Operation Midland: Henriques Report

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 13th December 2016.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot 2:30 pm, 13th December 2016

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I was about to say that, such is the weight of evidence against the police operations, that time will not permit me to make more than a passing reference to them. I am afraid that I disagree with his view of Chief Constable Veale of Wiltshire. The chief constable’s recent assertion—his bravado—was quite unwarranted. Sir Edward has been dead for 10 years, but I wish to leave that point there, because I think others may well deal with it, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will be able in due course to make his case in defence of Chief Constable Veale.

These people have lost income. Paul Gambaccini told the Home Affairs Committee that he had lost £200,000 in income and payment of legal fees following his suspension from the BBC and other broadcasters. Harvey Proctor lost his income following his sacking by the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, to whom he had acted as secretary. That sacking was largely at the behest of Leicestershire’s constabulary and social services. Loss of the job meant he also lost his home on the duke’s estate and he is now living in an outhouse with no running water and no lavatory facilities. That is the hard effect of this travesty.

In addition, the distress caused is difficult to imagine. During the investigation conducted under Operation Midland and Operation Vincente, Lord Brittan died and Lord Bramall’s wife died, neither of them knowing that the investigations had both been wound up. In the case of Lord Brittan, who died in January 2015, it was well over a year before the Metropolitan police told Lady Brittan that the Operation Midland case had been dropped, and only when they were asked by her lawyers to verify a report in The Independent on Sunday did the Metropolitan police say that they would not have proceeded.

However, the distress was not confined to that aspect of the case. Lady Brittan endured the indignity of the search of her property. As she told me, 10 to 20 officers invaded the house. She said it was like witnessing a robbery of one’s treasured possessions, including letters of condolence and photographs, without ever being told why. The police were insensitive to her circumstances and never told her that she had certain rights during a search. In her Yorkshire house, the police asked if there was any newly turned earth in the garden, again without saying why.

As Lady Brittan says, while it was ordinary police officers who were instructed to undertake the searches, responsibility for the control of this operation rests with senior police officers, whose insensitivity and incompetence has been revealed.