Leon Brittan’s widow today said it was ‘extraordinary’ that a fantasist’s claims of a satanist VIP paedophile ring were ever believed, as she said there ‘hadn’t been much justice’ for those falsely accused.
Lady Brittan, who sat as a magistrate for 26 years, said the Met failed to properly test the evidence brought by convicted perjurer Carl Beech, or ‘Nick’, that senior establishment figures including her husband met regularly to abuse children.
She told the Home Affairs Select Committee: ‘I find it quite extraordinary when you look at the unfolding of the events that anyone could have believed any of it.
‘When you look at who was being accused – busy people who were at the top of their tree – and yet they were accused of finding time to have two hours off every afternoon doing what they shouldn’t been doing.
‘None of the things that should have been done to try and test the evidence the other way were done. None of the counter evidence was ever looked at.’
Lady Brittan, who sat as a magistrate for 26 years, said the Met failed to properly test the evidence brought by convicted perjurer Carl Beech, or ‘Nick’, that senior establishment figures including her husband met regularly to abuse children
Lady Brittan – seen with her late husband at a book launch – told the Home Affairs Select Committee: ‘I find it quite extraordinary when you look at the unfolding of the events that anyone could have believed any of it’
Lady Brittan, was speaking at the Committee’s probe into the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), which was slammed by a top judge for finding no evidence of any misconduct by the five officers under investigation for the botched probe, known as Operation Midland.
She said there had ‘not been much justice’ for the establishment figures whose reputations had been trashed.
And asked by Tory MP Tim Loughton if the IOPC had learned from the criticisms levelled by former High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, Lady Brittan replied: ‘No I don’t believe it has….
‘I don’t feel any greater confidence of the IOPC than I did when [Sir Richard’s] report came out. I don’t think that it has moved on a great deal from the lessons of this extraordinary case.’
Meanwhile, Lady Brittan revealed that she had not heard the precise details about the false claims against her husband until after his death from cancer in 2015.
She said: ‘At that particular period of my life my husband was critically ill in hospital. He was so clear that his conscience was clear… but we didn’t talk about it.
‘I managed the death and the funeral, then the first thing I really got to know was when officers knocked on the door at 8am in the morning on March 5.
‘I was shocked beyond belief because I had no idea what it was about. Of course I had half followed what had been in the press but when you’re at that stage of your life dealing with someone who is very ill I put it out of my head.
Fantasist Carl Beech, a former nurse, falsely claimed that he was abused in the 1970s and 1980s
‘It was only later that I realise that the presumption of innocence had not been given… and that lots of things had been done if the police had been less in favour of the person doing the complaining.’
Lady Brittan also criticised the IOPC for not keeping her up to date with the details of its investigation into the senior Met officers in charge of Operation Midland, and failing to interview some of the key figures.
It came as victims of the VIP paedophile scandal accused Priti Patel of shirking her responsibility as Home Secretary last night after she dismissed growing calls for a fresh inquiry.
Miss Patel was under pressure to act after six of her predecessors said confidence in the police had been seriously damaged by Scotland Yard’s investigation into false claims by Beech of a Westminster paedophile ring.
Sir Richard has written an open letter to Ms Patel, published in the Daily Mail.
In it, he urged the Home Secretary to order an independent criminal investigation into five Midland detectives cleared by the police watchdog, saying that confidence in the criminal justice system had been ‘gravely damaged’.
He was backed by the former chief magistrate for England and Wales, Howard Riddle, who granted the search warrants used to raid the homes of innocent Establishment figures.
High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques carried out a damning review into Operation Midland
Mr Riddle also called for a criminal probe, saying the omission of crucial information on the warrants signed off by senior officers gave him ‘reasonable grounds to suspect a criminal offence has been committed’.
Widely viewed as one of the worst investigations in the history of Scotland Yard, Operation Midland was based almost exclusively’ on Beech’s testimony.
The former nurse said he was abused in the 1970s and 1980s. He was jailed for 18 years for perverting the course of justice in 2019, having been found to be a paedophile himself.
Miss Patel responded to Sir Richard’s concerns last night. In a letter seen by the Mail, the Home Secretary, who has overall responsibility for policing in England and Wales, said she had no legal basis to instruct another police force to intervene.
Praise for Mail’s exposé
The Mail’s ‘forensic’ reporting on the Midland scandal was praised by peers yesterday.
Award-winning Associate Editor (Investigations) Stephen Wright, who revealed police concerns about witness Carl ‘Nick’ Beech in 2015, was singled out by Lord Campbell-Savours for exposing a litany of police mistakes at the highest level.
At a House of Lords debate on police watchdog the IOPC following the Mail’s exposes, the Labour peer said: ‘My Lords, shouldn’t we congratulate the Mail, and in particular journalist Stephen Wright, for his forensic work in unravelling the Beech affair.’
Earlier ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor, a victim of Nick’s smears, said: ‘I wish to place on record my appreciation for the courageous campaign which is being conducted by the Daily Mail.’
However, she made no reference to calls by MPs, peers and legal experts for a public inquiry.
Instead, she said some of Sir Richard’s questions regarding the Met’s failed probe and the clearing of detectives by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) would be answered by those accused by victims of being involved in a ‘cover-up’ – Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and IOPC boss Michael Lockwood.
In her letter, Miss Patel expressed ‘great sympathy’ for those who have ‘suffered so much as a result of this dark chapter in the history of policing’.
She added: ‘I feel a sense of profound regret for the harm that has been caused to them, their families and others impacted by the errors of Operation Midland.’ Miss Patel pointed to the Metropolitan Police’s response to a probe she ordered by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to ensure the force had learned from Midland.
The report, when it was delivered last year, was scathing. It said the force was more concerned with ‘restricting access’ to Sir Richard’s review than learning from it.
However, Miss Patel added the Met was now making ‘good progress’ under Operation Larimar, a Scotland Yard project designed to implement his recommendations.
She added: ‘I shall consider how best to receive assurances that…allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse are investigated both thoroughly and impartially.’
In closing comments, she said: ‘The mistakes of Operation Midland must not be allowed to happen again. I believe that we have made significant strides towards achieving that aim and I will not be swayed until we achieve it.’
Lord Bramall’s son said the Government’s decision not to hold an inquiry was ‘shameful’. He added: ‘Operation Midland was a disaster from start to finish. Good men’s lives were trashed. I maintain there should be a public inquiry. It’s very disappointing that it has been decided that this is not required.’
Mr Proctor, who received almost £900,000 from the Met in compensation and costs after he lost his home and job as a result of Beech’s smears, said: ‘I regret that the Home Secretary has apparently palmed off on to the Met and the IOPC Sir Richard Henriques’ and Howard Riddle’s very important questions concerning alleged criminality by Met officers.
‘Failure to establish a public inquiry into the Met and the IOPC… will be regarded as a dereliction of duty by government.’
Miss Patel was under pressure to act after six of her predecessors said confidence in the police had been seriously damaged by Scotland Yard’s investigation into false claims by fantasist ‘Nick’ of a Westminster paedophile ring
And Lincoln Seligman, godson of former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who was smeared by Beech as well as being the focus of the controversial Operation Conifer probe into alleged historic offences, said: ‘As the Home Secretary acknowledges in her letter, she has ultimate responsibility for the police. If she accepts she has ultimate responsibility for policing then she has ultimate responsibility for sorting this nightmare out. She can’t just walk away.
‘She is responsible for taking action given that everyone else who could has shown a marked reluctance to do so and that will continue to be the case.
‘If she had any decency she would personally intervene, not leave it to people she know won’t do anything. Talk about kicking it into the long grass. I do really think it’s outrageous.’
Earlier, the Home Secretary had been accused of ‘hiding’ behind a junior government minister who revealed in the Lords yesterday that the Government would not commission a public inquiry.