Lord Brittan: Labour deputy leader Tom Watson defends actions over 'unfounded' abuse allegations

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has defended the way he handled allegations against Leon Brittan but conceded he should not have repeated a claim that the former Home Secretary was "close to evil".

The MP's comments came after Lord Brittan's brother, Sir Samuel Brittan, called for an apology over "unfounded allegations" he passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from a number of alleged victims.

In an interview on Thursday, Sir Samuel told ITV News of his anger with police after it emerged that Lord Brittan had not been told before his death in January that he had been cleared of an allegation of rape.

Lord Brittan was Home Secretary under Margaret Thatcher and later worked in the European Commission. Credit: Reuters

Shortly after Lord Brittan's death, Mr Watson had written an article claiming the late peer stood accused of child rape, and repeated a claim he said had come from an alleged victim that the peer was as "close to evil as any human being could get".

In his latest article, the West Bromwich East MP accepted he should not have repeated the comment, and also said he was "sorry for the distress Leon Brittan's family experienced as they grieved for him".

Writing for the Huffington Post, he stood by his decision to pass on the allegations, however - adding that he believed they would have been investigated without his involvement "because the DPP made it clear in her reply to my letter that the police investigation into him was ongoing".

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Sir Samuel had urged Mr Watson to apologise to his sister-in-law, Lady Brittan, for the accusations - claiming he had destroyed the peer's reputation with "unforgiveable" slurs.

In the ITV News interview, he criticised police for their "outrageous" handling of claims against his brother, accusing them of "gossiping with journalists".

"I am not an authority on this world at all, but I was brought up to believe the English police were very special and that they didn’t make allegations... until they thought they had a cast iron case in which they could take to court," the journalist said.