The announcement from the Metropolitan Police that Harvey Proctor will face no charges over extraordinary allegations of sadistic rape and murder is unsurprising. It has been obvious for weeks that the police were simply waiting for a convenient time to drop the case, so embarrassing had it become. A cabinet minster’s resignation and the ensuing political turmoil have provided as good a time as any to make the announcement.
The allegations had received most of their publicity from the internet news site (which Mr Proctor understandably usually prefixes with the word “odd”) Exaro News.
When it published its first explosive video interview with “Nick,” the man we may now call the fantasist at the centre of the allegations, Mark Watts, Exaro’s Editor commented:
“People hearing this allegation, that politicians were part of this abuse, will find this very hard to believe.”
Perhaps Mr Watts was pushing a story which he found hard to believe. Not so the police. Kenny McDonald, the senior police officer investigating the case, professed to believe him almost immediately, pronouncing Nick’s account “credible and true,” even as he embarked upon the lengthy investigation that has now stuttered to its ignominious conclusion. The mindset that the phrase conveyed was bad enough in itself. What made it worse was that every time Exaro published a new story about Operation Midland it was able to respond to almost any criticism by saying “look at the Metropolitan Police, they believe Nick.”
It is cold comfort to read in the Met’s damage limitation statement this afternoon that despite saying that he found Nick’s allegations “credible and true” Mr McDonald did not actually think they were “credible and true.” Instead, we are now told, he kept “an open mind … throughout.” It is mind-boggling. If McDonald had an open mind, why did he pretend not to? Undue credulousness is certainly a fault in a police officer, but it is nothing like as serious as saying you think one thing, while secretly thinking more or less its polar opposite. McDonald himself may have been moved on, but Sir Bernard still seems to think his behaviour was somehow acceptable. It was not, and Sir Bernard’s defence of it is almost as bad.
Mr Proctor has issued a short statement, the most interesting part of which reads as follows:
I believe Operation Midland should now be the subject of a truely (sic) independent public inquiry.
I consider that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Patricia Gallan, Steve Rodhouse and Kenny McDonald should tender their resignations from the Metropolitan Police Service forthwith.
I believe “Nick” and Exaro News Agency should be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
Unsurprisingly, he appears to have little confidence in the partly secret Inquiry announced by Sir Bernard last month.
Sadly, his call for the police officers most closely associated with the case to resign is unlikely to be heeded. Sir Bernard appears to have the skin of a grizzled pachyderm, a good quality in a police officer except when it is combined with the obstinacy of a cantankerous mule. His obstinate refusal to apologise over anything the police did in Operation Midland is reminiscent of his 2012 refusal to apologise to the former Met counter terrorism chief John Yates, whom he libelled in a document circulated to other officers. After refusing to apologise Mr Yates was forced to issue proceedings before Hogan-Howe eventually backed down leaving two sets of libel lawyers tens of thousands of pounds richer and the public purse somewhat poorer.
I presume Hogan-Howe cleared the Met’s statement before it was published. It does him no credit and it bears his hallmark of obfuscation and obstinacy. One key sentence is this:
“The MPS will not apologise for carrying out its duty to investigate serious allegations of non-recent abuse.”
Nobody is asking the Met to apologise for investigating “serious allegations of non-recent abuse.” Can I just repeat that, and perhaps I should underline it so that it has a better chance of getting through to Sir Bernard’s brain: no-one is asking the police to apologise for investigating Nick’s allegations. Allegations obviously should be investigated. The criticisms of the Met are about the manner in which this inquiry was conducted. The public statement in support of Nick, the leaking of names, the highly public raids, including the raid on the Bramall’s house as Lady Bramall was dying of Alzheimer’s, the length of time the inquiry has taken and the resultant trashing of the reputations of two living men to say nothing of numerous dead ones. And all this, with seemingly no recognition, even now, that the police had got anything wrong beyond the grudging concession of the possibility that the phrase “credible and true could have given the wrong impression that the outcome of the investigation was being pre-empted.”
Mr Proctor is, rightly, particularly concerned about the leaking of details of the raid on his house to Exaro. Any inquiry, secret or otherwise, needs to establish who leaked that information because it was only after this that Mr Proctor’s name (though readily guessable from the information previously published by Exaro) was made public. The Met says that they did not name him (or indeed Lord Bramall or Leon Brittan who were named at the same time), but what steps have they taken to discover who did? At present the leak seems to be treated as an unfortunate but inevitable fact of life, like a leaking urinal in a police washroom, instead of as a disgraceful and gross calumny on innocent people. The result was that Mr Proctor had to leave his home, leave his job and – not entirely unsurprisingly – decided to leave the country. Poor Lady Bramall died knowing who knows what. And of course Leon Brittan, also implicated in the investigation, died whilst still publicly branded a suspect.
Mr Proctor wants both “Nick” and Exaro prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Whether or not such a prosecution is brought it is essential that Mr Proctor’s call for an independent inquiry is heeded.
A proper inquiry would need to look closely at Exaro’s behaviour towards the witnesses upon whom it has based its stories. Was “Nick” a mentally fragile man recklessly thrown into the limelight in a desperate bid to make money for a failing media venture? What arrangements were made between Nick, Exaro and the police? What about the other witnesses upon whom Exaro has based similarly florid stories? One of these, “Darren”, has already spoken about Exaro with almost as much contempt as Mr Proctor himself.
And then there are the therapists. Nick has spoken of having had years of “counselling”. It is not unheard of for some forms of psychotherapy to generate entirely false memories. If Nick’s stories have come about as a result of this counselling or therapy then the sooner his counsellors are investigated and, if guilty of professional or even criminal misconduct named, the better for everyone. Who knows whether other people – perhaps less well-known and less able to defend themselves than Mr Proctor – have been implicated as a result of their practices.
One often-given justification for naming suspects before they are charged is that the knowledge that one person has made an accusation against an individual can embolden others to “come forward” with similar accusations. “Coming forward” is invariably presented as a courageous and virtuous thing to do. Indeed, Nick has openly asked for others to do precisely that, although, fortunately nobody appears to have done so. But coming forward is only a good thing to do if you are telling the truth. Otherwise it is much better to hold back.
Even now, with the Met’s pompous and absurd statement that “a man in his 60s who was previously interviewed under caution has today, Monday 21 March, been advised by officers working on Operation Midland that he will face no further action,” the Met, so relaxed about the leaking of names while the inquiry was going on, can’t quite bring itself publicly to exonerate Mr Proctor now that it is over. A 16 month investigation by the best officers the Met can muster has produced nothing to back up Nick’s ridiculous claims. But Nick’s victims’ patent innocence of any wrongdoing will never be accepted by those who refuse to abandon their beliefs in an overarching VIP paedophile ring.
Nick will continue to lead his life in obscurity, feted as a hero by some. His therapists will continue to “treat” other people with mental health problems. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe will continue to preside over the Metropolitan Police and, with Hogan-Howe’s apparent insouciance Kenny McDonald will continue as a senior police officer happily saying one thing while thinking something completely different. Mark Watts, the Editor of Exaro News will eventually come up with some slippery justification for his organisation’s discreditable behaviour over the past two years. The internet conspiracists will work themselves into another lather of hatred.
It is a fittingly miserable outcome to a miserable affair.