London police under fire over bungled sex ring inquiry
Claims by fantasist sparked a £2.5 million inquiry that reached the highest levels of government
London’s police force has been severely criticised over its failure to expose a fantasist whose allegations sparked a £2.5 million investigation into a non-existent paedophile ring operating at the heart of the UK government.
Carl Beech falsely claimed that three children were murdered by members of a secretive ring of powerful men that included a former prime minister, interior minister, the ex-head of the British army, and senior security officials. He claimed to have been raped and tortured as a child.
Police had described his claims of a sex ring operating in the 1970s and 80s as “credible and true” before his stories unravelled – but only after the reputations of a group of elderly and dead men lay in tatters. Beech is currently serving 18 years in prison for his part in sparking the bungled inquiry.
A senior lawyer identified 43 failures by London’s main police force that investigated Beech’s claims and highlighted a series of opportunities when his lies should have been exposed.
Parts of a review of the investigation were released on Friday as the government ordered a new inquiry into the police failures.
No officer has been disciplined over the case and the man in overall charge of the inquiry holds one of the most senior roles at the National Crime Agency, a body that is supposed to take on the UK’s most prominent criminals.
One of the wrongfully-named men – former interior minister Leon Brittan – was seriously ill during the course of the inquiry and died before his name was cleared.
Sir Richard Henriques, the retired judge who headed the police-ordered review, said that warrants to search some of the former suspects' homes were unlawful. He blamed the botched inquiry on “poor judgment and a failure to accurately evaluate known facts".
It emerged on Friday that a lawyer running a government-led inquiry into child abuse had warned senior officers that Beech was making up his stories months before the case was closed.
The release of the report also puts pressure on the deputy leader of Britain’s main opposition party, Tom Watson, who was an active campaigner on behalf of victims. He first raised suggestions in parliament that a paedophile ring was operating in the heart of the UK’s parliamentary district, Westminster.
Shortly after Lord Brittan died, Mr Watson described him in a blog as “close to evil as any human being could be”. The report found that his involvement in the case piled pressure on the police team.
Mr Watson claimed on Friday that the Henriques review included “multiple” inaccuracies. “I have always said that it wasn't my place to judge whether sexual abuse allegations were true or false - that was for the police,” he said.
Updated: October 4, 2019 07:16 PM