Tom Watson makes full Brittan apology after savaging from top cop

Posted On: 
21st October 2015

Tom Watson has been forced to make a full apology to the family of Lord Brittan - after being accused of "betrayal" by a senior detective. 

Mr Watson said he was "very sorry for the distress caused" by the sex abuse allegations he had made against the peer as he was grilled by members of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Labour's deputy leader has come under sustained fire since it emerged he wrote a letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions urging police to review an investigation into the Tory peer.

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The police dropped their investigation, but neither Lord Brittan or his family were informed before he died of cancer earlier this year.

Today Mr Watson offered a stronger apology to Lord Brittan’s family, after the former home secretary's brother said previous attempts were inadequate.

“I’m very sorry for the distress caused and I am very sorry for her [Lady Brittan’s] wider family,” Mr Watson told the committee.

“I know they are very angry and they clearly loved Leon Brittan very much and they are angry on behalf of their family member and I am very sorry.”

But he added: “I feel that people’s voices were not being heard and I felt responsibility for them and I hope they can try and understand that.”

'EVIL' APOLOGY

Mr Watson also made a far stronger apology than he has in the past for repeating a claim that Mr Brittan was as “close to evil as any human being could get”.

“I do regret using that emotive language – I shouldn’t have done and I am sincerely sorry for repeating it,” he said.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, the officer who decided not to further investigate the peer, had earlier attacked Mr Watson as he gave evidence to the committee.

He said he was “extremely disappointed” when he learned Mr Watson had written to the DPP.

'BETRAYAL'

“I saw it as a betrayal, to be perfectly honest. Because I thought I had been frank, honest and transparent with him from the outset,” he told the committee.

“We had him visit our office, we had him meet our team so he could gain confidence in what we were doing and understand that we would take the investigation where the evidence led us.

“We weren’t there with an agenda, we were there to do a job, and it’s as simple as that. I saw it as a very low blow, to be perfectly honest.”

He went on to claim Mr Watson’s intervention “undermined”, “confused” and “shook confidence” within his own investigation.

Mr Settle also suggested the Metropolitan Police acted unlawfully by interviewing the Tory peer about the rape allegations.

He said he sought advice from the Crown Prosecution Service in 2013 and concluded that pursuing claims against the Tory peer would have been “grossly disproportionate”.

But Mr Watson defended his decision to write the letter.

He said he had only done so after the alleged victim was left “distressed” by police interviews.

“I did feel, having reassured her she would be treated seriously, that I at least owed it to her to test whether the criminal justice system was doing its job. That’s why I wrote to the DPP,” he said.

The committee also heard that Mr Watson's work uncovering sexual abuse had led to three convictions, for which the Met had thanked him.