Thankfully, it seems that Operation Midland, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into an alleged establishment paedophile ring, has become so discredited that it will soon collapse.
Over the past three years, we have seen a proliferation of police operations and inquiries into historical crimes supposedly committed by dead or aged celebrity paedophiles. These official inquiries and police operations have acquired a dynamic of their own. But the search for a hidden, malevolent network of powerful predators has been at its most grotesque in the narrative informing Operation Midland.
All the recent inquiries into historical crimes committed by paedophiles seemed implicitly to presume the guilt of their targets. But it was with Operation Midland that this casual attitude towards due process was taken a step further. In December 2014, detective superintendent Kenny McDonald, the man leading Operation Midland, declared that the allegation made by ‘Nick’, the operation’s star witness, was ‘credible and true’. When the lead investigator knows the truth before the completion of an inquiry, let alone the completion of a trial, it is clear that what we have is an inquisition, not a proper inquiry.
In the case of Operation Midland, what was declared to be ‘credible and true’ soon turned out not to be. There was insufficient circumstantial evidence even for a showtrial.
Operation Midland is not the exception
It has been widely claimed that Operation Midland had simply gone a bit too far. Some argue that it is the exception to the rule, the odd one out among the plethora of solid inquiries into historical crimes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The numerous inquiries launched in the post-Jimmy Savile era all represent a new trend in the workings of the criminal-justice system. Historically, the stated aim of the police was to fight reported crimes and catch the bad guys responsible for committing them. Today, the criminal-justice system has become preoccupied with uncovering crimes that have not been reported. Its point of departure is not the evidence of an actual crime but the conviction that the ‘absence of evidence is not an evidence of absence’.
Operation Midland has drawn on precedents established by previous inquiries, principally Operation Yewtree. The tendency to treat an allegation as the truth was apparent in Yewtree’s report Giving Victims a Voice, published in January 2013. Giving Victims a Voice decided to break with the practice of treating an accusation of abuse as an allegation and instead represented it as a de facto truth. The report’s authors took it upon themselves to define accusers as ‘victims’ rather than ‘complainants’. Moreover, they decided not to regard ‘the evidence [complainants] have provided as unproven allegations’. The supplanting of the phrase ‘unproven allegation’ by the term ‘evidence’ represented an extraordinary change to the carefully calibrated terminology associated with due process. Now, the mere assertion of victimisation is all that is required to gain the status of ‘victim’. This rebranding of untested allegations as evidence all but relieves the accuser of the burden of proof.