Operation Midland: Child abuse inquiry ends with no charges brought

Harvey Proctor speaks at a news conference Image copyright PA
Image caption Former MP Harvey Proctor accused police of a "homosexual witch hunt" over claims he was involved in child abuse and murder

A Met Police inquiry into claims a VIP Westminster paedophile ring abused children in the 1970s and 1980s has closed without charges being brought, Scotland Yard has announced.

The controversial Operation Midland ended as ex-MP Harvey Proctor was told he faces no further action over claims against him of child abuse and murder.

He called on four Met chiefs to resign, but the force said it had been right to look into the single source claims.

The inquiry has cost over £1.8 million.

Mr Proctor, 69, who was MP from 1979 to 1987 for the Essex constituencies of Basildon and then Billericay, was interviewed under caution last August as part of the Operation Midland. He had always vehemently denied the allegations.

The investigation, which began in November 2014, was triggered by allegations made by a man in his 40s known as "Nick", who claimed he was abused for nine years from 1975, when he was seven, to 1984.

How one man's claims sparked inquiry

'Truly independent inquiry'

More people came forward to provide information but there was not enough evidence to charge anyone - although there was nothing to prove police had been knowingly misled by a complainant, the Met said in a detailed statement.

The 31 officers assigned to the inquiry have been released to work on other investigations, it said.

A freedom of information request made last year states that staffing costs for the inquiry were in the region of £1.8 million at that point.

Among allegations made by "Nick" was a claim that three boys were murdered by members of the supposed paedophile ring - including one resembling a boy called Martin Allen, who disappeared in November 1979.

Specialist investigators will continue to look into his disappearance - although as a missing person inquiry rather than a murder inquiry, the statement said.

Image caption Martin Allen, 15, was last seen at King's Cross Tube station making his way home from school in November 1979

Mr Proctor's lawyer was told the former MP would not face any charges in a three-minute phone conversation with a senior Met Police officer.

In a statement, Mr Proctor said Operation Midland should now be the subject of a "truly independent public inquiry".

He also called for the resignation of Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse and Det Supt Kenny McDonald, the officer leading Operation Midland.

"Nick" and ExaroNews, a news agency which had reported on the story, should be prosecuted for allegedly "seeking to pervert the course of justice", he added.

Detectives working on Operation Midland had questioned Mr Proctor twice - in June and August last year.

Mr Proctor, who admitted gross indecency after a newspaper sting in 1986 when the age of consent for gay sex was 21, categorically denied the later allegations, and said they had "wrecked" his life.

When questioned last year, he blamed a "homosexual witch hunt" by police for the claims.

What was Operation Midland?

Image copyright PA

Established in November 2014, Operation Midland was set up to examine historical claims of a Westminster VIP paedophile ring, with allegations boys were abused by a group of powerful men from politics, the military and law enforcement agencies.

The inquiry was also intended to examine claims that three boys were murdered during the alleged ring's activities. Operation Midland related to locations across southern England and in London in the 1970s and 1980s, and focused on the private Dolphin Square estate in Pimlico, south-west London.

Historical child abuse: Key investigations

Among others accused by "Nick" were Sir Edward Heath, prime minister between 1970 and 1974, former home secretary Lord Brittan. and the then commander in chief of UK land forces, General Lord Bramall.

Lord Bramall was cleared in January this year. Police said they had found insufficient evidence even to justify passing the case to prosecutors.

He told the BBC he was "thankful" the operation had been closed down, and he had been caused a "very great deal of distress" on the "single, uncorroborated allegation of one man".

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Media captionLord Bramall: "It caused me a very great deal of distress over a very long period"

Lord Brittan died last year unaware that an investigation into a rape claim against him, which he denied, had been dropped.

The police took Nick's claims very seriously and appealed for witnesses. Det Supt MacDonald said in 2014 that detectives considered what "Nick" told them to be "credible and true".

The Met later acknowledged that the phrase could have given "the wrong impression" that the outcome of the investigation was being pre-empted, and insisted an open mind was retained throughout.

Image caption Det Supt Kenny McDonald called the initial allegations 'credible and true', but the Met later said that could have given 'the wrong impression'

As it announced Operation Midland was closing, the Met said it recognised it had been "unpleasant" for those investigated to have their innocence publicly called into question.

However, the force said it would not apologise "for carrying out its duty to investigate serious allegations of non-recent abuse".

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rodhouse said non-recent investigations were challenging, but it was "absolutely right" that the claims had been investigated.

"Victims of non-recent abuse should have the confidence to come forward and know that we will listen to them, take seriously their allegations and investigate without fear or favour."

'Unfortunate error'

An NSPCC spokesman said: "It's vital that child sexual abuse allegations are fully investigated by police with an open-minded approach. Whilst many cases are extremely complex, swift resolutions with charges being brought or the accused told they will not be prosecuted is in the interest of all parties.

"It has taken many years for the public to believe that child abuse is a prolific problem but with disproportionate attention given to some cases over others there is a danger the progress that has been made will be tragically undermined."

He added: "Amidst all of the inevitable blame and counter blame as this operation ends we mustn't forget the victims of sexual abuse who will have suffered life-damaging experiences and, in many instances, are still seeking justice."

The founder of The National Association for People Abused in Childhood, Peter Saunders, called for a line to be drawn under Operation Midland so that police can continue to go after child abusers.

"The initial investigation and initial accusations obviously carried enough credibility and weight that the police felt justified in launching an investigation.

"Where they made an error was to refer to somebody's testimony as 'credible and true'. That was very, very unfortunate," he said.

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