THE BLOG
13/02/2016 16:43 GMT | Updated 11/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Put Paedophiles Not Police Officers in the Dock

Over the past few weeks there has been intense pressure on the Met Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, over the force's handling of high-profile investigations into claims of childhood sexual abuse.

The allegations against Lord Bramall, former Chief of the Defence Staff, that were made by a key witness known only as 'Nick', are grim. He alleged that Lord Bramall and others were members of a sadistic paedophile ring that ritually abused and murdered young boys. Nick claimed that members of the ring included politicians, celebrities and high-profile establishment figures.

During the course of the investigation, 20 police officers raided Lord Bramall's home. After being interviewed under caution, he was released on police bail pending further investigations.

10 months later and without any charges being made, Lord Bramall was told the investigation was over. Inevitably there were calls for an apology to be made to Lord Bramall which were widely reported in the media.

In an interview with the BBC, Lord Bramall openly criticised the Met Police and many were dismayed at how the former D-Day veteran had been treated.

There are similarities between Lord Bramall's case and that of the former Home Secretary, Lord Brittan, who was being investigated under Operation Midland and separately accused of raping a woman in the late 60's.

Since his death in 2015, it has emerged that on the balance of probability the rape investigation would not have made it to trial. Again the Met Commissioner has been asked to apologise for the conduct of his officers, which he has so far refused to do. Lord Brittan remains officially under investigation for Operation Midland.

After the unforgivable police failings that allowed Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris, Cyril Smith and others to get away with their heinous crimes, it was unsurprising the Met felt compelled to investigate the allegations made by 'Nick'.

Indeed, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) told all police forces in 2014, 'the presumption that a victim should always be believed should be institutionalised'. This shift in policy might be behind the significant increase in the number of sexual offences being reported over the last few years.

In my case, the presumption I was telling the truth was the key reason I decided to come forward after 20 years of silence and say I was abused as a child. My experience with the police was positive and for the first time I felt as though I could tell someone in a position of authority about what happened without judgement or doubt that I was telling the truth.

This is why I find it so concerning that Sir Bernard said today he is considering changing the policy of automatic belief of sexual abuse victims within the Met Police. Announcing an independent review into the investigations and speaking to John Humphires on BBC Radio 4 Today he said,

I think we've really got hung up on this word 'belief'. It's confused officers and my point would be, we've of course got to be empathetic, we want people to believe we're going to listen to them. We want to be open minded, what they tell us and then what the suspects tell us and then we've got to test all the evidence.

I think there's a grave danger at the moment, with all the advice that's around, that perhaps there's a tendency to think that we will always believe any complaint that is made and that's not wise.

By sowing a seed of doubt with survivors, most of whom believe their voices won't be heard, he's undone many, many years of hard work. The abuse survivors charities, campaigners, advocates, prosecutors and police investigators who have worked tirelessly to bring paedophiles and their accomplices to justice, will be dismayed that the policy of automatic belief is being dismantled to satisfy the criticism of a few disgruntled Establishment figures.

Let's not forget how they closed ranks over the years and made it possible for the likes of Saville, Smith and others to get away with their crimes.

To suggest that his own officers are somehow 'confused' shows contempt for them and the victims they are trying to protect. I struggle to believe that any officer conducting an investigation into allegations of childhood sexual abuse will send their file to the Crown Prosecution Service without, as Sir Bernard puts it, 'testing all the evidence'.

Let's make sure it's the paedophiles who are in the dock and not the police. After many years of failings, it seems to me they are determined to put right the mistakes of the past and finally give victims the credit they deserve for coming forward by telling them loud and clear, you will be believed!