Tom Watson ‘put pressure’ on police investigating bogus VIP sex abuse claims, report finds
Tom Watson put "further pressure" on police investigating claims of a Westminster VIP sex abuse ring, a report has found.
A review of the way the Metropolitan Police carried out the probe has accused Labour's deputy leader of triggering a "state of panic" among officers.
Mr Watson gave his public backing to the testimony of Carl Beech, previously known as “Nick”, who said he had witnessed the rape and murder of young boys, and had himself been abused.
The claims led to a to a £2.5 million police inquiry, known as Operation Midland.
But Beech was a fantasist and was jailed for 18 years for offences including perverting the course of justice.
On the basis of Beech's claims, in 2012 Mr Watson said there was “clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and Number 10”.
But former High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques, who led the probe into the police investigation, said a letter from the Labour MP may have "instigated a state of panic" among officers who were "fearful of media criticism and public cynicism".
“There can be no doubt that Tom Watson believed ‘Nick’ and it should be stated that he had previously provided the MPS with information leading to convictions in other cases," the report added.
“His interest, however, in both Operation Midland and Operation Vincente created further pressure upon MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) officers.”
Elsewhere, Sir Richard said warrants to search the homes of former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, Lord Brammal, and the widow of former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, were obtained "unlawfully" by officers who had an "unwarranted and disproportionate belief" in the claims.
He added: "The most significant error in this investigation was the decision to apply for search warrants coupled with formulating inaccurate statements which were placed before the district judge.
"But for that decision, this investigation may well have been completed without the dreadful adverse consequences I have described."
The review also accused Mr Watson of "grossly" insulting Lord Brittan, who died before the claims were found to be false.
But Mr Watson hit back at the criticism, saying the document contained "multiple inaccuracies" and raised concerns it had been "selectively leaked, seemingly to refocus criticism away from the Metropolitan Police."
"The report doesn’t make clear the key point that Lord Brittan was interviewed by the police before they received my letter," Mr Watson said.
"Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rodhouse has been clear that the letter did not influence the investigation, and ex-Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders publicly confirmed that my letter was not received by Police until after the interview. It therefore cannot be argued that it was pressure from me that led to Lord Brittan being interviewed."
He added: "I have always said that it wasn’t my place to judge whether sexual abuse allegations were true or false - that was for the police.
"The police asked me to encourage the hundreds of people that came to me with stories of child abuse to report their stories to the police. That is what I did."
The full publication of the report is likely to increase pressure on Mr Watson, who has faced calls to quit over his involvement.
On Friday, a friend of Mr Brittan's widow told The Times: “The extent of Tom Watson’s involvement in the witch-hunt of innocent people has been laid bare.
“His subsequent attempts to distance himself show a complete lack of integrity.
“By misusing his public office to recklessly repeat false allegations, and to characterise himself as a victim, he has shown that he is unfit to hold the office of MP.”