Yet again the topic of sexual abuse is in the media accompanied by criticism of the approach taken by an institution, this time when it was responding to allegations of sexual abuse. Sir Richard Henriques has considered the actions taken by the Metropolitan Police during Operation Midland and Operation Vincente. 43 failings have been identified with 25 recommendations which are said to be of relevance to law making and policing nationally. An apology has also been given to Harvey Proctor MP, Lord Brammall and Lady Brittan.
The full report has not been published. The conclusions and recommendations will inevitably fuel the debates about the approach to take when disclosure of abuse is made, both in terms of the response to the complainant and to the accused. The report notes that “the policy of “believing victims” strikes at the very core of the criminal justice process.” In response, the recommendation made is that the police have a duty to investigate the facts objectively and with an open mind and that the public should know that if a complaint is made it will be treated very seriously and investigated thoroughly without fear or favour.
Sir Richard also notes that he considers statutory protection of anonymity pre-charge is essential in a fair system. He recommends that the right to anonymity pre-arrest should be enforced by statue and criminal sanctions.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe in his public statement has referenced the context and timing of the investigation and noted that that cannot be ignored. Op. Midland and Op. Vincente of course followed closely in the footsteps of Op. Yewtree which concerned the investigation of Jimmy Savile and others. The police were and continue to be inundated with allegations of sexual assault and a way needs to be found to ensure a fair and proportionate investigation for all involved.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner