POLICE forces investigating allegations of historical sexual abuse made against prominent people who have now died can’t avoid ‘tarnishing their reputation’ says Wiltshire’s Police Commissioner.

Angus Macpherson, the elected official in political control of Wiltshire Police says in his annual report that the standards set for officers looking into historical accusations force them into casting doubt on the innocence of the alleged perpetrator, who has no way on answering them.

In the annual report for 2017-18 Mr Macpherson details his concerns when discussing Operation Conifer – Wiltshire Police’s investigation into allegations made against former prime minister Sir Edward Heath, who lived for many years in Salisbury.

He said: “Wiltshire Police followed nationally-issued guidelines. In my view these national guidelines are fundamentally flawed: it is simply not possible to both establish the facts of a case and to make no implied comment on the likely guilt of the person investigated.”

Mr Macpherson was referring to the advice issued to forces when investigating deceased persons.

It says: “In an investigation into a deceased suspect, there is no potential for a criminal trial. Reports should not draw any conclusions as to the likely guilt or innocence of the individual, not make any comment as to the action the police or CPS would have taken in respect of a decision to charge had the suspect been alive.”

In the next paragraph The advice says that forces can report whether a suspect would have been interviewed under caution had they been alive. It says “no inference should be drawn as to their guilt because of this.”

Operation Conifer found that Sir Heath would have been interviewed under caution in relation to seven allegations, while another 35 would have been dismissed.

Mr Macpherson wrote: “The upshot of the investigation and report is the perception by many of Sir Edward Heath’s supporters that his reputation has been unjustly tarnished. The media headline was, understandably, that Sir Edward would have been interviewed under caution in relation to seven allegations, not that out of 43 allegations most would have been dismissed without the need to seek an account from Sir Edward.”

Mr Macpherson said he expressed his concern on the “inherent deficiency of the guidance” throughout 2016 and 2017 to the Home Secretary and Chief Constable.