The Metropolitan Police has launched an inquiry to locate the missing diaries of its former commissioner, Lord Stevens. The hunt was ordered by the new Met chief, Bernard Hogan-Howe, after The Independent revealed last week that the Information Commissioner's Office had launched its own probe into the missing documents.
The decision to appoint a senior detective to head what Mr Hogan-Howe insisted would be a "a very thorough investigation" is a significant departure from the Scotland Yard's official response last week, which stated that diaries were "not a public document" and there was "no requirement" on the MPS to hold on to them.
Speaking to MPs on the Commons' Home Affairs select committee, Mr Hogan-Howe said he had asked the detective leading the hunt to "search everywhere we can to discover where these documents might be", adding "sometimes things get misplaced".
Lord Stevens' diaries – which list his official schedule during the time he ran the Met from 2000 to 2005 – were part of a Freedom of Information request recently made by Ian Hurst, a former British Army Intelligence officer involved in running IRA informants in Northern Ireland. Mr Hurst wanted to know how often Lord Stevens met with Alex Marunchak, a former Irish editor of the News of the World, and other News International executives.
Mr Hurst was told that as they could not find the diaries, the Met could not answer questions on who Lord Stevens had met. In addition to the diary probe, Mr Hogan-Howe also told MPs that his force's response to the summer riots in England had been slow and inflexible, leaving it "on the back foot" during the three days of street disturbances.
The Met boss said that in retrospect more officers should have been deployed as soon as the initial trouble flared in Tottenham. Poor intelligence, he said, hampered the Met's response. He promised a review of their tactics, but said that although the Government's austerity measures would mean cuts, he was determined to increase the police's visibility on London's streets.