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

My hon. Friends are intervening in such a way that they keep anticipating the next paragraph of my speech. I will be coming precisely to that point, because it goes to the heart of this case.

Sir Richard, in describing the approach as “flawed”, said that use of the word “victim” to describe a complainant

“gives the impression of pre-judging a complaint.”

So confident is Mr Bailey, he countered that by

“asserting that only 0.1% of all complaints were false”— so, according to the chief constable of Norfolk, 0.1% of complaints were false—

“any inaccuracy in the use of the word ‘victim’
is so minimal that it can be disregarded.”

What an astonishing claim to be made by a senior police officer in this country! Not one complainant with whom Sir Richard discussed the issue felt that the word “victim” should be applied instead. On the issue of searches, Sir Richard concluded that they were simply illegal.

Sir Richard turns next to the question of belief, noting that a 2002 police special notice dealing with rape investigations read that

“it is the policy of the MPS to accept allegations made by the victim in the first instance as being truthful.”

A 2014 report on police crime reporting by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary recommended:

“The presumption that the victim should always be believed should be institutionalised.”

As my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg said, that approach represents a fundamental reversal of a cardinal principle of English law, namely that a man is innocent unless and until proved otherwise.

As Rupert Butler, counsel of 3 Hare Court, put it to Sir Richard:

“The assumption is one of guilt until the police have evidence to the contrary. This involves an artificial and imposed suspension of forensic analysis which creates three incremental and unacceptable consequences. Firstly, there is no investigation that challenges the Complainant;
secondly, therefore, the suspect is disbelieved;
and, thirdly, and consequently, the burden of proof is shifted onto the suspect.”

The second charge against the police relates to the evidence of witnesses. Sir Richard observed that

“prominent people…are more vulnerable to false complaints than others…They are vulnerable to compensation seekers, attention seekers, and those with mental health problems. The internet provides the information and detail to support a false allegation. Entertainers are particularly vulnerable to false allegations meeting, as they do, literally thousands of attention seeking fans who provoke a degree of familiarity which may be exaggerated or misconstrued in their recollection many years later. Deceased persons are particularly vulnerable as allegations cannot be answered.”

I emphasise that point to my hon. Friend John Glen—the allegations against Sir Edward are allegations that cannot be answered by him.