The Metropolitan Police is today (16 October) publishing the key findings from a report into the apology to Lady Brittan after the completion of an investigation into a rape allegation against her late husband, Lord Brittan.
The report was ordered by the Commissioner and has been sent to the Mayor in his capacity as the Police and Crime Commissioner for London. The full report is confidential as it contains details of the original allegation and it is not appropriate to put these in the public domain. Because of the unique circumstances of this case which includes it being the subject of a Commons Select Committee hearing the MPS is, in this release, naming Lord Brittan for the first time. The details of the report are summarised below.
The initial allegation of rape was made by the complainant to South Yorkshire Police in November 2012. The incident was alleged to have occurred in London in 1967 and so was passed to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
After an initial investigation, in which Lord Brittan was neither informed of the allegation nor interviewed, the MPS submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for 'Early Investigative Advice'. This allows prosecutors to provide guidance and advice in serious, sensitive or complex cases.
In response, the CPS provided advice. Having received this advice, the investigating officer made the decision that no further action should be taken and the complainant was informed in person in September 2013.
In February 2014, the complainant met with the investigating officer and expressed unhappiness that Lord Brittan had not been interviewed.
In April 2014, the Commander responsible for the Sexual Offences Unit, Graham McNulty, who was at that point unaware of the complainant’s reaction, requested an update on the investigation into the allegation concerning Lord Brittan.
On receiving that update, after a meeting on 28April 2014, Commander McNulty asked for a review of the rape investigation from an experienced investigating officer who had not previously been involved in the case. This is part of established police practice.
On 17 May 2014, the complainant ‘Jane’ gave a media interview in which she detailed her allegation of rape against an unnamed ex-cabinet minister. She compared the investigation to cases then going through the courts in which celebrities were interviewed
and was reported as saying that if the alleged attacker were not an ex-cabinet minister police would have arrested him and interviewed him under caution.
Also on 17 May 2014, there was a media report that Tom Watson MP had written to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to express his concerns about the investigation.
The review concluded on 19 May 2014, recommending that Lord Brittan should be interviewed under caution.
On 30 May 2014, Lord Brittan was interviewed by appointment at his solicitors. He was not arrested, and no searches were carried out. He denied the offence and stated that he did not believe he had ever met the complainant.
On 2June 2014, Commander McNulty received from the CPS a copy of the letter from Mr Watson to the DPP. There is no record of a copy being sent to the Commissioner, and no record of a briefing ahead of the interview with Lord Brittan. Nor would it be appropriate for the Commissioner to interfere in the investigation into a rape allegation, whoever was involved.
On 5 June 2014, the MPS submitted the evidence to the CPS which now included the statement from Lord Brittan and a record of the interview.
In response, the CPS said that before it was able to review the evidence, there were other inquiries the MPS should complete. It referred to the fact that the complainant had not been asked formally to identify Lord Brittan - a procedure required when the accused person has disputed being involved in the alleged incident.
On 6 July 2014, Lord Brittan was named in the media as being under investigation for a rape allegation.
On 7 July 2014, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse took over as the Gold Commander for the investigation.
Lord Brittan’s solicitors were contacted and informed of the need for an identification procedure. In essence, as Lord Brittan had disputed that he had met the complainant, there is a legal requirement to consider whether an identification procedure should be conducted. In this case, this consisted of ‘Jane’ being shown a series of images of men matching Lord Brittan’s broad appearance in 1967. The images were amended to conceal any distinctive features.
On 7 October 2014, this identification procedure happened. Contrary to some media reporting, Lord Brittan was not asked to participate in an identification parade alongside other men of his age in 2014. Lord Brittan’s solicitor was present during the identification procedure.
After completing the identification procedure, the MPS formally submitted a file to the CPS in November 2014 requesting a review of the evidence. The MPS requested a transparent, external assessment of the case as a matter of public interest.
On 22 November 2014, the CPS wrote back saying it would not consider the file because it did not meet the appropriate criteria. The CPS guidelines state that cases should only be referred at this point if the police believe there is sufficient evidence to charge a suspect.
On 25 November 2014, DAC Rodhouse decided to appeal the decision by the CPS.
It was felt that these were highly unusual circumstances where the previous independence of the police to tackle sexual offending by VIPs had been publicly called into question. A decision to take no further action in respect of this allegation would undoubtedly have resulted in media criticism and public cynicism, and there was clearly a very strong public interest in ensuring that the correct decision had been made.
Lord Brittan could not therefore, at that point, have been informed that no action was to be taken in respect of this allegation. Although the MPS had concluded that there was not a strong case against Lord Brittan, the purpose of requesting a CPS view was to assess whether, in its view, it did reach the evidential standard. It would have been open for the CPS to conclude that it did not meet the threshold for charging and no further action should be taken, or that further enquiries were needed, or that there was in fact sufficient evidence for a charge. It was therefore conceivable that a reviewing CPS lawyer could have concluded that Lord Brittan could have been charged.
The matter was raised informally with the Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for London on 15 January 2015, and then in writing on the 23 January and the 2 February. Lord Brittan died on the 21January.
At no time had the MPS publicly identified Lord Brittan as the subject of a criminal investigation.In response to media questions, the MPS confirmed on 22 January, the day after Lord Brittan’s death, that an investigation into a rape allegation in which a man in his 70’s had been questioned was ongoing. On the same day, a statement from the CPS said: ‘A charging decision has not been made in this case and the matter remains with the police.’
DAC Rodhouse met the Chief Prosecutor for London on 12 February and requested that the file of evidence be reviewed and a decision reached on whether a prosecution would have followed had Lord Brittan been alive.
On 5 March, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, requesting a change of CPS policy to allow files to be considered where there was ‘significant public interest’. A further letter was sent on 1 April repeating the request and referring to the case of Lord Brittan. It accepted that as Lord Brittan had now died, the CPS may not wish to review the file in this case but still sought a change of approach.
A final response was received from the Chief Crown Prosecutor for London on 24 June confirming that the CPS would not review the request.
Investigating officers met the complainant in April, in line with the ‘Victim’s Code’,and informed her that there would not have been a prosecution had Lord Brittan been alive. She was told the CPS would not review the file and that the matter was now closed.
No contact was made with Lord Brittan’s solicitors after they were made aware that a file was to be sent to the CPS following the identification procedure.
The report’s conclusion:
The MPS accepts that Lord Brittan’s solicitors should have been informed at the same time as the complainant was informed. This would have permitted them to clarify the position with Lady Brittan, for which the MPS apologised in a letter to her solicitors on 6 October2015.
There had been no previous contact between the MPS and Lady Brittan during the investigation as it is not normal procedure to inform anyone other than the person accused of the offence. Relatives of people who die whilst under investigation would not normally be contacted after their death and would not be told what the outcome of the investigation would have been, or indeed whether it would have led to a charge or not. But the MPS recognises – as it did throughout the dialogue with the CPS – that the public interest in the case required a different approach.
It is important to recall that the context at this time included significant reporting of allegations that the MPS had failed to investigate allegations against politicians properly in the past.
In 2013, a Home Office review found that "credible" elements of a dossier into alleged paedophilia, reportedly handed by the then MP Geoffrey Dickens to the Home Secretary Leon Brittan in 1984, were sent to police and prosecutors where they had "realistic potential" for further investigation.
On 7 July 2014, the Home Secretary ordered an inquiry ‘to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.’
On 31 October 2014, Fiona Woolf resigned as chairman of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse after her social links to Lord and Lady Brittan were disclosed.
As of October 2015, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is managing 29 separate investigations concerning historic allegations of impropriety by MPS officers when dealing with sexual abuse in the period 1970-2005.
This helps to explain the context in which the MPS sought an independent review of its investigation.
The MPS is frequently contacted about ongoing investigations by MPs acting on behalf of their constituents or campaigning for a particular cause.We accept that this is part of their Parliamentary duties and a legitimate part of holding the police to account in a democracy.But the principle that police officers are independent when making decisions about operational matters is one that we firmly adhere to.
The MPS is concerned that current legislation allowing suspects to be publicly named before charge, whilst those bringing allegations are anonymous, creates an imbalance which should be addressed. The Commissioner has already stated that he believes there should be a ban on identifying suspects before charge to remedy this imbalance.
Under the ‘Code of Practice for Victims of Crime’, the police are required to update complainants or victims within five working days about such matters as arrests and interviews under caution during an investigation. (See Section 1.5 of the Code). Past experience has demonstrated that complainants can lose confidence in the investigation if they are not kept informed about such activity and find out via the media or third parties. The MPS believes this should be continued, but we recognise it creates a risk that the media find out the identity of suspects who have been arrested or interviewed under caution but have not been, and may never be, charged.
MPS response to the report:
- The Commissioner has asked a separate force to review this investigation to ensure it was thorough, properly conducted and to identify good practice.
- The MPS continues to advocate that the CPS should amend its Director’s Guidance so that independent advice can be provided when there is significant public concern but where the charging threshold has not been met due to insufficient evidence.
- The Commissioner invites legislators to consider the issue of pre-charge publicity for suspects and whether additional legal safeguards are required.