Met chief holds on to job for at least a year
Home Secretary backs Hogan-Howe despite growing criticism over sex inquiry
By Martin Evans CRIME CORRESPONDENT
SIR Bernard Hogan-Howe will be allowed to serve for another 12 months as Metropolitan Police Commissioner despite mounting questions over his performance. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, approved a recommendation from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, to give him another year in the job, saying it was in recognition of his work reducing crime and reforming the force. But critics said a year-long extension was a “slap in the face” to Sir Bernard, who wanted longer in office. The announcement came despite criticism of Scotland Yard’s handling of Operation Midland and Sir Bernard’s refusal to apologise to Lord Bramall, the former Army chief wrongly accused of historic sex offences. Last Wednesday Sir Bernard announced that a judge-led inquiry will look at how the Met dealt with such cases. But it emerged Operation Midland will only form part of the review once it is concluded. The Commissioner conceded that Sir Richard Henriques, who will lead the inquiry, will only start to look into the 15-month-long investigation when all lines of inquiry had been exhausted. The admission was seized upon by critics who said the review was a PR exercise. Former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, the only living person still under investigation by Midland detectives, said: “As the Commissioner was on record saying he wanted another two or even three years, this oneyear extension is clearly a slap in the face from the Home Secretary and punishment for the disastrous way he has been handling things recently. He ought to do the decent thing and stand down.” He added that Sir Richard should step down “as he is being used in this ongoing PR exercise by the Met”. Operation Midland has been mired in controversy ever since the Met revealed a man in his 40s had come forward claiming a powerful cabal of politicians and military figures had raped, tortured and even murdered young boys in the Eighties. Lord Bramall, a D-Day veteran, had his home raided by 20 detectives and spent a year living under a cloud of suspicion after being wrongly accused. But Sir Bernard said he would not apologise for blunders during the case. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I can’t really apologise for investigating a serious allegation and that’s what we’ve done. I have expressed regret, and it’s a genuine regret if Lord Bramall or his family have been damaged in this process.” Sir Bernard suggested the policy of believing all complainants who make sexual abuse allegations might have to change, but victims’ groups said his comments risked undoing years of work on encouraging people to report offences. The number of reported sexual offences has reached an all-time high, Office for National Statistics figures show. More than 88,000 sexual offences were reported in the year to March 2015, an increase of 37 per cent on the previous year, with rapes up 41 per cent. Last month figures on violent crime showed the murder rate rose sharply for the first time in a decade.