The first refuge for any failing public service is to appoint an independent person to review the actions of management. Thus the Metropolitan Police recently appointed Sir Richard Henriques, QC, to look into the operation of some police enquiries involving high profile people.

This would have been completely unnecessary if senior police officers had not decided to abandon the time honoured nine principles of police as set out after Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police in 1829.

Sir Robert recognised that a suspicious public, who feared that a paid police force could be used as an instrument for tyranny, needed the reassurance that the police would be politically independent and dependent on public approval of their existence, actions, and behaviour. One of the key principles was the requirement to seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion as supposedly expressed by lobbies and self serving politicians, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to the Law, in complete independence of policy and regardless of any perceived pressure to the contrary. The principles also expected the police not to usurp the powers of the judiciary in deciding guilt but to investigate alleged crimes and offences impartially.

So why did senior police officers depart from these time honoured principles which have long been the hallmark of British policing? Senior officers took fright when the Macpherson report was published in 1999. This led rise to the often publicly acclaimed statement that there was institutional racism in the police. As a general proposition that was of course complete nonsense. But that led to overreaction on the part of police management resulting in no action in Rotherham, Oxford and elsewhere. Then the pendulum swung in the opposite direction to create the policy that if anyone alleged a sex offence, especially if this relates to children, or women regardless of the circumstances, then there was a presumption that the victim had to be believed even before any objective inquiry as to the facts had been carried out. As we now, serious injustice has occurred to many prominent public figures as well as others.

This situation is nothing more than a scandal. It is an indictment of the failure of senior police management and has served to show the pointlessness of the unwanted police and crime commissioners who were supposed to provide some form of public accountability over the police.

It is not in house enquiries that are needed to restore public confidence in the impartiality of police investigations but a reaffirmation in the Peel principles of policing and real leadership by chief officers.

Sir John Wheeler is a Trustee of the independent Police Foundation.