Exaro News Archive

‘Jane’: witnesses should come forward despite Leon Brittan row

Woman who alleged rape by ex-minister still urges others to report such claims to police

By Mark Conrad and Mark Watts | 4 December 2015

“Officers on the Fairbank team were very supportive and considerate” – Jane

Survivors of sexual abuse should still come forward to police despite controversy over the rape claim against Lord Brittan, says the complainant in the case.

The woman, known as “Jane” to protect her identity, spoke to Exaro to encourage others like her to have faith in the ability of today’s police to investigate such allegations.

She spoke following a series of what she called “smears” against her in the media. The controversy over the case prompted two former flatmates of Jane’s to come forward to Exaro to deny media reports that they “contradicted” her account to police.

Jane said: “Despite the problems that I encountered and the mishandling of my case, I still believe that I was right to come forward.”

She did not feel that the officer at the Metropolitan Police Service who was initially in charge of her case, DCI Paul Settle, carried out a full investigation. But she was impressed by the testimony to MPs about the case by more senior officers.

She said: “I would urge anybody who has suffered sexual abuse to have the confidence that I now have in the process to come forward.”

Jane claimed that as a 19-year-old student in 1967 Brittan raped her after duping her into a flat when they met for a blind date.

Brittan was a barrister at the time, and later became an MP and home secretary. Brittan died in January.

MPs on the House of Commons home affairs committee just over a month ago heard how senior officers at the Met were split over the investigation, carried out under ‘Operation Vincente’.

Settle, who also headed ‘Operation Fairbank’, the umbrella scoping exercise for allegations of sexual abuse against politicians and other VIPs, decided against interviewing Brittan on the grounds that it was “grossly disproportionate and would not have a legal basis”.

However, a review of the case by the gold commander, Graham McNulty, who specialised in investigating rape cases, concluded that detectives should have interviewed Brittan under caution.

Steve Rodhouse, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, told the home affairs committee that Settle had not conducted “a thorough investigation” and should have interviewed Brittan.

Jane said: “I listened to DAC Rodhouse, speaking at the home affairs committee, give a very different view of my case to that of the former head of the Fairbank team. I have to say that DAC Rodhouse’s view and the actions that he took are exactly what I would have hoped from the Met.”

“That side of proceedings fills me with confidence in the Met, as did all of my interviews with the detective sergeant and detective constable involved,” she continued.

“Now there is a victim’s right to review, so nobody will have to go through what I went through to have the investigation properly investigated.”

She was angered by Settle’s refusal to interview Brittan, and came forward to Exaro to tell her story. In May last year, Exaro highlighted the apparent breach of police guidelines in initially failing to interview Brittan under caution.

It led Tom Watson, Labour MP, to write a letter of protest to Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions.

Settle was removed from the case, and a new officer in charge interviewed Brittan. The former cabinet minister denied Jane’s allegation.

Police closed the investigation in April after being unable to establish whether her claims against Brittan were true.

Although Settle’s handling of the case left Jane “very angry”, she said: “Officers on the Fairbank team were very supportive and considerate, and at no time did they make me feel that I should not have come forward.”

Jane expressed thanks to those who highlighted the initial failure to interview Brittan. She said: “With the help of Exaro, I approached Tom Watson for advice as I had nowhere else to turn, and as I knew that he had spoken up for survivors of sexual violence.”

Two of Jane’s former flatmates from the time of the alleged attack came forward to Exaro out of anger about mis-reporting of the case by other media, and denied claims that they “contradicted” her account to police.

Update 14 December 2015: The Times published the following letter from Mark Watts, Exaro’s Editor-in-Chief, on Friday:

“Exaro did not persecute or traduce the late Lord Brittan of Spennithorne as David Aaronovitch has claimed (Why let the facts spoil a good smear campaign, Comment, October 15). In common with other media, including The Times (News, July 7, 2014), we identified Lord Brittan in our coverage only when he was finally interviewed under caution in relation to the allegation of rape in 1967 of a 19-year-old female student. Exaro did not assert that the allegation was true, but that it warranted proper police investigation.

“Our object was not, as Aaronovitch assumes, ‘to pressurise the police into interviewing Lord Brittan [so that] he could be named’. We were raising the issue because of an apparent failure by the officer in charge to follow police guidelines in investigating the case, a reasonable thing for us to do in light of past failures by police to investigate properly prominent people over allegations of sexual abuse. The Metropolitan Police Service has since confirmed that the initial decision not to interview Brittan under caution was indeed wrong.”

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Exaro News investigates matters of public interest and seeks to uncover the truth.