Jonathan Walker — Birmingham Post Oct 15, 2015
Police have been investigating multiple abuse allegations involving former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, Black Country MP Tom Watson has said.
The Midland MP, Labour’s deputy leader, has come under fire from critics including the Prime Minister after it emerged police concluded Lord Brittan had no case to answer over claims he raped a woman known as “Jane” but failed to tell the Tory peer before he died in January.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Watson said that Lord Brittan had been accused of “multiple sexual crimes by numerous completely unrelated sources”.
Last night, he was defended by a solicitor specialising in abuse cases who suggested police were still working on a case involving Lord Brittan.
Peter Garsden, of law firm QualitySolicitors Abney Garsden, wrote on his blog: “Tom Watson refers to “multiple allegations”. The police cannot respond to the suggestion that their investigations are without foundation because they are part way through a case and tactically must keep such detail private.”
He also wrote: “Thankfully, Tom Watson has resisted the temptation to fall on his sword and has refused to apologise.”
Speaking to the Birmingham Post, he added: “Tom Watson has said there were multiple allegations against Leon Brittan and the rape allegation was just one of them.
“That was the one that got publicity. But the case against Leon Brittan didn’t only involve this rape victim, Tom Watson has said.”
The Metropolitan Police said last night it could not comment on whether it was currently investigating allegations of abuse involving Lord Brittan.
Mr Watson, the MP for West Bromwich East, is at the centre of a controversy which will not go away — with his enemies scenting blood.
The announcement by the Home Affairs Committee that he will give evidence about his involvement in the Leon Brittan investigation, at a session on Wednesday October 21, has ensured he will remain in the spotlight. Committee members include Walsall North MP David Winnick (Lab).
The MP stunned Commons colleagues in 2012 when stood up and demanded police investigated “clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament”.
At the time, he had no information about claims that Leon Brittan was involved in abuse. The comments referred to a previous police inquiry, which had been shut down, into a network of men in the Paedophile Information Exchange, a pressure group which campaigned for the “rights” of paedophiles in the 1970s and 80s.
His involvement in the Leon Brittan investigation came when he met a woman known as Jane who had approached police with allegations in 2012 but told Mr Watson she was distressed at the way her case had been handled.
He wrote in June 2013 to Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, calling for the investigation to “be completed”.
It’s now emerged that police interviewed Lord Brittan before receiving the letter, suggesting it had no impact on their decision to pursue the investigation.
But there is anger at the way the police dealt with the inquiry, after it emerged police concluded Lord Brittan should face no further action over the allegation – but failed to inform him before he died of cancer in January this year.
Mr Watson found himself criticised by the Prime Minister, who told a radio interviewer: “It’s clear he has got a lot of questions to answer” and called on the MP to “examine his conscience about whether he’s said enough so far”.
He responded later the same day, telling the House of Commons: “I understand that right hon. and hon. members feel aggrieved that Leon Brittan was interviewed by the police and that they are angry with my use of language, but I am sure that they would also agree that, when anyone is accused of multiple sexual crimes by numerous completely unrelated sources, the police have a duty to investigate, no matter who it is.”
He also said: “Many victims in this country have been too terrified to speak out for too long. It is not all over just because a few famous people have gone to prison and it has not all got out of hand just because people in high places are scared.
“The survivors of child abuse have been belittled and ridiculed for too long. That is the real scandal here.
“Earlier, the Prime Minister said that I should examine my conscience. I think we all need to examine our consciences in this House.
“We have presided over a state of affairs in which children have been abused and then ignored, dismissed and then disdained. If anyone deserves an apology, it is them.”
The statement was greeted with jeers from Conservative MPs. And MP Nigel Evans told the BBC: “He is a crusader on behalf of those who have not had their cases properly investigated.
“But he has not had the proportionality, or indeed the decency, to recognise, in Leon Brittan’s case, it went beyond what he should have done.”
The knives are out for Mr Watson. But attacks on him may also reflect anger at what are seen to be failings in the way the police have dealt with cases of powerful people accused of sexual abuse.