Operation Midland: Henriques Report

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:39 pm on 13th December 2016.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing and the Fire Service) 3:39 pm, 13th December 2016

I understand why Lord Dear made that point; I met him recently and he outlined his thoughts. However, we now have the College of Policing, which is working to make sure that we have the standards and the sharing of best practice in place. That is exactly what the college is there for.

The Home Secretary recently announced the development of a licence to practise for child sexual abuse investigators, as hon. Members outlined earlier. That will ensure that only qualified officers are carrying out those complex investigations and in the correct and appropriate way, and are hopefully dealing with some of the issues raised earlier. As a Government, we have done more than any other to lift the lid on what are heinous crimes. We have acknowledged the painful treatment endured by victims and by those wrongly accused. We have to make sure that we get that balance right. Similarly, we have to acknowledge the pain endured by those who have suffered sexual abuse and whose voices went unheard for such a long time. We saw that with the revelations relating to Jimmy Savile several years ago, and we are sadly seeing it again now with the appalling scale of allegations of abuse within football, as was noted earlier.

Child sexual abuse is a despicable crime. We have to do everything in our power not only to prevent it from happening but, where it happens, to root it out, deal with it and bring people to justice. We have been consistently clear that, where abuse has taken place, victims must be encouraged to come forward and have their allegations reviewed thoroughly and properly investigated so that people can be brought to justice. Again, that has to work both ways. To have confidence in the system, both the victims and the accused must have confidence that they will be treated with respect and will be brought to justice where appropriate.

In the case of Operation Midland, the Metropolitan Police is clearly guilty of serious errors, as we heard earlier. Those failures must not be allowed to undo so much of the good work that we and they have done in recent years in giving that confidence to victims, survivors and the wider public to ensure that the police take these crimes seriously. Victims should—and increasingly do, as we have seen with the football scandal—feel able to come forward, to report abuse and to get the support that they need. In ensuring that that continues, we must not turn a blind eye to when the police get it wrong. In this instance they got it wrong, and they must stand up to that.

I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot for raising these important issues in such a powerful way, along with other right hon. and hon. Members. I hope that I have been able to assure hon. Members on the Government’s position; I will update them further following my meetings over the next week.