The district judge who issued the controversial search warrants during the disastrous Operation Midland investigation, has suggested he was “misled” by police officers.
Howard Riddle, the former senior district judge and chief magistrate, said he had complete confidence in Sir Richard Henriques’s damning report which concluded that the applications for the warrants had been “unlawful”.
Scotland Yard detectives applied for six warrants in February 2015, allowing them to raid the homes of Lord Bramall, the late Lord Brittan and Harvey Proctor.
Senior police officers had claimed the searches were necessary in order to investigate the extraordinary claims made by Carl Beech, who told them he had been raped and tortured by high profile figures in the 1970s and 1980s.
The applications stated that Beech had been “consistent” throughout his dealings with officers and that they believed what was saying.
But Beech was later exposed as a pathological liar and jailed for 18-years for perverting the course of justice and fraud.
In a damning review of the investigation, Sir Richard, a retired High Court judge, said the detectives involved in the searches had acted unlawfully, had misled Mr Riddle and should be investigated for perverting the course of justice.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Riddle, who retired in 2016, said he supported Sir Richard’s findings, adding that the police had also failed to follow standard disclosure proceedings when applying for the warrants.
He wrote: “Sir Richard concludes that I was correct in granting the warrants having regard to the information put before me. However, he identifies a number of undermining factors that should have been drawn to my attention, but were not.
“Had they been, the report states, “it is inconceivable…that any application for a warrant would have been granted”.
“The conclusion is that the search warrants were obtained unlawfully. It is obvious to me that Sir Richard has considered all the evidence put before him with great care. I have complete confidence in his report and its conclusions.”
Mr Riddle was also critical of the Met’s failure to disclose “undermining factors” in their application.
He said rather than fill in the section, the officers applying for the warrants had simply written N/A.
He wrote: “In an investigation such as Operation Midland, it is right to expect that undermining factors would be recorded in a log or similar document from the beginning of the investigation and available to the officer making the search warrant application, and to the court.”
The dawn raids had a devastating impact on those falsely accused and their families.
Lady Brittan was still grieving for her husband – who had died just weeks earlier – when 20 officers turned up at her two homes in London and North Yorkshire in March 2015.
Police officers rooted through letters of condolence she had received and were described as acting as if they were “looking for body parts”.
Lord Bramall, 95, a D-Day veteran and former head of the Army, was subjected to a ten hour search by 22 officers at a time when his wife was suffering from dementia.
And Harvey Proctor, who was working for the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle, lost his home and his job as a result of the publicity surrounding the searches.
In his report Sir Richard said: “These searches should not have taken place. The warrants were obtained unlawfully. Nick’s credibility was very much in question and he had not been consistent…I am satisfied the Senior Magistrate was misled.”
An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report which was published on Monday and completely exonerated the officers involved, has been dismissed as a “whitewash”