The "Jane" date rape case: A flawed report from MPs on the Home Affairs Committee
The House of Commons home affairs select committee has produced a number of outstanding reports on the criminal justice system. But its latest report on the Met Police's handling of an investigation in allegations that Leon Brittan was involved in an historic " date rape" case is not one of them.
The MPs have admonished the Met Police, demanded that a prominent MP, Tom Watson apologise to Leon Brittan's family for helping the woman who made the allegation; produced a biased conclusion of how the Met handled the case and given fresh impetus to the idea that celebrities should be given special treatment. The report can be read here.
Since then my extremely assiduous colleague Mark Conrad has found new information from witnesses interviewed by the Met Police which are at odds with the account given by the original investigating officer and what was broadcast on the BBC Panorama investigation into child sex abuse. You can read his article on the Exaro website. Mark Watts, Exaro's editor in chief, has also done an analysis of the police evidence to the committee here.
My main quarrel with the MPs is the conclusions of the report. Not only do they seem biased towards the investigating officer Paul Settle whose work they describe as " exemplary" but they appear to ignore compelling evidence given by his superiors, notably Deputy Assistant Commissioner Steve Rodhouse.
As Rodhouse put it “I think this investigation was following the evidence where it could and conducting a thorough investigation of all the circumstances. That was not done within DCI Settle’s investigation. I understand his rationale but there were other inquiries that needed to be conducted before we could say we had done the job thoroughly.”
Or ". It is highly unusual to undertake an investigation of this nature without interviewing the person who is accused."
Not only is this ignored in the conclusions but the report indemnifies Mr Settle before, as the report itself says, there has been a thorough review by another police force to see if the Met Police got it right. One would have thought the MPs would await its findings rather than act like a kangaroo court in this instance.
What do the MPs on the committee think they are doing by praising a senior police officer for NOT following standard guidelines in a rape investigation which is to interview the accused? Or do they think important people accused of a such offences deserve special privileges?
They also attack Tom Watson for intervening in the case. As far as I can see the evidence shows that his points had already been acted on independently by senior Met Police officers, so, in effect, it had no influence. In fact the senior police officers agreed with him. His language about the Brittan at a very sensitive time might be another matter.
Finally the report makes a big point about the police not informing Leon Brittan's family that the case was not proven. They emphasise that this was appalling because he was a high profile figure.
I understand the problem here is that the police aren't required to inform any accused person that the case is dropped - whether it is Lord Brittan or Joe Bloggs. That is the point the MPs should take up - they are not elected just to represent celebrities but all the people. And they should not want special treatment just because someone is famous.
All in all , this strikes me as a report rushed out to meet a media feeding frenzy rather than considered findings of a group of MPs on how the police should handle a very difficult and complex issue.