IPCC Clears Officers Over Handling of Operation Midland Despite Inquiry Finding “Significant Failings”

Yet another epilogue to the Operation Midland fiascoa statement from the Independent Police Complaints Commission:

…The IPCC has… discontinued its investigation into allegations [officers] failed to properly investigate allegations made by a complainant ‘Nick’ which lead [sic] to an extended investigation causing prolonged and undue stress to those under suspicion. There is no evidence to indicate bad faith, malice or dishonesty and no indication any of the officers may have behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings. The information available indicates the investigation was extensive and carried out diligently with the majority of the decisions made appropriately recorded.

…The IPCC has also discontinued investigating allegations that there were irregularities in the seizure of exhibits during the subsequent searches. There is no evidence to indicate that any of the officers involved may have breached professional standards.

This is par for the course with complaints about police misconduct or incompetence: we are told the outcome, but virtually nothing about the reasoning behind it. In November, an independent enquiry identified a litany of “significant failings” in how the police had handled Operation Midland – but it is not the job of the IPCC to explain to us exactly why these shortcomings, laid out in some detail in the Henriques Report, do not amount to cause for formal censure.

Within the narrow disciplinary remit of “professional standards”, officers are not accountable for decisions that were obviously flawed, or even incoherent, so long as they did not breach a specific regulation. Thus we are assured that there were no “irregularities in the seizure of exhibits”, but the police don’t need to justify why exactly they needed to impound so much of Harvey Proctor’s property, such as his shoe-horns.

Further:

…IPCC Commissioner Carl Gumsley said:… “It is… important to acknowledge the climate in which Operation Midland and the investigation into Lord Brittan were being undertaken. At this time there was much concern that cover-ups by the ‘establishment’ had taken place and there was widespread intense scrutiny on both investigations. The way both investigations were conducted should be considered in that context and in line with policies which existed at that time.”

Certainly, the police were in thrall to the climate – which was why Det Supt Kenny McDonald declared Nick’s claims to be “credible and true” before the investigation had even got underway – but this is hardly to their credit. We expect the police to enforce the law impartially, and not be at the whim of “climates”. And in any case, why does Gumsley feel the need to offer such a mitigation if he is confident that the investigation was handled properly?

The police have also contributed to the climate. Many people take the view that there is “no smoke without fire”, and in the context of conspiracy theories about “cover ups”, any determination that there was no cover up is simply further evidence of the cover up’s extent. Thus “Nick” still has his believers, who refuse to accept that his stories are untrue despite positive evidence that he misled the police and despite serious difficulties and implausibilities in his testimony.  Some of these enthusiasts are little more than social media trolls and fanatics, but several have public profiles in advocacy against child sexual abuse.

However, the IPCC hasn’t quite closed the book on Operation Midland: they are still investigating whether officers “failed to accurately present all relevant information to a district judge when applying for search warrants for three properties.”

UPDATES – 9 March

Police “not interviewed”

From the BBC News:

…The watchdog told the BBC that none of the exonerated officers were interviewed by IPCC investigators.

It said that, on the available evidence, there was no indication the officers had breached professional standards.

The watchdog also said the public statement by one of the officers – Detective Superintendant Kenny McDonald – that the allegations at the heart of the case were “credible and true” was not investigated at all because the Met had “not referred” the statement to them for investigation.

Again, I return to the subject of Harvey Proctor’s shoehorns. Much of Proctor’s property was impounded for no explicable reason, and we are therefore entitled to suspect that it was done out of spite or in order to intimidate – what in police terms is called “oppressive conduct”. Perhaps it would be impossible to uncover such a motive – but the IPCC hasn’t even made the attempt, by the looks of things.

A BBC clarification

The BBC’s Tom Symonds had a bit of fun on Twitter by suggesting that the IPCC had found Kenny McDonald to be “credible and true”.  However, the Tweet was (wilfully?) misinterpreted to mean that the IPCC had actually used this phrase, as a dig at Harvey Proctor and perhaps other critics. Symonds deleted the Tweet and issued a clarification.

Spinning the outcome

Meanwhile, Mark Watts, the former Exaro journalist who championed Nick’s allegations (while obscuring the most fantastical elements) announced the IPCC statement with a Tweet declaring “IPCC dismisses most complaints agnst officers on Operation Midland in face of Henriques review”. Here Watts, who styles himself as some sort of exposer of the establishment, actually goes further than the Metropolitan Police in his complacent interpretation of the the statement.

In fact, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor has conceded that “we did not get everything right” and confirmed in relation to the Henriques Report that “our work to carry forward Sir Richard’s recommendations is ongoing.”

Timing

There has also been some comment about the fact that the IPCC statement just happened to have been published on same day as the Spring Budget 2017, meaning that it is likely to receive less attention. According to the Telegraph:

Mr Proctor said he did not believe the IPCC’s assurance that the timing of the statement was ‘coincidental’, adding: “The IPCC  follows the well trodden path of the [Metropolitan Police Service] in managing news.”

Responses

According to the same Telgraph report, Proctor has described the IPCC statement as a “whitewash”, while Lord Bramall has called it “ridiculous” and “absolutely absurd”, noting that “the police themselves admitted they had got it so wrong.”

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