I am grateful to be called to speak, Mr Streeter, and I am very pleased to be able to make a short contribution to this important debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Sir Gerald Howarth. Everyone knows him to be a very good man, but it takes courage and determination to raise this sort of matter. I warmly support everything that he said.
The cases in question have created widespread concern about how the Metropolitan police and other forces have handled high-profile cases involving serious accusations of criminal offences allegedly committed by some of the leaders of our country. There is the apparently ongoing, astonishing case of our former colleague and Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath. So far, £700,000 has been spent on Operation Conifer, which is investigating the allegations against him. Some of the original allegations apparently included those of satanic rituals. Those complaints have since been dismissed, but they are illustrative of the bizarre extent of the allegations. The Chief Constable for Wiltshire has responded to the inevitable questions about why the police are wasting so much money on claims against a man who died more than 10 years ago and cannot answer back by defiantly affirming that he would not be
“buckling under pressure to not investigate or to conclude the investigation prematurely.”
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot mentioned the raid on the home of Lord and Lady Brittan. I should declare an interest: both Lord and Lady Brittan are very old friends of mine. My hon. Friend also mentioned the horrific indifference of the police officers involved. Furthermore, I remind the House of what happened to Lord Bramall. His house was raided by a 20-strong search team in a blaze of publicity, with police cars parked in the pub car park, advertising to the world what they were about. What an unspeakable way in which to treat a second world war veteran, let alone a former Chief of the Defence Staff of utmost probity. That calls the police’s whole sense of proportion and loss of judgment into question.
I knew Harvey Proctor slightly. He had been in the House for four years when I was first elected in 1983. We were not political soulmates, but I was one of those Members of Parliament proud to rally around to help him to set up his shop in Richmond following his conviction in 1987, which resulted in his leaving the House. I was heartened to see that, once again, people such as Matthew Parris and Michael Portillo were rallying around to support the public-spirited initiative of Iain Dale to raise money for Mr Proctor, who in my judgment has been unspeakably treated. The effort raised some £11,140, including many small contributions from ordinary people disgusted by what they had read about the handling of the case by the Metropolitan police.
Another case concerns a former fire officer in Dorset, David Bryant, who is 66 years old and has received commendations for gallantry. He spent almost three years behind bars for a crime that he did not commit, solely on the evidence of a man with a history of mental illness. Danny Day, now aged 53, had gone to the police in 2012 claiming that he had been raped by Mr Bryant and another firefighter, who is now dead, at the fire station in Christchurch on a single unspecified date at some time between 1976 and 1978. Mr Day said he was aged about 14 at the time of the alleged attack.
Mr Bryant, who the court heard was of “impeccable character” and had no previous criminal record, was convicted in 2013. Initially, he was sentenced to six years in jail, later increased to eight. Mr Day, who waived his right to anonymity in a series of newspaper interviews after the conviction, was finally exposed as a liar after detective work by a brave Mrs Bryant and a team of lawyers and private investigators who had been so horrified by the conviction that they had agreed to work on the case for free. Mr Justice Singly, hearing the case with Lord Justice Leveson and one other senior judge, said that other fresh material before the court included information that
“over a period from 2000 to 2010 the complainant in this case had to seek medical attention from his GP in relation to what can only be described as his being a chronic liar”.
David Bryant said:
“What happened to me must never be allowed to happen again. Being wrongly imprisoned as an innocent man is a living hell and something I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy.”
To conclude, there are terrible cases that must be dealt with—I agree with Simon Danczuk—but what comes through in the case of Harvey Proctor and others is the monstrous treatment of an innocent man, who lost his livelihood, his way of life and everything else that he had strenuously worked for to re-establish his good name. The Metropolitan police must put him back and recompense him for that terrible evil. A monstrous injustice has been done and is too regularly done. I beg the Home Secretary and others in some way to ensure that the police exercise a proper sense of proportion, common sense and good judgment when dealing with such difficult cases.