The Met Police has warned the BBC that its reporting could deter those making sex abuse allegations from coming forward.
Last night the BBC broadcast Panorama documentary "The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s the Truth?". In it, a man said that campaigners may have led him into making false sex abuse claims.
- July 19, 2019
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- July 11, 2019
The man, referred to as David, told the programme he had provided VIP names – including that of ex-Home Secretary Leon Brittan (pictured) – “as a joke suggestion to start with”.
David, who said he suffered abuse for many years, was reportedly interviewed by police for a total of 50 hours.
Panorama reported that David told police he was worried that two well-known campaigners may have led him into making false claims by suggesting names to him.
He told the programme: "It were just done as a joke suggestion to start with but that suggestion became reality. I just went along with it. I identified him [Lord Brittan] with a photograph.
"But there again, he's a well known MP and I might have seen him on TV through the years and stuff and I might just have been confused.”
The Met Police said last night that it has “serious concerns about the impact of this programme on its investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse and homicide, on the witnesses involved, and on the willingness of victims of abuse to come forward to police”.
It said: “We have warned previously about the risks of media investigations compromising a criminal investigation. When we initially launched our Operation Midland appeal, we specifically highlighted how a media organisation – the BBC in fact – had shown pictures of individuals to 'Nick' which could compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court.
“We continue to be concerned about approaches to witnesses by all media, and that warning was reinforced by the Attorney General on Friday, 25 September.
“The BBC was the first mainstream media outlet to broadcast an interview with 'Nick' containing allegations of homicide currently being investigated by Operation Midland. Since then, the BBC has been investigating these allegations in parallel to our criminal inquiry. We have made it clear to the BBC and other media we will not assist with their inquiries…
“We trust that the BBC has given due consideration to the impact of its reporting on 'Nick' and how it fulfills its responsibility to a witness making allegations of a sensitive and personal nature which were broadcast to millions of people.
“These ethical considerations are always an important element of our investigations, especially in the area of sexual abuse and we hope the BBC would make similar considerations.
“We have a responsibility to protect vulnerable victims and witnesses throughout the criminal justice process, and we take that duty extremely seriously.
“Our concerns extend beyond Operation Midland. We are worried that this programme and other recent reporting will deter victims and witnesses from coming forward in future. Seeing an individual make allegations and then be targeted by the media is not going to encourage others to speak out.”
The Met noted that the since the Jimmy Savile investigation there has been an increase in witnesses coming forward to make “non-recent” allegations and said they did not want to take a “backward step”.
The Met said: "We trust that the BBC will consider in responsible fashion the wider impact of its reporting on all the individuals who might be watching.”
The force said: “We recognise that there is a public interest in reporting and commenting on the police and our investigations. We can and do accept criticism of our policing operations. But we do believe there is a distinction to be made between fair comment and impacting on victims and witnesses in a way that may damage them or a criminal investigation.”
Panorama editor Ceri Thomas, quoted on the BBC website, said: "We were enormously concerned throughout not to do anything that would deter victims from coming forward.
"But we think we have to be able to scrutinise how the police go about big investigations like this and there really isn't a way to do that without looking at the way that police have treated statements from victims and treated the evidence they've brought forward."