The former deputy leader of the Labour Party was heavily criticised for his part in encouraging Beech to report his allegations of child sex abuse and murder – later proven to be lies – to the Met Police in 2014.
Using the pseudonym “Nick”, Beech falsely accused a number of high-profile figures, including former politicians Leon Brittan and Harvey Proctor, of being part of a paedophile sex ring operating in Westminster.
The Met at one point claimed Beech’s allegations were “credible and true” before it abandoned a £2m operation investigating them in 2016 that had failed to secure any arrests after two years.
Beech, himself a convicted paedophile, was jailed in July last year on 12 counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of fraud. He is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.
Speaking to Sky’s Kay Burley this morning, Watson said he only named Lord Brittan in relation to Beech’s claims after the peer died in 2015.
But he said he never used parliamentary privilege to name Proctor, who has since won a six-figure payout from the Met over its mishandling of Beech’s claims.
Watson said in Parliament in 2012 that there was “clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and Number 10”.
He also used a column in the Sunday Mirror shortly after Lord Brittan’s death to say he “stands accused of multiple child rape”, adding: “I believe the people I’ve spoken to are sincere.”
Watson told Sky he accepts his mistakes over the handling of Beech’s claims. He said he had “personally failed” in relation to Lord Brittan, who died before being able to clear his name.
“I am very sorry on many levels.”@tom_watson apologises for supporting Carl Beech over false allegations of a Westminster child abuse ring, admitting he got too “emotionally close” to the investigation.#KayBurley at #Breakfast.
Watch more videos: https://t.co/diRTD1Nn70 pic.twitter.com/DG2nSIcQwS
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 6, 2020
The ex-politician said: “I am very sorry on many levels.
“I’m sorry that I got too emotionally close to the child abuse inquiry and I got emotionally close because there were people who were incredibly broken and damaged by child abuse.”
He added: “To imagine that another human being would create such a cruel and elaborate hoax which damages the lives of innocent people, but also reopens wounds and undermines real victims of child abuse whose lives have been turned over.
“You don’t imagine that people will behave like that and maybe that’s one of the lessons of Carl Beech in itself, but I would also say the problem with the Carl Beech story is we also lose sight of what has been brought out in public as a result of the independent [child abuse] inquiry.”
Asked if he thought he had made the right decision by encouraging Beech to report his allegations, which first surfaced on now-defunct investigative news website Exaro, Watson said: “Well clearly not, because it turns out he was a cruel hoaxer and I did say that at the time on record.
“I was asked whether I believed him and I said it’s not my job to believe him, it’s my job, at the police’s request, to have all victims get into the system and reassure them the police would listen to them… the police obviously believed him because they did a press conference to say that…”
Proctor has said Watson’s position pressured police into pursuing Beech’s claims. “That’s not what the police said,” Watson told Sky.
He said police asked him to “passport any alleged victim into the system” but asked that he did not influence them, adding: “I was influenced by the police when they did the press conference to say that they believed Beech…”
Watson went on: “I was doing my very best to try and give very vulnerable people their voice in the criminal justice system.”
He said Lady Brittan had refused to accept his apology.