Today, Thursday 5 October 2017, Wiltshire Police has published a summary closure report into Operation Conifer.
Operation Conifer was a national investigation, led by Wiltshire Police on behalf of the National Police Service, into allegations of non-recent child abuse made against the late Sir Edward Heath.
Wiltshire Police carried out an impartial and thorough investigation in line with national guidance and advice from the College of Policing. The guidance clearly states that there is a legal duty for the police, under article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, for police forces to proportionately investigate criminal allegations made against deceased persons.
Operation Conifer had four clear and distinct objectives:
- To identify and safeguard children and vulnerable adults who may be at risk of abuse today
- To seek to establish the facts concerning allegations of child abuse made against Sir Edward Heath through an objective and proportionate investigation
- To identify and where possible bring to justice, any living person who may have committed criminal offences relating to child abuse or associated cover up
- To attempt to provide public confidence in the police response to the allegations that were made
Over a period of two years, Operation Conifer received 42 disclosures relating to 40 separate individuals. The disclosures made covered 14 different police force areas in the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands.
The disclosed offences spanned from 1956 to 1992, and each was alleged to have occurred whilst Sir Edward Heath was a publicly elected member of parliament.
The disclosures made against Sir Edward Heath related to alleged offences of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse against an adult.
The policing purpose in any investigation is to objectively gather facts and examine evidence. For each of the 42 disclosures that were alleged against Sir Edward Heath, a proportionate investigation was undertaken.
At the end of the investigation, the available evidence and information gathered was considered, and the following conclusions have been made;
- In the case of seven individual disclosures, if Sir Edward Heath had been alive today, it has been concluded that he would have been interviewed under caution in order to obtain his account in relation to the allegations made against him.
No inference of guilt should be drawn by the decision to interview under caution. The account from Sir Edward Heath would have been as important as other evidence gathered as part of the wider investigation.
None of the victim disclosures in this category relate to the time when he was the serving Prime Minister.
- In the case of 19 individual disclosures, it has been concluded that there is undermining information available, such that the threshold to interview under caution would not be met.
- In the case of three disclosures, the persons reporting alleged abuse have subsequently concluded that they were genuinely mistaken in naming Sir Edward Heath as the perpetrator
- In the case of ten disclosures, the alleged abuse was reported by a third party, and in the case of another three; the victim reported the alleged abuse anonymously. In the case of these respective disclosures no findings have been concluded.
It is important to state that the role of the police in a criminal investigation is not to reach a conclusion as to the likely guilt or innocence of a person who is subject to allegations. Therefore, the findings in the report published today do not state whether Sir Edward Heath was guilty of any criminal offences or comment on the prospect of a successful prosecution had he been alive today.
The investigation has been subject to scrutiny throughout from a panel of independent members of the public whose role it was to check and test the decision making and approach of the investigation team.
It was also the subject of a ‘value for money’ review from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC), which concluded there was strong governance and strict financial controls in place. Operation Hydrant, the national co-ordinating body carried out two reviews on Operation Conifer, which concluded that a process of continuous review was in place in relation to proportionality and justification, that the national advice was being followed and that the investigation had been conducted in a manner consistent with the application of the principles of legitimacy and proportionality.
In July 2017, IICSA issued a notice to Wiltshire Police under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 requesting a copy of the ‘Senior Investigating Officer Investigation Closure Report’ and a copy of the ‘Operation Conifer Summary Closure Report’. Wiltshire Police is in the process of complying with this request and will have done so by the end of October 2017.
In August 2017, IICSA announced that, as part of the Westminster investigation, it would review the findings of relevant investigations concerning the alleged involvement of people of public prominence associated with Westminster in child sex abuse cases.
In line with the constituted powers of the inquiry, Wiltshire Police will, on receipt of further Section 21 notices, make available to IICSA any further material that it deems relevant to its terms of reference.
The investigation came to an end on 31 August 2017 and the findings have been published today.
Please see attached the following statements:
Chief Constable Mike Veale's statement- video statement is at the top of this page.