Operation Midland: Henriques Report

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:14 pm on 13th December 2016.

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Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon Conservative, Newbury 3:14 pm, 13th December 2016

We all bring prejudices into this place. The greatest prejudice that perhaps we all share is one of revulsion at the idea of child sexual exploitation, but when it affects an individual we know or revere, our prejudice is to immediately assume they are innocent. That was the case, in my circumstances, with Field Marshal Lord Bramall. He is an individual who, in my regiment, is revered, with a semi-godlike status. The whole family of the regiment were horrified that he should have been accused in such a way, and we rejoice that all the effects of the accusation have been removed from his character. However, we remain demanding of answers in this case.

Of course the great and the powerful should be investigated when allegations are made, just as allegations against anyone should be investigated, but it is how we investigate that matters. The Henriques report has outlined an appalling catalogue of errors in all the cases that hon. Members have mentioned in this debate. In the case of Lord Bramall, the report says that it was wrong to raid his home based on the testimony of a single complainant since dismissed, as hon. Members have said, as a fantasist. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend Sir Nicholas Soames about the number of officers, where they parked and the other factors involved in the case. The Henriques report says that it was entirely wrong to wait 10 months for the investigation to be dropped. In addition, Henriques questions the police tactics in obtaining search warrants for Lord Brittan’s and Harvey Proctor’s homes.

We have to ask who in the team conducting the search on Lord Bramall’s home questioned the ethics of entering the house of someone in their 90s in the way that they did. This was someone nursing his terminally ill wife. The police spent 10 hours in that house, many of them dressed in forensic suits, causing great distress to the ailing Lady Bramall. They took personal items out of the house and did not return them for a very long time. What kind of appalling groupthink existed in that team? I understand the medical term for it is cognitive dissonance. We have seen this in hospitals that have declined to see terrible figures on mortality. We have seen it in other organisations. I suggest it was prevalent in the Operation Midland team. Was there—is there—an adequate whistleblowing system that would have allowed someone properly to raise this?

I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend Sir Gerald Howarth who secured this debate. He made an excellent speech. In many of our public services, including our most secret intelligence services, there is a system for people to raise concerns, but the system clearly failed in the case of Operation Midland.

Simon Danczuk rightly talked about the pendulum swinging. The police were appalled at the attacks that had been made on them for their failure in the Savile case and they swung the other way. But did anyone lose their job over the treatment of people like Lord Bramall, Lord Brittan and Harvey Proctor? Such high-profile people who are still alive are articulate and able to make a powerful case on their own behalf, whatever the privations they have suffered as a result.