Leon Brittan
The Met was criticised after Leon Brittan died with an allegation of rape still hanging over him Getty

The family of dead Conservative peer Lord Brittan have accepted a "full apology" from Met Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe over the handling of an inquiry into the rape of a student. Leon Brittan died last year unaware that the investigation into a 1967 rape claim against him made by a female student had been dropped.

He had always denied the claim and Scotland Yard has faced criticism over its handling of the case but a review, carried out by Dorset Police published on 7 February, found its investigation of the historic claim was "fully justified". Now Hogan-Howe said he has made "a very precise apology" for not informing Lady Brittan the case was dropped earlier.

The Crown Prosecution Service told Scotland Yard in August 2013 that there was not sufficient evidence for a prosecution over the claim he raped a 19-year-old. But the case was nonetheless reopened in 2014 with Lord Brittan interviewed in May of that year whilst suffering from terminal cancer.

No charges were brought, for a second time, and the former Home Secretary, died in January 2015. Investigating officers then told the alleged victim in April 2015 that the case was dropped but during a report into the handling of the case it emerged that Lord Brittan's lawyers were not told at the same time.

Scotland Yard said that the CPS had been asked to carry out a final review of the case so should not have told the complainant in April because the CPS did not confirm it would not pursue the case until June. The force has acknowledged the Conservative peer's widow that she should have been told earlier that, had he still been alive, he would not have been prosecuted.

Lord Brittan's family said in a statement: "At the start of the meeting Sir Bernard offered Lady Brittan a full apology on behalf of the force, which she accepted. Lady Brittan went on to ask and table some 30 questions regarding the two police inquiries as they related to Lord Brittan.

"Sir Bernard promised to answer them in writing and Lady Brittan and the family await his response. Lady Brittan and the family have nothing further to add at least until they have received Sir Bernard's written response."

Lord Brittan is also being investigated as part of Operation Midland, a Scotland Yard investigation into nine people accused of being part of a VIP paedophile ring. Figures under investigation alongside Lord Brittan include former Prime Minister Ted Heath, Field Marshal Lord Bramall and Lord Janner, all of whom were named by a man who claimed to have been abused by them as a boy in the early 1980s.

The police commissioner said in a statement after the meeting: "I confirmed the apology we made some months ago now, which is an apology for not telling her at an earlier stage about the fact the Lord Brittan, who by that stage had unfortunately died, was not to be prosecuted as there was no chance of a successful prosecution.

"I thought it was important to meet her and it was a very precise apology for the reasons that have previously been given."