longer enjoyed the Home Secretary’s support following a radio interview in which Priti Patel failed three times to say that she had confidence in her after the force’s botched Operation Midland investigation into a VIP paedophile ring.
Dame Cressida told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee: ‘My job is to make sure we have the strongest possible Met for now and in the future, medium term and long term, and I’m completely focused on that.
‘In terms of the comments that you talk about, the Home Secretary through the Home Office immediately after the interview gave her full confidence in me.’
She added she enjoyed ‘very productive working relationship’ with Miss Patel.
The eight burning questions that need answers
1 Why did the Metropolitan Police take nine months to correct the phrase ‘credible and true’ by a senior officer to describe Carl Beech? The use of this phrase by Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald in December 2014 undermined the principle of ‘innocent before proven guilty’, set the tone for the shambolic investigation and was used in the search warrant applications for Lord Bramall, Lady Brittan and Harvey Proctor.
2 What role did ‘gold commander’ Steve Rodhouse, the mastermind of Operation Midland, have in the decision to raid the homes? The search warrant applications said they had been considered at DAC level – a reference to then-Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mr Rodhouse.
3 Why did Mr Rodhouse, as the head of the unprecedented investigation, not scrutinise the warrant applications very closely before authorising them?
4 There were several major inconsistencies in Beech’s accounts contained in a police document. Who compiled this document, who saw it and who decided to say there were no undermining factors in Beech’s accounts? This is a critical issue at the heart of Sir Richard Henriques’ claims that officers applying for search warrants did not act with due diligence and good faith.
5 Was then-Met Chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe briefed ahead of the raids and did he raise concerns? He has tried to distance himself from Operation Midland but senior sources say there needs to be clarity about what he knew. How much contact did Sir Bernard have with officers on the case?
6 Why were two serial liars known as ‘A’ and ‘B’ – who supported Beech’s false allegations – not investigated and charged with perverting the course of justice? In his bombshell 2016 report, Sir Richard recommended that the pair face criminal proceedings but despite his report being fully accepted by Sir Bernard, the Met did not carry out Sir Richard’s instructions and refuses to explain why they were not prosecuted.
7 In December 2015, a senior CPS official urged detectives to abandon the investigation immediately. The advice was based on a leading psychologist’s evaluation of Beech, who cast ‘serious doubts’ on his claims. But although Lord Bramall was formally cleared a few weeks later, Mr Rodhouse kept the inquiry going until March 2016 – keeping innocent Mr Proctor in suspense.
8 How could Cressida Dick authorise the setting up of Operation Midland? Among Beech’s ludicrous claims were that he was used as a ‘human dartboard’ by the heads of MI5 and MI6, had his horse shot by the VIP paedophile gang and was forced by Lord Bramall to eat his vomit. If Beech had really witnessed all this, why was he still alive?