The heavily censored Henriques Report – only 84 out of nearly 500 pages released – comes firmly down on the side that all the prominent people investigated in Operation Midland are innocent of sexual abuse allegations made by “Nick” and the Met police should have closed down the investigation.
It has also triggered an investigation by Northumbria Police into whether ” Nick ” should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice by making such allegations.
More significantly it questions the whole approach of the police in handling future complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse across the country.
It amounts to a rebalancing of the way the police handle child sexual abuse and rape cases from protecting the accuser to offering more support to the suspect.
In doing so it exposes a rift between the judge and Operation Hydrant, the national co-ordinating investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by prominent people headed by Simon Bailey, the chief constable of Norfolk.
Basically Henriques wants to revert to the earlier situation where people who allege a crime was committed against them are treated as complainants and not victims of crimes and anyone who alleges child sexual abuse is not necessarily believed.
Simon Bailey clearly disagrees with this and makes it clear that he believes it will be detrimental to the trust people who have been abused have in dealing with the police.
I disagree with both of them and think they should be called survivors – as the use of the word victim implies powerlessness- something I have not seen with the survivors I have met.
Henriques seems to want a return to historic times where from North Wales to London an accused paedophile could get away with it much more easily and die peacefully in his bed.
His assurances that people complaining have nothing to fear from telling the truth has not worked in the past or we wouldn’t have this huge backlog of cases.
Savile and Sir Cyril Smith managed to avoid prosecutions altogether. But by taking abused people seriously years later North Wales paedophiles Gordon Anglesea and John Allen have been convicted as a result of the Pallial investigation.
Operation Fernbridge also led to the successful conviction of a well connected Roman Catholic priest who had escaped justice for some 40 years. Among celebrities who have been successfully convicted is Rolf Harris.
However the treatment of the police of suspects like Paul Gambaccini, Cliff Richard and Lord Bramall that Henriques declares innocent during the police investigation seems to have been excessive and looks ( though he doesn’t go into the full detail in his heavily redacted report) that many procedural mistakes were made.
He also challenges Bailey over the small number of false claims – and seems to suggest that there are likely to be more false claims against prominent people.
He says there is an imbalance between the anonymity granted to the accuser and the danger of the anonymity of the suspect being disclosed. However the police do not name the suspect until charged
His solution is to limit information released by the police while they are investigating the case by removing the age and the location of the person involved being interviewed,arrested or their home searched. I can see being reasonable over home raids and interviews but it is dangerous if it is extended to an arrest.
At present if a journalist becomes aware someone is arrested they will limit their coverage to avoid prejudicing a trial. If the police refuse to confirm this they risk a prejudiced trial because journalists won’t know and could publish information that will damage their case.
There is also one serious error in his conclusion over Exaro’s coverage. He says the news organisation used a photo identity test on the survivor. He implied we did it while there was an ongoing police investigation. Wrong. It took place before the police ever interviewed ” Nick”. It was done because if the person couldn’t recognise any of the people who he claimed had abused him, it would throw doubt on his claims. The late Lord McAlpine case is an example where this did not happen with disastrous consequences.
I am also sceptical of him seeking ” confidentiality agreements ” with survivors binding them forever to secrecy over their allegations which even he admits survivors would face no sanctions if they ignored it.
The survivors would in theory if the police decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute be left unable to tell anyone about his or her case. As a result they would be left in a worse position than if they never complained to the police in the first place.
So help or hindrance? With firm evidence that there are at least 100,000 people now in this country viewing children being sexually abused for pleasure on the internet there is a danger that a substantial shift in the balance from protecting the survivor to protecting the suspect could hinder the advances being made in bringing paedophiles to book.
You do not change the law for the whole country based on a few very high profile cases even if a judge rules that they were unjustly accused and there was no corroborative evidence.
Yes make some adjustments to officially confirming information to protect people who could be innocent. Don’t put back the present direction of travel – otherwise you are giving comfort to that small minority who still persist in believing that child sexual abuse is just a ” conspiracy theory ” created by a few people trying to make money out of innocent public figures.