Operation Midland: Henriques Report

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:35 pm on 13th December 2016.

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Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:35 pm, 13th December 2016

May I, too, congratulate Sir Gerald Howarth and all other Members on their passionate and interesting speeches? May I also say what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter?

The report’s findings are extremely serious. They relate to the poor conduct of the police investigation and the breach of the police’s own guidelines on the anonymity of suspects, which have caused the Met to be in crisis. However, people’s focus is changing, and there now appears to be more attention on the credibility of rape and sexual assault victims. There is no evidence in the report to support a blanket change in policy for the treatment of all victims, which would run counter to all the evidence and the positions of all stakeholders.

Rape Crisis England and Wales says:

“The vast majority of survivors choose not to report to the police. One significant reason…is the fear of not being believed.”

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children carried out a series of focus groups with victims of Jimmy Savile to identify common themes that prevented those victims from reporting their abuse to the police at the time and to explore how the police could improve their management of the reporting process and subsequent interviews and contacts. In all those groups, a key reason victims gave for not disclosing abuse was their overwhelming belief that if they had done so, they would not have been believed. Those who did not report abuse cited feelings of shame, guilt and a fear of not being believed, as well as feeling intimidated by Jimmy Savile’s profile, as their reasons for not telling anyone. Status and position must not be a shield against investigation. We have heard a lot about loss of income and livelihoods. If just one case is proven, that is one child’s childhood that has been taken.

The Met has made very serious errors. The detail of the Henriques report should be used to strengthen police procedures for both investigation and the treatment of suspects. It cannot and must not be used to downgrade the seriousness of allegations of rape or sexual assault—crimes that are already woefully under-reported and have low conviction rates. Victims fearing that they will be doubted only serves to prevent reporting and to degrade those victims. There must be no move backwards by the police to make matters even worse. There must be no return to the abysmal treatment of victims or lack of seriousness in investigations, or to the police denigrating victims or denying them their rights.