Ex-police chief cleared over contracts

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The Independent Online

The former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has been cleared of misconduct over the award of police contracts worth £3 million to a friend.

An independent investigation involving officers from two other forces found "absolutely no evidence of dishonesty", his spokeswoman said.

The inquiry examined work given to Impact Plus, later Hitachi Consulting, a company owned by Andy Miller, a close friend and skiing partner of Sir Ian.

Sir Ian said he was forced to publicise the results of the inquiry himself after a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) voted to keep it secret.

In a statement issued through his solicitors, the retired senior officer said he too had not seen the full report into his conduct.

He released details of three of Sir Ronnie Flanagan's conclusions passed to him in a letter which exonerated him of dishonesty and stated there was no basis for a criminal prosecution.

But questions remained tonight over whether Sir Ian would have faced disciplinary proceedings if he was still in his post at the head of Scotland Yard.

Sir Ian said members of the MPA did not accept Sir Ronnie's third conclusion that there was "no basis" for police misconduct proceedings against him or anyone else.

He added that members of the police watchdog body gave no reason for this decision and called on them to publish the full report.

Sir Ian said: "I can find no reason why the police authority, whom I served as commissioner and deputy commissioner for nine years, should refuse to publish a report which exonerates me entirely from allegations of wrongdoing.

"Sir Ronnie's interim report, and now his final report, have been based on a thorough and lengthy inquiry.

"It is a great sadness that all of the hard work involved in the extraordinary transformation of communications which the C3i Programme brought to the Met should be overshadowed by this inquiry and now this refusal to publish its findings."

Sir Ronnie's inquiry, which created seven volumes of paperwork, arrived at the MPA offices in June, 11 months after it began.

He has since left his role as HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and travelled to the United Arab Emirates to work as a police consultant.

Senior members of the watchdog body said they expected to publish as much as possible with only a small number of sensitive details censored.

It was widely expected that Sir Ian would be cleared by the inquiry as he predicted in his final words to the MPA last November.

In a stinging parting shot to London Mayor Boris Johnson, who ousted him from office, Sir Ian said he would be "fully exonerated of any wrongdoing".

Sir Ian's solicitor, Stephen Parkinson, said the decision to withhold the outcome of the inquiry could stop him from clearing his name.

He said: "The decision of the MPA not to inform the public that Sir Ronnie's investigation has acquitted Sir Ian of any misconduct, and to suppress the report or at least those parts affecting him, is deeply unfair.

"Its refusal to give reasons for its decision adds to its lack of transparency. The decision to commence an investigation was announced publicly and was profoundly damaging to Sir Ian's reputation.

"How can it be just to conceal its outcome and detailed findings, particularly when they put right the damage that the allegations caused? This is not appropriate behaviour from a public body."

An MPA spokesman said members of the watchdog's standards committee were not asked to decide if Sir Ian should have faced disciplinary action.

He said: "The MPA's professional standards cases sub-committee has received the investigating officer's final report and the supporting evidence in relation to the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the letting and management by the Met of contracts with Impact Plus Ltd (later Hitachi Consulting) and the role in that process of Sir Ian Blair, former Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

"At the meeting on Monday, members of the sub-committee took the decision not to publish the final report.

"The sub-committee was not required to determine whether disciplinary proceedings should be brought against Sir Ian Blair since he is no longer serving with the Met.

"The sub-committee was required to consider whether a criminal offence may have been committed.

"It determined that the report and supporting evidence did not demonstrate any evidence of dishonesty.

"It also concluded that there was no evidence that any criminal offence had been committed.

"The MPA has therefore concluded its investigation in relation to the conduct of Sir Ian Blair and will take no further action.

"The MPA recognises the importance of 'lessons to be learned' arising from this investigation and until that work has been concluded has decided not to publish."

Impact Plus was hired to provide lucrative communications and IT systems for the Metropolitan Police.

It was claimed that one firm agreed to undertake a £150,000 contract for a lower price but did not win the work.

The inquiry is one of the lingering controversies of Sir Ian's volatile tenure at the Metropolitan Police.

The former senior officer endured a torrent of criticism while in office for a series of apparent gaffes, too much political correctness and his ignorance of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Since being kicked out by Mr Johnson, Sir Ian received further criticism as a result of his huge pay-off from the force.