Police previously said evidence would be referred to CPS; now concede there is no evidence to pass on
From the BBC:
A former head of the British army has said he is pleased he faces no further action in connection with allegations of historical child abuse.
Lord Bramall, 92, was interviewed under caution by police on 30 April 2015.
…He said the letter the [Metropolitan Police] had sent him was “pretty grudging, but at least I’m in the clear”.
Lord Bramall added it was “complete self-justification” by the police, who he claimed “had not behaved very well”.
Along with this private statement to Bramall, the Met has issued a public announcement under the bland headline “Man interviewed by Operation Midland faces no further action”, which states that the matter is being dropped due to “insufficient evidence”. This implies that the allegation is simply unproven, when in fact most reasonable observers will take the view that Bramall has been the victim of a false accuser and that the matter should have been dropped months ago.
Bramall’s accuser currently has legal anonymity, although the media have given him the pseudonym “Nick”. Nick’s claims are wide-ranging to the point of extravagance, but they evolved over a period of time. First, he accused a deceased relative of abusing him in the 1970s and 1980s; then, he made a claim about a paedophile ring; next, after posthumous allegations about Jimmy Savile appeared in the media, he claimed that the ring included the late DJ; after that, he named high-profile politicians who had previously been accused by others; finally, he alleged that that he had not only been abused, but had also witnessed three child murders. Two of these murders supposedly occurred at paeodophile orgies involving VIPs, while in the third instance a friend was deliberately run over by a car in Kingston-on-Thames.
Other details related by Nick include the claim that soldiers used to pin Remembrance Day poppies onto his bare skin as form of torture, and that he had seen a boy tied to a table and stabbed multiple times. These stories strike me as closely related to the kind of inversions and rituals that are associated with Satanic Ritual Abuse claims (hence my interest). One particularly outlandish anecdote is that on one occasion he faced being castrated by Harvey Proctor MP, who was persuaded to desist by a fellow orgiast, former Prime Minister Ted Heath.
Nick’s claims (not all of which were initially disclosed to the public) were at first infamously described by the lead investigating officer as “credible and true”; however, by September 2015 word had reached the media that nothing could be substantiated, and the police conceded that this expression should not have been used. Shortly afterwards, BBC Panorama undertook extensive efforts to track down evidence of the supposed murder in Kingston-on-Thames, and found no record or memory of any such incident. Operation Midland was then folded into Operation Fairbank, which was set up to deal with “Non Recent Allegations of Child Abuse”. This seemed to me to be an attempt to wind Midland down while maintaining face.
Meanwhile, the Met issued a statement on “Historic child abuse investigations and Operation Midland” which explained that
The integrity of our investigation is paramount, and the public can have confidence that allegations of homicide are being investigated thoroughly. Our officers have the resources to test all the evidence, and we have not yet completed this task. It is then for the Crown Prosecution Service to make a decision on whether to prosecute.
However, according to the new statement, relating to Lord Bramall:
Following a thorough investigation officers have concluded there is insufficient evidence to request the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider charging the man with any offences.
This decision was taken by the Met in accordance with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) ‘Guidance on Charging’. The Met have been in discussion with the CPS during the enquiry and they are aware of the decision in this case.
…The DPP ‘Guidance on Charging’ sets out the responsibility of the police to assess cases before referral to the CPS to ensure the ‘Full Code Test’ can be met on the available evidence. Equally, the guidance also details the responsibility of the police for taking “no further action” in any case that cannot meet the appropriate evidential standard.
So, in this instance at least it was not in fact “for the Crown Prosecution Service to make a decision”; in cases where there is no evidence, there is no need to make a referral to the CPS at all. The above statement verges on the comic in its determination to leave the impression that the police did not so much make a decision as simply follow CPS requirements, but this is a transparent attempt to pass the buck. How much back-and-forth was there between the Met and the CPS over who would finally take responsibility? (1)
It looks to me that the police have dragged things out unnecessarily. It dug itself into a hole with the “credible and true” comment, and it was reluctant to discharge its responsibility to clear Bramall as quickly as possible lest it be accused of some sort of “establishment cover up”. There is also a reasonable suspicion that the new announcement was timed for publication on the same day that it was finally confirmed that the courts would not be considering child abuse allegations against the late Lord Janner. In Janner’s case, the CPS has conceded that there was a case to answer that should have been brought before the courts some years ago; the Met would have found it useful for the media to be concentrating on the CPS’s failure to deal with a man who may have been guilty, rather than on the police persecution of an innocent man.
And even now, Harvey Proctor remains under a cloud of suspicion thanks to Nick. There is no realistic prospect that Nick’s allegations will lead to a successful prosecution, and Proctor ought to have been cleared alongside Bramall. Instead, however, it appears that the police have been trawling Proctor’s private life going back to his 1960s student days in a desperate attempt to come up with a substitute accusation.
UPDATE: A detail from Max Hastings in the Sun:
Pals of Lord Bramall said he had been “through hell”, and revealed that some of the allegations included the bizarre claim he had been at Jimmy Savile’s pool parties…
[Bramall’s] pal, historian and journalist Sir Max Hastings, yesterday revealed allegations put to Lord Bramall included the Savile pool parties, and attacks in the 1970s in periods when the peer wasn’t even serving in Britain.
Sir Max said: “Anyone who knew Edwin Bramall would find this incredible…”
UPDATE 2: Coverage in the Daily Mail includes a text box titled “So is everything ‘Nick’ told Met a pack of lies?” (published online as a .jpeg), which mentions in passing that
Another man, Darren, said Lord Bramall abused him – police quickly found this to be “unsubstantiated”.
This is not correct – no other source is claiming that Bramall faced two accusers, and “Darren” himself has sent a message denying having made any such allegation.
The man, known only as ‘Darren’, said he was forced to attend sadistic sex parties at the Dolphin Square complex. He said a girl may have been killed and named Lord Brittan as one of his abusers.
But police confirmed that detectives had ‘fully investigated’ the allegations and found them to be ‘unsubstantiated’.
BBC Panorama found an email that Darren had written two years before, denying that Brittan had abused him and describing Brittan as a “poor man”; he subsequently retracted his allegations in December.
In fact, the police’s “unsubstantiated” assessment probably refers to Darren’s claim that in 1992, while doing work experience at a country estate in Suffolk, he had witnessed Peter Righton murder a man with Down’s Syndrome by using two cars to tear him apart. However, Darren’s dates did not match Righton’s residency, and the idea of a man with a registered learning disability disappearing unnoticed in 1992 is highly implausible. Darren has a long history of troubled and erratic behaviour, including making false a confession to a murder and making a fake bomb threat.
UPDATE 3: Exaro News, which has heavily invested in Nick’s allegations, has noted the new development by adding a cursory update to a story it published in March 2015.
UPDATE 4: On 18 January, the London Times ran an editorial that contained the detail that
In a letter to Lord Bramall’s lawyers, the Met protests that rumours existed even before the police investigation. Yet this does not absolve the police of responsibility for stoking them.
The notion of the police deciding to act because of “rumours” is an absolutely appalling proposition. But it’s particularly odd given that there have in fact never been any “rumours” about Lord Bramall. Assuming the Times‘s account is accurate (and there is doubt – an earlier version online apparently referred to Bramall’s “arrest”, when he was never arrested), the police are confused. It is true that conspiracy websites have been promoting claims about “VIP paedophiles” for years, but these stories have centred for the most part on politicians. Nick drew on these accounts in his complaints to police, but the military claims are his own distinctive contribution. More on Nick’s military focus here.
(1) The CPS has been known to act in exactly the same way – hence its bizarre refusal in December to confirm that Janner’s death meant the end of the legal process.