Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has provoked Government anger after being caught secretly taping a private telephone conversation with the Attorney General.
Lord Goldsmith was incensed over the breach of trust which, coincidentally, came as the men discussed whether the law could be changed to enable the use of bugged telephone calls in court cases. Sir Ian has also infuriated the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by covertly recording conversations with three officials investigating the accidental shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes.
The disclosures will renew the pressure on Sir Ian, who recently faced demands to resign over comments he made about the Soham murders. They also threaten to undermine the relationship between the Commissioner and ministers, who have previously leapt to his defence.
Sir Ian secretly taped the conversation with Lord Goldsmith in the early autumn, when they discussed the merits of changing the law to allow the intercept material to be admissible in terrorist prosecutions.
A Whitehall source said: "The Attorney General is very cross and really rather disappointed that the conversation was recorded without his knowledge or permission. It's ironic given the subject being discussed."
Lord Goldsmith will demand an apology for the intrusion from Sir Ian, who is currently on a skiing holiday. The taping emerged following the disclosure that Sir Ian also secretly recorded conversations with three IPCC officials, including its chairman Nick Hardwick. Mr Hardwick is said to be livid over the intrusion and to have protested to Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary. It was reported last night that the conversation with Mr Hardwick took place on 22 July last year, in the hours after the shooting of Mr de Menezes.
The two were said to have argued over whether an independent examination of the death should take place. A Metropolitan Police Service spokesman last night would not comment on the allegation.
The recordings came to light when IPCC investigators examined an "audit trail" of who Sir Ian spoke to after Mr de Menezes was killed. It is not a criminal offence to record a telephone conversation providing the recording is for individual use. But the person could be entitled to pursue a civil case in courts if the recording is passed on to a third party without his or her consent.
A meeting will take place today between members of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the body responsible for disciplining officers, and officers at Scotland Yard. A spokeswoman for the authority refused to reveal who would be in attendance.
A Met spokesman said no attempt had ever been made to conceal the existence of the tapes from the IPCC. An IPCC spokesman said: 'We are surprised about the recording of calls and we have the recordings. We are dealing with this issue."
There was speculation last night that Sir Ian had also recorded conversations with Sir John Gieve, who at the time was the most senior civil servant at the Home Office. Sir Ian provoked controversy two months ago when he accused the media of "institutional racism" and questioned why the Soham murders had become such a big story.
The comments led to calls from Conservative MPs for him to be sacked and reports that the Home Office had advised him to take a lower public profile.
Publicly Mr Clarke has expressed his full confidence in the Commissioner. Last night the Home Office said it would not comment on the allegations.Reuse content