Police investigations and the role of the Crown Prosecution Service Contents

1Background: the investigation into Lord Brittan

1.On 16 October 2015, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) published the key findings from a report ordered by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, on the circumstances leading to the issuing of an apology to the family of the late Lord Brittan of Spennithorne, following an investigation into a rape allegation against him.1 The MPS had written to the solicitors acting for the Brittan family on 6 October 2015, following the broadcast of a BBC Panorama programme about sexual abuse allegations against high-profile figures, including Lord Brittan.2

2.In the letter, the officer leading the investigation, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse, apologised to Lady Brittan for the MPS’s failure to clarify the position regarding the investigation to her “at an earlier stage”. In the key findings document, the MPS accepts that “Lord Brittan’s solicitors should have been informed at the same time as the complainant was informed”, in April 2015, that there would not have been a prosecution had Lord Brittan been alive, and that the matter was now closed.3

The police investigation

3.An allegation of rape was made against Lord Brittan to South Yorkshire Police in November 2012. The incident was alleged to have occurred in 1967 in London. The case was therefore passed to the Metropolitan Police. A police investigation then took place, involving a process of advice being sought at relevant points from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and a file of evidence first being submitted to the CPS in June 2014.4 Lord Brittan was interviewed under caution in May 2014. He was named in the media in July 2014 as being under investigation for a rape allegation.

4.Lord Brittan was suffering from cancer at the time of the investigation. He died in January 2015 without being informed the he had been cleared of any wrongdoing in regard to this case. Although the MPS had concluded that “there was not a strong case” against Lord Brittan, it had requested that the CPS review its decision in November 2014 that the file submitted by the MPS did not meet the appropriate evidential criteria. The Metropolitan Police stated that the purpose of the request was to secure “independent scrutiny in order to reassure the public that a thorough investigation had been conducted and had resulted in insufficient evidence to bring charges”.5 At that point, the MPS says that it remained open to the CPS to conclude that the case did not meet the threshold for charging and no further action should be taken; or that further inquiries were needed; or that there was sufficient evidence for a charge.6

5.The case has received considerable media attention. It arose in the context of police investigations into alleged historic sexual offences by high-profile public figures, including: Operation Midland, investigating allegations of murder by a Westminster paedophile ring in the 1970s and 1980s; Operation Fairbank, investigating allegations of sexual abuse amongst senior politicians; and Operation Yewtree, investigating child sexual exploitation by Jimmy Savile and others. The complainant in the Lord Brittan case, “Jane”, gave a media interview in May 2014 which set out details of her allegation against an unnamed ex-Cabinet Minister, which inevitably led to speculation about the identity of the alleged perpetrator. The Metropolitan Police itself notes that the context included “significant reporting of allegations that the MPS had failed to investigate allegations against politicians properly in the past”.7

The Committee’s inquiry and report

6.An unusual element of this case has been the involvement of Tom Watson MP. Mr Watson wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) pressing for a review of the Lord Brittan case in April 2014.8 We discuss the implications of this involvement in Chapter 3.

7.A further motivation for our inquiry was the fact that some elements of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s action points arising from the report on the Lord Brittan case echoed recommendations which our predecessor Committee had made on related issues in the previous Parliament. The Commissioner’s action points were:

8.The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has requested that another police force review its investigation into the Lord Brittan case to ensure that it was “thorough, properly conducted and to identify good practice”. We welcome the Commissioner’s action in this respect as sensible, routine police practice. We would be grateful to be informed about the review’s findings, when it is concluded at the end of November 2015. We explore the implications of the Commissioner’s other action points in detail in the remainder of this report.

9.We took oral evidence on 21 October 2015 from: Mr Tom Watson MP; representatives of the Metropolitan Police, including DCI Paul Settle, who led the initial investigation in the Lord Brittan case; and Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions. We are grateful to all the witnesses for their evidence.

1 Metropolitan Police report on the investigation into Lord Brittan: key findings, 16 October 2015

2 Letter from DAC Steve Rodhouse to Anthony Julius, Mishcon de Reya Solicitors, 6 October 2015; BBC Panorama, 6 October 2015, “The VIP paedophile ring: what’s the truth

3 Metropolitan Police report on the investigation into Lord Brittan: key findings, 16 October 2015

4 The MPS submitted an evidence file to the CPS on 5 June 2014. However, the CPS said that, before it was able to review the file, there were other inquiries the MPS should complete, including a formal identification of Lord Brittan by the complainant. The MPS submitted the evidence file to the CPS formally in November 2014. See Metropolitan Police report on the investigation into Lord Brittan: key findings, 16 October 2015

6 Metropolitan Police report on the investigation into Lord Brittan: key findings, 16 October 2015

7 Metropolitan Police report on the investigation into Lord Brittan: key findings, 16 October 2015

9 Oral evidence taken from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, on 10 November 2015, HC 476, Qs248-249

10 Fifth Report from the Home Affairs Committee of Session 2014-15, Police, the media and high-profile criminal investigations, HC 629, paras 14-18; Seventeenth Report of Session 2014-15, Police Bail, HC 962, Chapter 2. The Commissioner’s action points are set out in the Metropolitan Police report on the investigation into Lord Brittan: key findings, October 2015

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 19 November 2015