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Established in November 2014, Operation Midland was set up to examine historical claims that a VIP paedophile ring operated in Westminster, with allegations that boys were abused by a group of powerful men from politics, the military and law enforcement agencies. The investigation was triggered by allegations made by a man referred to as "Nick" who claimed that he had been personally abused during the period 1975 to 1984.
The Police referred to Nick's claims as "credible and true" but, in a belated attempt to correct this, the Police statement now states that - "In September 2015 the MPS acknowledged that the use of the phrase "credible and true" at a media appeal could have given the wrong impression that the outcome of the investigation was being pre-empted. However, an open mind was retained throughout."
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.
As noted by Barrister Blogger (Matthew Scott), this is a "miserable outcome to a miserable affair." The Police statement comments that the Police will "not apologise for carrying out its duty to investigate serious allegations of non-recent abuse...." Of course the Police must investigate allegations BUT the complaint here is not the fact of the investigation but the manner in which it was conducted.
The Police statement also notes that - "The Commissioner has previously announced that Sir Richard Henriques has been asked to carry out an independent review of this and other investigations. He will make recommendations about whether there are ways to improve the process for all of those involved in it in the future. The key findings of the review and the recommendations will be published later this year, but the full review will contain confidential and sensitive information and will be a private report for the Commissioner."
"Nick" is entitled to anonymity. Individuals who became subject to either suspicion or investigation were not entitled to anonymity. Those making an allegation of almost any sexual offence are given anonymity under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. There is a power in the Act for application to be made to the trial judge to displace this.
Whether anonymity ought to be extended to those under investigation is a controversial point but a good case can be put forward for it given the immensely damaging nature of an accusation of sexual offending. See, for example, the argument in Halsbury's Law Exchange 3rd July 2014 :
" ... those accused of sexual offences ought not to be named unless they are charged. This would offer a person who is investigated but then exonerated the chance to move forward with their life without negative publicity. It would also ensure that if the CPS were making a charging decision they would look only at the offence charged and assess the weight of the evidence to see whether there is a reasonable prospect of success, rather than looking at numerous allegations and allowing potentially weaker allegations to be charged in order to shore up a conviction on potentially stronger cases – as happened in the case of Nigel Evans MP who faced allegations of sexual assault that even the complainants didn’t believe amounted to sexual assault, all so that the prosecution could use those allegations to support one of rape.
Once charged then it is right and proper that a suspect be named, as they would be in any other criminal case.
As to complainants, it is vital that their right to anonymity remains. They should only be named if it is subsequently shown that they have deliberately lied to the police and are charged with perverting the course of justice. This approach would encourage genuine complainants and hopefully dissuade wrongful allegations.
There is no perfect solution; the nature of our adversarial system is that there are winners and losers. We should do all we can to make the process before the verdict as fair and dignified as possible."
Whether one agrees with this viewpoint or not, it has to be noted that the law now contains "anonymity" provisions relating to teachers - Education Act 2011 section 13 - inserting section 141F into the Education Act 2002. The protection offered to teachers ends if the teacher is charged with a criminal offence.
Is there any good reason why similar protection should not be offered to anyone under investigation for sexual offences? Perhaps this debate is set to continue without action on the part of politicians to resolve it - see Parliament - Anonymity for defendants
The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976 gave anonymity to both complainant and defendant in rape cases but the latter was removed by the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 extended complainant anonymity to almost any sexual offence.