- Scotland Yard said it refused to drop a baseless rape claim against Brittan
- Officers said CPS told them 4 times there were no grounds to charge him
- Refused to abandon case for almost 3 years – hounding him until his death
- Sir Bernard seemed to blame caseload as it had ‘lots’ of sex crime inquiries
Lydia Willgress for MailOnline
Stephen Wright for the Daily Mail
20:00 EST, 16 October 2015
08:43 EST, 17 October 2015
Scotland Yard chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe is under pressure to quit after the force admitted it refused to drop a baseless rape claim against former Home Secretary Leon Brittan over fears of a public backlash.
Sir Bernard seemed to blame his caseload, which he said included ‘lots’ of sex crime inquiries involving high-profile figures, for the decision.
Senior officers confessed they were told four times by the Crown Prosecution Service that there were no grounds to charge the Tory peer over the historical allegations.
But they stubbornly refused to abandon the case for almost three years and hounded him until his death in January.
Scotland Yard chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (pictured) is under pressure to quit after the force admitted it refused to drop a baseless rape claim against former Home Secretary Leon Brittan over fears of a public backlash
In a lengthy statement yesterday, the Metropolitan Police admitted detectives had been aware since September 2013 that there was ‘not a strong case’ against Lord Brittan.
But they claimed that a decision to scrap the prosecution against such a high-profile public figure ‘would undoubtedly have resulted in media criticism and public cynicism’.
Last night a friend of Lord Brittan said this was a ‘tacit admission’ that detectives continued the highly damaging and hurtful investigation for purely political reasons, adding: ‘That is about as far away from natural justice as you can get.’
The Yard statement raises fresh questions for deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, who championed the case against Lord Brittan and demanded the CPS pursue it despite the lack of evidence. He has refused to apologise for unjustly blackening the peer’s name.
Senior officers confessed they were told four times by the Crown Prosecution Service that there were no grounds to charge the Tory peer, pictured with his wife, over the historical allegations
Sir Bernard also claimed yesterday that he ‘couldn’t remember’ whether he had been informed that there was no evidence against Lord Brittan.
‘We investigate about 800,000 crimes, so I just can’t remember,’ he said. Critics pointed out that very few of those crimes would involve serious sexual allegations against a former home secretary.
In an attempt to distance Sir Bernard from the shambles, the statement added that it would not have been ‘appropriate for the commissioner to interfere in the investigation into a rape allegation, whoever was involved’.
He added: ‘I am quite happy to apologise if I got something wrong. I just want to make sure we establish the facts.
HOW THE MET KEPT ON HOUNDING HIM
November 2012 A woman known as Jane tells South Yorkshire Police she was raped by Lord Brittan in London in 1967. The case was passed to the Metropolitan Police.
August 2013 The Crown Prosecution Service says there is not enough evidence to charge him and sends the file back to the Met for the FIRST time.
February 2014 Jane tells police she is upset that Lord Brittan has not been interviewed.
April 2014 Commander Graham McNulty, boss of the sexual offences unit, orders a review of the rape investigation.
May 2014 Jane goes public with her allegation of rape against an unnamed ex-Cabinet minister. Tom Watson express his concerns about the investigation.
June 2014 The Met asks the CPS to review the file again – but it is bounced back to them for a SECOND time.
November 2014 The Met sends the Brittan file to the CPS once again – only for prosecutors to reject it for a THIRD time. A senior Met officer appeals.
January 2015 Lord Brittan dies.
February 2015 The Met asks the CPS to review the file yet again.
March 2015 Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan writes to DPP Alison Saunders requesting a change of CPS policy to allow files to be considered where there is ‘significant public interest’.
April 2015 Yet again the Met asks the CPS to review the file.
June 2015 CPS refuses to review the file for a FOURTH and final time.
‘We are having to get to the bottom of what did we know and when… we have to make sure we got it right.’
The Yard also admitted Lord Brittan’s widow Diana should have been informed that the rape allegation was baseless. The peer died in January without being told he had been cleared of the rape allegation, made by a Labour activist with severe mental health problems.
The close friend of Lord Brittan told the Daily Mail: ‘The underlying message is that the police went back to the CPS, time and time again, because of the pressure coming from Tom Watson and the rape accuser.
‘What it shows is that if you are a VIP, you are likely to be treated less fairly by the police than if you are a normal citizen. The Met has admitted they have acted in a certain way because of the political climate.’
The CPS first said there was no case against Lord Brittan two years ago. Yet it was only last week that a senior officer grudgingly informed his widow that there had been no evidence against her husband and apologised for the delay in informing her of the outcome of the case.
In its 2,050 word statement, the force included a detailed timeline of developments in the inquiry, sparked when the woman known as ‘Jane’ made an allegation in November 2012 that she had been raped by Lord Brittan in London in 1967, when she was 19.
The timeline shows that the CPS said there was no basis for a prosecution three times before Lord Brittan died, and again on a fourth occasion after his death.
The Met was unapologetic yesterday for its pursuit of Lord Brittan. Its statement said: ‘It was felt that these were highly unusual circumstances where the previous independence of the police to tackle sexual offending by VIPs had been publicly called into question.
‘A decision to take no further action in respect of this allegation would undoubtedly have resulted in media criticism and public cynicism.
‘Although the Metropolitan Police had concluded that there was not a strong case against Lord Brittan, the purpose of requesting a CPS view was to assess whether, in its view, it did reach the evidential standard.’
The force confirmed that ‘Jane’ was told in April that there would not have been a prosecution had Lord Brittan been alive, but admitted that Lord Brittan’s solicitors should have been told this at the same time, saying this would have allowed them to clarify the position with his widow.
In an apparent reference to Mr Watson, the Met said it accepts MPs’ contact with police is ‘part of their Parliamentary duties’, adding: ‘But the principle that police officers are independent when making decisions about operational matters is one we firmly adhere to.’
It added that the commissioner has asked a separate force to review this investigation to ensure it was properly conducted.
INQUIRY ADVISER QUITS AFTER ANTI-TORY PLOT
One of the key advisers on the child sex abuse public inquiry, Peter McKelvie
By Arthur Martin
One of the key advisers on the child sex abuse public inquiry quit yesterday – 24 hours after it emerged he had tried to wreck a Tory minister’s career with baseless paedophile allegations.
Peter McKelvie, a retired child protection officer, was to ‘assist and advise’ Judge Lowell Goddard’s inquiry ‘on all aspects of its work’ investigating historical abuse claims.
However, his position on the inquiry, which is expected to cost tens of millions of pounds, became untenable yesterday after the Mail revealed he was informed in writing in December 2012 by a Scotland Yard detective inspector that there was no basis for his allegations about the MP.
Despite this, on May 19 – shortly after the election – Mr McKelvie repeated the claims in a letter to Downing Street, wrongly insisting that the MP was linked to child molesters, and objecting to his appointment as a minister. Only a day after this emerged, the inquiry panel claimed Mr McKelvie had offered his resignation ‘based on his likely inclusion as a witness in the inquiry’.
But it is believed that officials accepted that the revelations would make it impossible for him to continue in his £300-a-day role. Mr McKelvie previously fed Labour deputy leader Tom Watson false information about a ‘No. 10 paedophile ring’. And last year he claimed that at least 20 VIP paedophiles abused children ‘for decades’.
Shouldn’t Zac apologise for smearing Leon Brittan? It’s not just Labour’s Tom Watson. Disturbing questions are being asked about multi-millionaire Tory Zac Goldsmith
Guy Adams investigates
On a spring morning last year, Zac Goldsmith invited a select gathering of fellow MPs to a meeting in a parliamentary committee room in Westminster to discuss an issue close to his heart: historic child sex abuse.
The cross-party group comprised about six people, including Tom Watson, who is now the Labour Party’s deputy leader.
On their agenda was a simple proposal: Tory MP Goldsmith wanted to launch a campaign to persuade the Home Secretary to order a public inquiry into historic cases of organised paedophilia.
Watson, who months earlier had used Prime Minister’s Questions to circulate extraordinary claims of a ‘powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10’, was already on board. But although the other MPs had campaigned for the rights of abuse victims, some still needed convincing.
‘When you look at the issue of historic abuse, there is an incredible amount of lies and misinformation,’ says a source with knowledge of the April 1 meeting. ‘So it was felt that before launching any campaign, there should be a discreet conversation about what its priorities should be.’
Multi-millionaire Zac Goldsmith speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester
The small group of MPs duly turned up to the meeting expecting to engage in an informal, off-the-record discussion about Goldsmith’s proposal.
Imagine their surprise, therefore, when they discovered that the multi-millionaire Tory had brought a journalist with him. This was no ordinary journalist, either. It was David Hencke, who writes for Exaro, an online news outlet famed for its controversial — and some might say highly irresponsible — coverage of so-called VIP paedophiles.
Over recent years, it has published interviews with several people who it claims were ‘victims’ of Establishment sexual abuse (some of whose stories I’ll examine in detail later), yet whose ‘evidence’ at times does not stand up to even basic scrutiny.
‘At the meeting, Zac said something like: “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve asked Exaro to sit in today,” ’ says the source.
‘No one was brave enough to complain, but it seemed highly irregular. This was supposed to be a discreet meeting of MPs, held in Parliament, to discuss a highly sensitive topic. Exaro’s track record didn’t exactly seem to dovetail with that.’
Quite so. Indeed, recent years have seen the news outlet publish a series of extraordinary articles, none of which are even remotely substantiated, alleging that such high-profile politicians as former Tory Home Secretary Leon Brittan, former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor and former prime minister Sir Edward Heath not only raped, but also murdered small boys.
Its credentials were debunked last month by the Mail, and then last week by the BBC’s Panorama, raising serious questions about Tom Watson, with whom Exaro worked closely. So far, so mucky. Yet in recent days, Goldsmith, who, unlike Watson had escaped scrutiny, has been dragged into this simmering row.
Central is a speech he delivered in the Commons last November, repeating unfounded allegations that a ‘former Cabinet minister’, had been photographed ‘in a sauna with a naked boy’ at Elm Guest House, in Barnes, South-West London — where children were abused during the early Eighties.
Though Goldsmith carefully did not offer any names, the ‘former Cabinet minister’ was immediately identified on social media as Lord Brittan.
After the Mail drew attention to that November speech this week, Harvey Proctor accused Goldsmith, who is the Tory candidate to replace Boris Johnson as London Mayor, of ‘smearing’ Brittan and called on him to ‘consider his position’.
Sir Samuel Brittan, Leon’s distinguished economics commentator brother, meanwhile broke his family’s silence by saying the 40-year-old MP should ‘clarify’ his statement and ‘clear my brother of these claims’.
Goldsmith has refused.
The twice-married socialite — he wed his second wife, banking dynasty heiress Alice Rothschild, in 2013 after his divorce from former model Sheherazade Bentley, with whom he had three children — is instead keeping his head down. (Incidentally, Zac’s swashbuckling billionaire father Sir Jimmy, the anti-EU campaigner, clashed bitterly with Brittan in the Nineties.)
As a result, Labour MPs want him to appear in front of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee to explain himself.
Should they succeed, it will doubtless be a fruitful exchange. Especially if they ask awkward questions about his relationship with the rogue news outlet Exaro (the brainchild of Tim Pendry, a Left-leaning PR man and friend of Jeremy Corbyn, and bankrolled by Jerome Booth, an investment fund manager and Tory party donor whose fortune has been reckoned by The Sunday Times Rich List to be about £185 million).
For a close analysis of Goldsmith’s extraordinary relationship with the discredited outfit reveals that they are close — with the MP helping Exaro gain a purchase on the levers of Parliamentary power.
Consider, for example, the Exaro reporter’s presence at that supposedly secret meeting of MPs in the Commons in April 2014. There, after a brief discussion, it was agreed to launch Goldsmith’s campaign and send a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May calling for an inquiry into historic child sexual abuse.
Exaro reporter David Hencke was no passive witness. Goldsmith asked him to address the MPs.
Hencke tells me: ‘I wasn’t there as a journalist. I was there to inform MPs about the detail of this issue. I gave them a briefing.’
A few weeks later, the letter duly went to Mrs May, signed by Goldsmith, Watson and five others, including Labour’s Simon Danczuk, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Lib Dem Tessa Munt.
It argued that eight cases of suspected VIP paedophile abuse should be investigated by the inquiry. And — surprise, surprise! — two of these cases were ones that Exaro itself had highlighted.
One involved a 30-year-old story about Russell Tricker, a British businessman who, Exaro claimed, had been arrested by Customs officers at Dover in 1982 in possession of a child pornography film that featured ‘a former Tory Cabinet minister’.
There was scant evidence to support this claim, which has been doing the rounds of wilder corners of the internet for years. However, the minister was swiftly ‘identified’ on social media as Lord Brittan. A second ‘crime’ that Goldsmith’s letter wanted a public inquiry to focus on involved a woman called ‘Jane’, who was allegedly the victim of ‘rape by a man who went on to be a Cabinet minister’.
Multi-millionaire Zac Goldsmith is the Tory candidate to replace Boris Johnson as London Mayor
Exaro had published a colourful interview with ‘Jane’ in 2014. No proper evidence was cited in support of her story, either. But again, the Cabinet minister involved was identified elsewhere as Lord Brittan.
In due course, the police discovered she was a veteran Labour activist with mental health problems, who had previously wrongly accused a close relative of paedophilia.
Prosecutors, finding several factual holes in her story, concluded there were no possible grounds to bring charges against Brittan. Nonetheless, the Goldsmith letter giving oxygen to these highly questionable Exaro claims was sent to Theresa May.
Very soon afterwards, Exaro published an ‘exclusive’ report revealing that Goldsmith and his fellow MPs, who its reporter Hencke dubbed ‘The Magnificent Seven’, were calling for a public inquiry into historic child sex abuse.
In the ensuing weeks, Exaro then ran a campaign in support of Goldsmith in which its readers were encouraged to lobby their MPs to sign up to his campaign. More than 140 MPs did, and in July last year, Mrs May announced that an inquiry would go ahead.
Now headed by Dame Lowell Goddard, a judge from New Zealand, the inquiry will cost around £1.5 million a month and is expected to last at least six years.
A casual observer could be forgiven for wondering if any major public inquiry, in modern political history, has ever been launched on such weak foundations. Having scored such a signal victory, Goldsmith and Exaro’s murky collaboration continued.
Early this year, the news website helped Australia’s Channel Nine TV channel with a documentary called Spies, Lords And Predators.
It purported to expose a ‘secret network’ of British VIP paedophiles who were responsible for ‘some of the most sadistic child sex imaginable on hundreds of victims, some as young as eight’.
The deeply distasteful film, broadcast in July, claimed Lord Brittan was a member of that ‘network’.
It also alleged that some members of the ‘network’ had committed murder, and it carried a tawdry ‘reconstruction’ of the run-up to such an offence, using a child actor being taken in a chauffeur-driven Bentley to Dolphin Square in Central London, where the VIP ring allegedly operated.
The TV documentary used several of Exaro’s discredited witnesses to support its allegations, including a man called ‘Darren’, who claimed that Lord Brittan ‘liked boys to dress up in lacy women’s underwear’ before he raped them.
Viewers were not, however, told that ‘Darren’ was convicted in the Nineties of making hoax bomb threats, has falsely confessed in the past to rape and murder, and emailed a social worker two years ago, admitting: ‘Leon Brittan never abused me, you know.’
As for Goldsmith, he participated in this dodgy, Exaro-sponsored film, saying in an interview that he agreed there was a ‘VIP paedophile ring in Westminster’ and he endorsed the absurd contention that this was ‘the biggest political scandal in British history’.
Dramatically, he declared: ‘I think there is very compelling evidence that very senior people engaged in terrible acts, and were then protected by the Establishment. I have no doubt at all about that. But I think the genie is out of the bottle.’
Goldsmith did not comment when the Mail asked this week if he wishes to disassociate himself from such comments, or the many false claims made in the Channel Nine documentary, including its allegations about Lord Brittan.
Neither would he respond to questions about Exaro’s involvement in helping draft his letter to Theresa May.
We can, in face of his silence, merely connect the dots.
Take, for example, Goldsmith’s speech in the Commons last November, in which he said he’d been ‘reliably told’ about the existence of a photo of a ‘former Cabinet minister in a sauna with a naked boy’.
There are only two likely sources for such a claim, both of whom have long-standing links with Exaro.
One is Chris Fay, a convicted fraudster behind much misinformation about Elm Guest House.
The other is a friend of his called Mike Broad, a 55-year-old council housing officer and trades unionist who lives in Surrey with his mother and who has spent the past two years phoning MPs and newspapers with elaborate (and demonstrably false) conspiracy theories about the venue, where he believes ‘half the Cabinet’ abused boys.
Goldsmith would not comment on whether he has ever met Fay or Broad, and the two men also did not comment. His spokesman merely claimed the Commons speech saw ‘Zac do nothing more than pointing out allegations of historic child abuse should be taken seriously and investigated appropriately’.
The spokesman refused to say who the ‘reliable’ source for his claim about the photograph was or to explain the decision to talk about it in Parliament, smearing Leon Brittan in the process.
This silence sits uneasily with Goldsmith’s long-time support of the Press-hating lobby group Hacked Off and the fact he has spent much of his Parliamentary career criticising the popular Press for supposedly spreading what he regards as false rumours.
As to Goldsmith’s relationship with Exaro, he also declined to comment.
It was a different story last year, when he showered the organisation with praise, in Parliament, saying: ‘I wish to pay tribute to the extraordinary work by the investigative journalists at Exaro.’
A year on, however, and profound questions are being asked about the veracity of Exaro’s reporting — which has led to many senior public figures being falsely accused of the most appalling sex crimes.
Goldsmith had an intimate relationship with this tarnished news organisation.
As this scandal continues to unfold, it remains to be seen whether voters in next year’s London mayoral election will punish him for helping to spread its scurrilous smears.