Why the police swallowed Carl Beech’s lies

‘Believing the victim’ makes miscarriages of justice inevitable.

Luke Gittos

Topics Politics UK

The Metropolitan Police have published an independent review of their handling of historic sexual-abuse allegations against high-profile individuals. The report followed an investigation by Sir Richard Henriques, a retired High Court judge. The Henriques report is, in part, a response to the conviction of Carl Beech, who was found guilty earlier this year of perverting the course of justice. Beech’s conviction followed the collapse of Operation Midland, which was established on the basis of Beech’s lies about a VIP child-abuse ring, which he said included politicians like Ted Heath, Lord Brittan and Harvey Proctor

The report makes for shocking reading. Detectives misled judges in order to obtain warrants to search the homes of those falsely accused. The police simply ignored the array of undermining and contradictory aspects of Beech’s evidence, which should have revealed his deceit much sooner. Labour MP Tom Watson made a now-discredited statement in the House of Commons in 2012 that he had ‘clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and Number 10’, after meeting with Beech. Following this, a senior investigating officer made communicating with Watson one of her investigative priorities. Political pressure increased the risk of serious injustice.

What is so valuable about the Henriques report is not just what it reveals about Operation Midland but also its robust criticism of how sexual-abuse investigations more broadly have proceeded in recent years. It is deeply critical of a number of policies adopted by the police ever since the high-profile investigation into Jimmy Saville and other celebrities, which became known as Operation Yewtree.

First, Henriques recommends that police stop using the term ‘victim’ during an investigation, and instead revert to the term ‘complainant’. This practice began with Operation Yewtree’s report of its investigation into Saville, titled Giving Victims a Voice. This step was taken because Saville was dead and there was no way to test the evidence against him. The police simply assumed allegations against him to be true and therefore that all complainants were indeed victims. This then became policy for all abuse investigations. Henriques quotes guidance for officers from Operation Hydrant, written by Simon Bailey, national police lead for child protection and abuse investigations. As Henriques notes, it consistently uses the term ‘victim’ to describe those who make allegations. Henriques says ‘the entire judicial process… is engaged in determining whether or not a complainant is indeed a victim’ and using the term at the outset of an investigation ‘is simply inaccurate and should cease’.

Once complainants had been transformed into ‘victims’, it followed that police should ‘believe’ what these victims were telling them. In 2014, detective superintendent Kenny McDonald famously told the British media that Carl Beech’s false allegations were both ‘credible and true’. Henriques describes McDonald’s intervention as a ‘serious mistake’. Henriques rightly argues that the police’s blanket policy of believing the victim is a ‘reversal of the burden of proof’ which ‘imposes an artificial state of mind upon an investigator’. It ‘strikes at the very core of the criminal-justice process’ and will ‘generate miscarriage of justice on a considerable scale’.

This ‘reversal of the burden of proof’ has other consequences. Henriques discusses the statistics related to false allegations. He says the police have been proceeding on the basis that ‘only 0.1 per cent of complainants’ are likely to be false. Henriques points out that ‘the retaining of the word “victim” and the culture of “belief” appear to have been based on the supposition that the level of false complaints is so small that it can be disregarded’. Officers investigating these allegations ‘fail to appreciate that… a cardinal principle of the criminal justice system is that a complaint may be false’.

What’s more, it is simply not the case that the number of false allegations is low. This was made clear during Operation Fairbank, a forerunner to Operation Midland. In the course of this single operation, investigators received more than 400 complaints that transpired to be ‘without merit’. For Henriques, the culture of belief leads officers to ignore the possibility that allegations may be ‘malicious, mistaken, designed to support others, financially motivated or inexplicable’.

At spiked we have made these arguments time and again since the emergence of Operation Yewtree. Investigating allegations of sexual abuse must involve robust questioning. Complainants claims must be taken seriously, but not straightforwardly ‘believed’. The Henriques report is not just an illustration of specific police failings, it is a robust and welcome restatement of the principles that ought to guide our justice system.

Luke Gittos is a spiked columnist and author of Why Rape Culture is a Dangerous Myth: From Steubenville to Ched Evans. His latest book, Human Rights – Illusory Freedom: Why We Should Repeal the Human Rights Act, is published by Zero Books. Order it here.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Garreth Byrne

11th October 2019 at 10:18 pm

Some people want to believe the biggest lies; and some people, as Goebbels showed, want to tell the biggest lies.

A Game

11th October 2019 at 8:11 pm

This is everywhere. Wherever woke has mushroomed, the police have lost it.

The case of George Pell in Australia is a humdinger for this. And on appeal, 2 of three judges, one a former solicitor, the other a civil barrister, ruled in favour of an entire case presented on the back of a “compelling witness”, even though his story was full of inconsistency and improbability. The 3rd judge, a beacon his entire career in criminal law, ruled for Pell and found the witness and his account deeply problematic.
The braying mob don’t care that Pell is probably innocent. They want the scalp.
The whole case began with the police putting the call out for anything on Pell. Dubbed “Get Pell”. Two years before they hit pay dirt. Its beyond belief.
In this case, I don’t care if he did it. I want the burden of proof, the protection from a single person pointing a finger at another, to remain intact.

The true message that should be out in society is, if someone has done something to violate you, you must find the strength and courage to come forward at the time. There may or may not be a case in the long term, but if you can’t care at the time… the window for justice will be lost.
That children aren’t empowered to do this (being immature, malleable), if there is no corroborating proof, then sometimes evil people, get away with evil things.

Currently in Australia, a police sniper is being hung out to dry. Classic whistleblower. Lindt Café siege… we’re all yelling at our televisions “this is a f**k up”… The coroner’s report was softly, softly… we’re all yelling, “this is a cover up”. He’s haunted by everything that went wrong that day.
At 10am the NSW Police Commissioner (hack by the name of Scippioni) was telling us that they are working that everyone comes out safe, alive. You think… mmmm, terrorism, not usually their end game to come out alive, but its at the 2 hour mark… at Midday, when they same line is being touted, you now know its in the hands of amateurs.
I have an eyewitness to my ideas on the night… two bullets. One for the glass, one for the deadsh*t. That’s what the sniper has gone on the record saying. Their Chief Sniper was stood down. Against protocol. Scipioni and his immediate underling, K Burn/s, both knocked off work, as per usual. A café in the CBD with hostages at gun point from a known Islamist (local pest for attention, sending letters to dead soldiers families… that kind of dipsh*t)… yep, can’t hang around. A psychologist on board, advising, who got everything wrong.
Apparently NSW Fuzz still has deep, deep corruption issues. (They do, historically.) Scippioni is mates with the NSW Premier. They refused Federal Help.
The POS fires a shot. Nothing. Snipers are calling in what they are seeing. Those transmissions went unanswered. Amateur hour in the bunker. It was 9 or 10 minutes later that Tory Johnson, on his knees, is sh*t by the POS. Those snipers saw it unfolding, and got to watch it happen.
This particular sniper is haunted by what a cluster f**k it was. He knew they had the power to prevent it. After all, that is the art of the sniper. They aren’t there to arrest anyone.
No no. A lot of the public are in denial, its to go away. What about the families? (Yeah, lets not go after those responsible for doing their jobs badly, no no, can’t have that…)
Police are just one of those industries where you MUST do better, must not fold, cannot fold. That they are wanting to, that the new leaders of police are these indoctrinated careerists… Who, for some reason, deserve to take the pay, the title, the power… but never the responsibility.

What’s interesting in the Carl Beech case is… where was some behavioural science? That he’s a ped himself… not a stretch at all.

a watson

10th October 2019 at 7:17 pm

What part did the BBC play in this nasty farce? I believe that BBC journalists were mentioned in the original reports in the press on Saturday. It appears that the police are to take all of the blame and any others involved kept out of any discussion.

James Knight

10th October 2019 at 5:35 pm

It is not just Yewtree, it is the whole #MeToo movement that has followed the same playbook of believe the accuser, guilty until proven innocent.

It is not good blaming “institutional stupidity”, this was and is about the politicisation of justice.

Michael Lynch

10th October 2019 at 10:18 pm


Mister Joshua

10th October 2019 at 11:54 pm

That’s correct. And it’s not by accident. This is what the radicalized academics have been demanding for decades. Soon, there will be no due process.

Ven Oods

10th October 2019 at 1:40 pm

I frequently feel sorry for our police force. They do difficult things in trying circumstances. Most of the time, they deserve our admiration and gratitude.
Over the last few decades, though, some of those reaching the most exalted positions within the force cannot possibly represent the best within their ranks. If they do, then perhaps it is time to start worrying.

Michael Lynch

10th October 2019 at 10:23 pm

I lost all respect when it was revealed that a senior Police Chief instructed his officers to treat underage girls with contempt by suggesting that they were engaging in consensual sex with middle aged men. This is not possible by the law of the land; therefore, they have openly broken the law. This has been confirmed time and time again in report after report and still nothing is done to remove these criminals from office.

Mister Joshua

10th October 2019 at 11:52 pm

The police are not helpless victims. They have unions. They have voices.

When a woman is arrested in front of her children for refusing to refer to a man as “she” the police are not protecting the public but rather enforcing the ideology of the ruling class.

When a child is dragged from class in handcuffs for drawing a picture of a soldier with a gun the police are not protecting the public but rather enforcing the ideology of the ruling class.

If the police can use their unions to demand unaffordable pension and benefit plans, which are killing the solvency of many jurisdictions, then they can demand that the ruling class stop using them as thought police and grand inquisitors. They don’t, and they’re losing the respect of the public more and more each day.

Michael Lynch

10th October 2019 at 10:56 am

Orwell warned against politicizing the law. The belief that everyone is equal under the law is crucial in a free society; it keeps the wheels turning and ensures full participation in that society. However, the presumption of innocence no longer applies to white males in Britain. A Police Officer usually swears an oath to uphold the Law without fear or favor! The British Police have made a mockery of this oath over the last two decades.

Dominic Straiton

10th October 2019 at 8:49 am

What do you expect when the police have been trained to “lead beyond authority”.

Geoff Cox

10th October 2019 at 7:23 am

I echo Steve Moxon’s comments but would add this – it was so obviously wrong, deluded even, to describe complainants as victims. People said so at the time, but the police, politicians and the media all rushed in. How could our institutions make (and continue to make) such appalling decisions?

Ed Turnbull

10th October 2019 at 1:49 pm

In answer to your question: blatant emotionalism and virtue signalling. The twin foundations for far too much of what goes on in the public sphere. Shaky foundations to be sure; they haven’t crumbled yet though I feel a most welcome collapse is on its way.

Andrew Best

10th October 2019 at 7:14 am

Never trust the police
We need them but never trust them
You are just another person to arrest to make up their arrest numbers
Innocent man on rape charges
Rape gangs in the Midlands
Journalists arrested

steve moxon

10th October 2019 at 6:50 am

John Holbook is dead right, and it’s far worse than he concedes. A conservative estimate of false rape reports to police, based on analysis of the two Home Office special reports on rape is 30% to 35%. Police specialist rape investigators at the Met when surveyed estimate 50% to 70%. The corresponding data around the world is 50% to 90%. And these are the guys (not least women) at the coal-face and most in-the-know. A recent paper for the University of Nottingham’s Criminology Department conceded that the police and judiciary almost to a man (and woman) are clear that false report is a huge proportion of rape complaints, and the authors try to make a case for a distinction between different types of false report as if somehow they aren’t all false! It’s long been known (see Soothill, and McDowell) that false reports mostly are not malicious but ‘white lies’ to conceal often trivial embarrassment, that have got out of control — as is now institutionalised given Home Office guidance on how to treat rape “victims” (that is, complainants). The complete reversal of the burden of proof is enshrined in the appalling 2003 Sex Offences Act: the statement that men should take steps to ascertain consent (actually included is a non-exhaustive list of such)! The law and judicial process here are as big an ass as the asinine law gets, and needs major reform — with a big ‘up yours’ to femascists and ‘PC-fascists generally.

steve moxon

10th October 2019 at 6:53 am

… I mean Luke Gittos! Sorry, Luke.

Simon Giora

10th October 2019 at 10:35 am

“, based on analysis of the two Home Office special reports on rape is 30% to 35%. Police specialist rape investigators at the Met when surveyed estimate 50% to 70%.”

Do you have a link to the source for these figures?

steve moxon

10th October 2019 at 3:23 pm

Hi Simon. Re the Met: Blair, Ian (1985). Investigating rape: A New Approach for Police. Police Federation. [Yes, Ian Blair, no less, way before he was sir.]
Re stats in the rape report categories used by police, find them among the politicised idiocy in the two special rape studies commissioned (outsourced as usual to extreme feminists) by the Gnome Orifice. Home Office (1999) Research Study 196, ‘A Question of Evidence? Investigating & Prosecuting rape in the 1990s’ and (2005) Research Study 293, ‘A Gap or a Chasm? Attrition in Reported Rape cases. A discussion of the breakdown by category and what they mean is in my book, The Woman Racket pp 184-187.

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