Met chief Bernard Hogan-Howe to be questioned in Parliament over leaks
MPs denounce alleged campaign to hound former commissioner Ian Blair out of office
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Tuesday 17 April 2012
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner will be questioned by MPs today over why Scotland Yard suppressed a report into an alleged dirty tricks campaign to oust one of his predecessors, Ian Blair.
Bernard Hogan-Howe will be challenged on the claims made in a police report, published in The Independent yesterday. A member of the Met's management board was said to have briefed against Lord Blair and leaked internal matters.
The report, whose existence was revealed yesterday by The Independent, also raised concerns that details of key investigations were improperly disclosed. Lord Blair, who only learned of the highly-sensitive internal document in recent months, has sent it to Operation Weeting, the Yard's investigation into phone hacking. He has also asked the Yard to explain why the report, which described the Met's powerful management board as "compromised", was not brought to his attention while he was in office during one of the most turbulent periods in the force's history.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the select committee, said he was "very concerned" by claims made in the intelligence document, which also raise questions about the relationship between senior Met officers and Rupert Murdoch's News International newspapers. Mr Vaz said: "I will be raising these allegations with the commissioner."
Mr Hogan-Howe, who has been invited to re-appear before the committee after his first six months in office, is also expected to be asked about recent racism claims levelled at the Yard, and wider questions about improper relations between police and the media.
The Met has confirmed the existence of the intelligence document, written by a detective sergeant working on the Yard's original phone-hacking inquiry, which was heavily criticised. But the force insisted the report "did not warrant further action" at the time of its writing, and told The Independent it was not being actively pursued by Operation Weeting or its linked investigations into computer hacking and corrupt payments to public officials by Murdoch titles.
The Yard's refusal to countenance a fresh investigation led to calls yesterday for the intelligence document to be disclosed to the Leveson Inquiry so it can be included in its deliberations about relations between the police and the media. The report also claims that Lord Blair's predecessor, Lord Stevens, had a close relationship with a senior News of the World executive named in the document. After he retired in 2005, Lord Stevens was signed up to write a column for the Sunday tabloid, which was ghost-written by the newspaper's former deputy editor Neil Wallis.
Joanne McCartney, the chairman of the police and crime committee at the Greater London Authority, which scrutinises Mayor Boris Johnson's supervision of the Met, said: "It is extraordinary that while in office Lord Blair was not provided with this report. If he was sufficiently concerned by its contents to pass it to Operation Weeting, then this document is also something which should be produced to and discussed by the Leveson Inquiry.
"These matters may be in the past but they are of clear relevance to the present commissioner and Leveson to ensure these issues do not happen again."
The leaked report says an unnamed member of the management board was suspected of briefing against the then commissioner and informing outsiders about live inquiries. The Leveson Inquiry has heard that efforts to damage Lord Blair intensified before his appointment as Britain's top police officer in 2005.
Ask the boss: important issues
Key questions for Bernard Hogan-Howe at the Home Affairs Select Committee:
* New allegations of corruption have been levelled against key officers in the original Stephen Lawrence murder hunt. London's mayor, Boris Johnson, has already told the Home secretary, Theresa May, that he is backing Stephen's mother Doreen and her request for an inquiry. Is it time for the Metropolitan Police to admit that this inquiry is now needed because it has not properly implemented the recommendations of the Macpherson Inquiry?
* Pressure groups including the National Black Police Association have already called on David Cameron to bring back the "Lawrence Steering Group", which helped monitor the relationship between the police and ethnic minorities. Macpherson branded the Met "institutionally racist" and this group helped address the issue of racism in policing. With race relations again on the political radar, isn't regular monitoring urgently required?
* The Leveson Inquiry recently completed the section of its investigations that was supposed to look at the relationships between the press and the police. During those hearings, senior police officers, both retired and serving, were questioned. But many questions and inconsistencies remain unanswered – asThe Independent highlighted yesterday in new revelations about the damaging civil war which was being fought during the period when Lord Blair was commissioner. Should Lord Justice Leveson ask back both Lord Blair and Lord Stevens for further questioning to help address the serious allegations made in The Independent's investigation?
* The Met confirmed that intelligence documents from 2006, during the time of the initial phone hacking investigation, did indeed look at damaging leaks that were coming from the management board of the force. These leaks had a negative impact on the authority of the officer at the helm of Scotland Yard, Sir Ian (now Lord) Blair. If the Met has nothing to hide, and found nothing to investigate when it looked at these leaks, why doesn't it publish this intelligence in full?
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