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Police advised to still automatically believe alleged abuse victims in guidelines despite warnings

Police are still being advised to automatically believe alleged abuse victims in new guidelines despite warnings from a senior judge in his review of the ‘Nick the fantasist’ case.

The College of Policing guidance, which was published today, controversially tells detectives investigating claims of child abuse that ‘the intention is that victims are believed’.

This is despite retired judge Sir Richard Henriques, in his review of how police handled claims of VIP sex abuse from the fantasist Carl Beech, calling for the instruction to be withdrawn because suspects are innocent until proven guilty.

Beech’s slurs were described as ‘credible and true’ by a senior officer, and went on to trash the reputations of esteemed public figures including D-Day hero Lord Bramall, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, ex-Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.

The new guidance comes despite warnings from retired judge Sir Richard Henriques, in his review of how police handled claims of VIP sex abuse from the fantasist Carl Beech (pictured in a police interview from 2016) 

Sir Richard criticised the decision to keep the guidance, telling The Times: ‘They’ve learnt nothing at all from Nick.

‘The whole basis of their explanation for believing Nick is that they were driven to believe by the protocol that was in existence.’

The guidance was produced by the College of Policing and senior officers in Operation Hydrant, which leads the investigation of historic abuse allegations.

It was today defended by Hydrant chief Simon Bailey, who insisted officers did not apply ‘blind belief’.

He said that victims were constantly told by their abusers they would never be believed, and they would never come to the police if they did not feel they would be listened to.

The new guidance also urges officers not to go ‘trawling’ for abuse victims but to use prior investigation to approach specific groups of possible victims or witnesses.

It also advises the, when releasing information about a suspect who has died, officers must ‘make it clear that there police are making no judgments about guilt’.

Wiltshire Police was criticised for holding a press conference outside the late former Prime Minister’s Edward Heath’s home in 2015 to announce they were investigating claims he was a paedophile, before urging other alleged victims to come forward.

The force later said that, if the politician had been alive, he would have been interviewed about seven disclosures under criminal caution.

Carl Beech – the fantasist and paedophile known by the pseudonym ‘Nick’ – was sentenced to eighteen years in prison in July 2019 to his false claims, including against Sir Edward.

Sir Richard criticised the decision to keep the guidance, saying: 'They've learnt nothing at all from Nick'

Sir Richard criticised the decision to keep the guidance, saying: ‘They’ve learnt nothing at all from Nick’

Sir Richard’s report on Scotland Yard’s investigation, Operation Midland, advised that ‘the instruction to believe a victim’s account should cease’.

He said people who make allegations to police should be called complainants, not victims, so not to imply guilt. The report, commissioned by the Met, was handed to senior commanders in 2016 but was finally published in full in October 2019.

It exposed the appalling failures of senior officers who believed Nick’s false allegations as they mounted a bungled £2.5 million investigation which ruined the lives of war hero Lord Bramall, Lord Brittan and Mr Proctor.

Police decided to automatically believe claims of sexual abuse in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, when it emerged that credible rape reports had been dismissed.

But the approach led to the Met notoriously describing as ‘credible and true’ the false allegations made by Beech, which were also backed in Parliament by the Labour MP Tom Watson. 

The 51-year-old falsely alleged that between the ages of seven and 16 he had been collected by car from his various schools in the country and driven to London, where he and other young boys were raped, burned, stabbed and tortured.

He claimed the offences were committed in the Carlton Club or in the apartment block in Pimlico called Dolphin Square. Afterwards, Nick would be returned by car to his home, where he lived alone with his mother.

He had originally made allegations to Wiltshire Police, who had interviewed him but concluded he lacked credibility.

His mother was also questioned and told them she had no knowledge of any unauthorised absence from school and had never seen any bloodstained underwear or similar sign of sexual abuse.

Yet Met officers listening to his claims were not given his earlier interviews so missed the large number of inconsistencies.

Beech's slurs were notoriously called 'credible and true' during a press conference outside New Scotland Yard

Beech’s slurs were notoriously called ‘credible and true’ during a press conference outside New Scotland Yard  

Sir Richard said they then continued investigating his claims ‘in a disordered and chaotic manner and littered with mistakes’.

In his new book, From Crime To Crime, which was serialised in the Daily Mail, the former judge wrote: ‘They failed to ask Nick for his computers or mobile phone.

‘They ignored the fact that his medical records disclosed no injury consistent with his allegations in his personal online blog that his feet were stabbed and burned, poppies pinned to his bare chest and numerous bones broken.

‘They had no regard to the inherent improbability of men of the highest standing and impeccable character having behaved in the manner alleged.’

Moving on the notorious ‘credible and true’ press conference, he continued: ‘Instead the police made a public appeal for information, with a senior officer, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, standing outside New Scotland Yard and telling a press conference that they believed Nick’s allegations to be both ‘credible and true’.

‘The words should never have been uttered, and the officer himself later admitted they were inappropriate, saying he selected the wrong words in the heat of an interview.

‘But there was no correction for many months, by which time, as we will see below, two completely bogus potential witnesses had come forward with more lies purporting to support ‘Nick’.’ 


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