Friday, February 12, 2016

London's top cop discovers natural justice

Automatically believing uncorroborated allegations is brain-dead.  People are to be presumed INNOCENT until proven guilty

Police officers will no longer automatically believe sex abuse claims from the off, says Met chief as he battles to defend his reputation over Lord Bramall probe

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said his officers had been 'confused' by guidance to believe allegations made to them

Police officers must be 'good investigators' when presented with allegations of sexual abuse and not simply believe them, the Met Commissioner has said.

Amid a firestorm over controversial investigations into public figures including the war hero Lord Bramall, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said there was a 'great danger' in allegations being believed from the outset.

The embattled police commissioner has repeatedly refused to apologise for investigations into historic claims against Lord Bramall and the former Tory home secretary Lord Brittan, who died before it was concluded he had no case to answer.

But he has launched a judge-led inquiry to look into how the Metropolitan Police handled the accusations and today questioned guidance on how allegations are treated.

Sir Bernard told the BBC: 'I think we have really got hung up on this word belief, it's confused officers, and my point would be we of course have to be empathetic, we want people to believe we are going to listen to them.

'We want to be open minded about what they tell us and then what the suspects tell us.  'And then we have got to test all that evidence.

'There is a great danger at the moment with the advice that is around that perhaps there is a tendency to think we will always believe any complaint that is made. 'That's not wise for any good investigator.'

Scotland Yard was forced to admit last year it had made a mistake when a senior officer described a key witness - known only as 'Nick' - as 'credible and true' when it launched a murder investigation.

Det Supt Kenny McDonald used the phrase in 2014 as the force announced an investigation the alleged killing of three young boys linked to a suspected VIP paedophile ring at the Dolphin Square apartments in Westminster, said to have been active in the 1970s and 1980s.

The probe, known as Operation Midland, led to a series of dawn raids and arrests of public figures - including the 92-year-old Lord Bramall, Lord Brittan, and former MP Harvey Proctor.

But the Met was later forced to admit that without Mr McDonald's declaration of belief in the witness 'we would not have investigated in the way we have'.

Sir Bernard has defended his force and insisted it has a duty to look into serious allegations when they are made.

He added: 'If we get this wrong, between not just the police but society, lawyers, etc, people won't come forward.

'Surely what we all want to happen, particularly a child today, wants to feel confident someone isn't going to hang them out to dry and that their background will be looked into if they make an allegation.

'So we have got to get this right. I think Sir Richard's work will help us with that and I know he is keen to try and develop a code of practice with others to see whether there's not something we can on these very difficult cases.'

An NSPCC spokesman said warned the new policy would be a 'serious bar' to victims coming forward to the police.

He said: 'At a time when people have at long last found the confidence and courage to report these crimes, it would be a tragedy to bring this progress to a juddering halt.

'Victims of sexual abuse have the right to be believed just as much as anyone reporting a burglary or physical assault. Police officers should have an open mind and execute the normal tests and investigations to verify the veracity of what is being alleged.

'Telling those who have been sexually abused they will no longer be automatically believed seems to be a panic measure which could have an adverse effect on a crime the Government has classified as a 'national threat'.'

Sir Bernard has also repeated his belief that suspects should not be identified until they are formally charged with an event.

Lord Bramall last week added to calls for the Met to address the way it responded to such allegations.

He said: ‘They said the allegation was I had abused an under-age male 40 years ago.

‘I just don’t see how a level-headed policeman could have believed a word of it without corroboration, which he didn’t bother to get.  'It was I that had to prove I couldn’t have done it.

Ten months after police raided the home of Lord Bramall and later interviewed the 92-year-old under caution, Scotland Yard said he would face no further action.

Sir Bernard today defended how the raid on Lord Bramall's home was carried out, insisting many officers were required to search large properties - suggesting large numbers of papers need examining and many nook and crannies could hide evidence.

The evidence against the field marshal was so weak detectives did not even bother sending a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Original report here

No comments: