Sir Bernard expresses regrets over ‘distress’ to Lord Bramall but faces new pressure on Operation Midland
12 Apr 2016
Britain's most senior police officer has offered words of “deep regret” to the former British Armed Forces’ head in the aftermath of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) inquiry into high-profile paedophile allegations.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe:
'Listened to concerns'
MPS Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan met with Lord Bramall privately on Thursday (April 7) and noted his concerns about the investigation.
Sir Bernard has previously refused to ‘say sorry’ over the distress felt by the 92-year-old D-Day veteran and his family.
The latest meeting comes weeks after Sir Bernard offered a “full apology” to the widow of Lord Brittan who died in January last year without being told he would not face any action over an historical rape claim.
And now Sir Bernard faces new pressures in the wake of a public attack from an 81-year-old, one-time aide to Prince Philip — cleared in court last year of abusing a young girl in the 1970s.
In a statement relating to Lord Bramall, the MPS said: "While the content of that conversation will remain private, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe expressed, in person, his regret about the distress felt by Lord Bramall and his family, and the impact of having his innocence publicly called into question after a long career of public service.
"The Commissioner listened to Lord Bramall's concerns about the investigation, which will be considered as part of the independent review announced by the MPS on Wednesday, February 10."
The media frenzy escalated in January when Lord Bramall was told he would face no further action over historic abuse claims almost nine months after he was interviewed under caution as part of the MPS’ Operation Midland.
Sir Bernard and his force came under huge pressure from politicians and other high-profile figures to apologise to Lord Bramall.
Appearing at the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) in February, Sir Bernard expressed "regret" but refused to apologise.
During one exchange, Tory MP Tim Loughton referred to a "media circus" around the episode.
Sir Bernard said: "Ah the media circus. If what you mean is that you want me to be bullied into apologising, then that will not happen."
Mr Loughton replied: "So you think you're being bullied, do you?"
Sir Bernard said: "I'm asking you whether that's what you think."
A statement issued on behalf of Lord Bramall said: "The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police met with Lord Bramall on April 7, 2016. They had a useful constructive meeting.
"The Commissioner expressed deep regret at the great distress that had been caused to Lord Bramall and his family by the circumstances of Operation Midland which as an innocent man Lord Bramall had to endure for ten months.
"The Commissioner further assured Lord Bramall that the Metropolitan Police Service would be taking the urgent steps to implement the recommendations of the independent review led by Sir Richard Henriques.
"Lord Bramall looks forward to contributing to this review with the aim of establishing whether the investigation could or should have been handled differently.
"Lord Bramall accepts these assurances and appreciates the great pressure the Metropolitan Police have been under."
Sir Bernard has asked Sir Richard to examine the way non-recent sexual allegations against public figures are investigated, and the MPS will publish the key findings of the review and the recommendations later this year.
In reply to the criticism surrounding the force over the handling of the Lord Bramall case, Sir Bernard also told HASC in February: "First of all we have expressed regret. Regret of course, that is not an apology.
"There are difficulties...with apologies to suspects."
Sir Bernard insisted the refusal to apologise was not down to "arrogance".
He said: "It's not the fact that we are arrogant and we don't want to apologise for failure. Certainly in the case of suspects there are difficult things we have to consider."
Sir Bernard also defended the deployment of a reported 22 officers to search Lord Bramall's home.
He said: "The number of searchers is not to do with trying to alert anybody to the event but to do with doing something thoroughly and efficiently."
Meanwhile a former aide of Prince Philip has called for the resignation of Sir Bernard over the force’s handling of Operation Midland.
Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Herman, who was cleared of historical sex offences last year, has told how he felt "like a lamb to the slaughter" during his investigation — which included 27 months on bail.
The 81-year-old was acquitted of four counts of abusing a girl in the early 1970s, when she was aged around 11 or 12 and he was working as equerry to the Duke of Edinburgh.
He was acquitted by a jury in less than an hour following a trial at London's Blackfriars Crown Court.
Lt Col Herman said he felt police "thrive off VIPs" and were determined to prove their worth in the post-Jimmy Savile era by bringing cases against high-ranking officials and celebrities.
Speaking at the central London annual conference for the British False Memory Society, a charity which campaigns about false memories, particularly in sexual abuse allegations, the former soldier said: "I fought for my country, I'm very privileged to have worked for the Royal Family and I love my country.
"Justice has always been a major part of our national identity, we are known throughout the world for justice in Great Britain.
"I'm sorry to say that my experience of the Metropolitan Police has made me feel extremely sad because there is no justice."
Lt Col Herman attacked what he described as the MPS’ "macho" culture, adding: "The police live and thrive off VIPs, there is this enormous tranche of VIP allegations.
"And they have made cock-up after cock-up after cock-up which the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had failed to take charge of. If someone can't run their unit, or their ship, you sack him and put someone else in.
"And I firmly believe he should be sacked.
"You lack moral courage if you can't put your hand up and say 'I'm sorry, I made a cock-up'."
During his trial it was alleged that he boasted about his links to the royals and drove the young girl to Buckingham Palace in his VW camper van.
His accuser said she confided in her friend about the alleged abuse 20 years ago, but went to police only after the Savile scandal in 2012.
Lt Col Herman said the first he knew of any complaint came in a "tiny little letter" which landed on his doormat on February 28, 2013.
It mentioned an "allegation of assault" and asked for a meeting at a "mutually convenient time and place".
He had no idea how serious the allegations were or that he could have been arrested and said he "was led like a lamb to the slaughter" by police.
What followed was two and a half years of being repeatedly bailed and rebailed as his case dragged on before finally ending in a week-long trial.
"I was on bail for 27 months, 18 months without even being charged, during which time my family was going through absolute hell", he said.
"I knew I was innocent, I'm a big boy, I'm a Royal Marine I'll take them on. But with regards to the family and my four daughters, that was not funny."