The following statement has been issued following the conclusion of the police investigation re: Lord Bramall.
Assistant Commissioner Specialist Crime and Operations Patricia Gallan said:
"I fully recognise how unpleasant it may be to be investigated by the police over allegations of historic abuse. For a person to have their innocence publicly called into question must be appalling, and so I have every sympathy with Lord Bramall and his late wife and regret the distress they endured during this investigation.
"The Metropolitan Police are clear that citizens are innocent until proven guilty, and our letter to Lord Bramall's lawyers now closes this investigation into the allegations against him.
"The possibility of an apology has been raised, and I thought it was important for the Metropolitan Police to respond publicly. This is an unusual step for us to take, but I think it is in the public interest for me to explain the dilemmas faced by policing in this regard.
"We have many serious allegations referred to us every year that we have a duty to investigate. It is, of course, a principle of British justice that everyone is equal before the law so that duty must apply equally to all, irrespective of their status or social standing.
"We always endeavour to investigate impartially and to follow the evidence without fear or favour. Where the evidence supports it, charges will be laid, and a jury will decide, not the police, and our language should always reflect this. The fact that after a full and impartial investigation the evidence did not support charges being laid, does not suggest that an allegation should not have been investigated.
"We have continued the investigation into the allegations against Lord Bramall until all relevant lines of enquiry have been examined, and recognising that they are one part of a detailed set of allegations. This has meant it has not been possible to complete the process as quickly as we would have liked, but that is an unfortunate consequence of the historic and complex nature of the allegations. An incomplete investigation would have served no one's interest.
"We have endeavoured to act with courtesy and professionalism at all times, recognising the impact on the person is acute, especially when their identity enters the public domain. That is why we continue to hold the view that the identity of an individual facing allegations of this kind should not be made public until and unless they are charged, save there is an exceptional policing purpose. We have never named Lord Bramall and only do so now because he has spoken publicly and disclosed that he was the subject of this investigation, and we have contacted his legal representative and shared this statement before making it public.
"The Metropolitan Police accepts absolutely that we should apologise when we get things wrong, and we have not shrunk from doing so. However, if we were to apologise whenever we investigated allegations that did not lead to a charge, we believe this would have a harmful impact on the judgments made by officers and on the confidence of the public. Investigators may be less likely to pursue allegations they knew would be hard to prove, whereas they should be focused on establishing the existence, or otherwise, of relevant evidence.
"Naturally, there will be occasions on which this does not lead to a charge, but the investigator's primary duty must always be to establish the evidence. It stands to reason that we cannot only investigate the guilty and that we are not making a mistake when we investigate allegations where we subsequently find there is no case to answer.
"I accept that we can always learn and improve. I accept too that the impersonal language we need to use in legal letters to a person's lawyer may suggest that we have no sympathy for those who remain innocent at the end of an investigation. That is absolutely not the case, but we must continue to remain dispassionate and not introduce any personal sentiment or comment on the quality or otherwise of the evidence.
"I also accept as Lord Denning said in a famous judgment that police officers are answerable to the law and to the law alone. The government has decided to set up a statutory public inquiry under the Hon Lowell Goddard precisely because of contemporary concerns about historic investigations. It is a powerful recognition of public disquiet about the thoroughness of attempts by the police and other agencies to investigate allegations of abuse. The Inquiry has already made clear that it will be investigating cases where there are allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation involving people of public prominence associated with Westminster. This may include Operation Midland. The MPS will, of course, fully co-operate with the Inquiry and account for its actions wherever that is requested.
"In conclusion, I have offered to meet Lord Bramall at the conclusion of Operation Midland to explain the nature of our investigation and why we have acted in the way we have. I do want to hear his views and understand whether we might have conducted ourselves differently in any of our engagements with him and his legal representatives. But I cannot do that before the criminal investigation is complete."