Root out corrupt officers, police told

Watchdog says conviction of Ali Dizaei is a wake-up call to forces

Police forces have become complacent and are guilty of "taking their foot off the accelerator" in the battle against corrupt officers, the head of Britain's police watchdog has warned.

Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said that the case of Ali Dizaei should serve as a "wake-up call" to those charged with rooting out corruption.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Hardwick also fired a warning shot across the bows of the Conservative Party, which is committed to installing directly elected commissioners to run police forces across Britain.

He said that doing so would increase the likelihood of corruption because popular media-friendly officers, such as Dizaei, would be harder to remove from office. And he said cuts in police budgets, in the middle of a recession, would also contribute to an increase in malpractice. In the wide-ranging interview, Mr Hardwick also called upon the Government to give the IPCC more powers.

"We are becoming complacent about corruption and I think the Dizaei case should be a wake-up call," he said. "To say it has gone away would be a very bad mistake. There are no forces that are free of corruption and you should be most worried about the forces that tell you they are free of corruption."

His comments come just days after the IPCC secured a conviction against Ali Dizaei, the most senior police officer to be imprisoned in Britain for 33 years. Dizaei had arrested a man in a personal dispute about money, despite knowing he had committed no offence. The officer, a Metropolitan Police commander, then fabricated a claim of assault against the man. He was jailed for four years and Mr Hardwick described him as a "criminal in uniform".

But despite success in that case, Mr Hardwick said more needs to be done. He said: "When corruption starts to emerge it will get attention and we will try to drive the problem down for a bit, then we take our foot off the accelerator and it re-emerges.

"This [Dizaei] is a wake-up call, let's not wait, let's not go through this cycle again. We need a consistent and determined effort from the top, from the police leaders. There has to be a consistent message that this [corruption] is not acceptable."

Mr Hardwick added: "There are some people who say this is a very uncomfortable message," he said. "They do not want to look too hard [for corruption] and they do not want to hear this. But Dizaei teaches us that if we do not deal with it now then in the end it will just get worse. No one is talking about a witch-hunt, we just need to be really consistent about this."

As well as the Dizaei case, the IPCC has had three recent convictions of Metropolitan Police officers who misused their corporate American Express cards. Six others have been charged and the investigation is ongoing. But Mr Hardwick says that these cases are typical of many others which have not yet come to light. "By its nature you do not know how much corruption is there. But it is always there. We just do not know how much is beneath the water."

Mr Hardwick says that modern technology has helped corruption thrive. He cites examples of officers using the police computer system to pass information to criminal associates. Yesterday Mark Bohannan, a Metropolitan Police constable of 25 years, was convicted of exactly that.

Mr Hardwick also warned that police budget cuts could contribute to corrupt officers escaping detection. He added: "The pressure is to put officers on the front line. The question will be 'Why put money into people operating at headquarters who do not provide reassurance and all they do is worry people?' The answer will be to take them out of there. If you talk to heads of Professional Standards Departments they tell you they are really worried about what happens to budgets."

Corrupting influences: Police scandals

By Adam Bowie

1877: The Turf Fraud Scandal

Harry Benson and William Kurr made their living stealing fortunes from unsuspecting victims. Yet Scotland Yard was unable to catch the pair. When they were eventually caught they explained that Chief Inspector Nathaniel Druscovich and Inspector John Meiklejohn had been in their pay since 1873 and had provided information about the police investigation. The scandal caused such controversy the Detective Branch was folded into the CID.

1957: Brighton Borough Police Force

Scotland Yard detectives were sent to Brighton to investigate allegations of corruption in the force. Several weeks later Chief Constable John Ridge and two of his CID officers were arrested and charged with corruption. Ridge was acquitted but the two CID officers went to prison. The trial judge said that until there was a change in the force’s leadership he felt unable to believe any evidence from Brighton Police.

1964: The Challenor Case

The Flying Squad’s Harold Challenor broke records for making arrests – 100 in seven months. Many defendants claimed to have been beaten or had evidence planted on them. He met his match when attempting to plant drugs and a gun on Donald Rooum, who happened to be a member of the National Council for Civil Liberties. Rooum requested forensic tests be carried out on his clothes which found no evidence of possession. Challenor was charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice but was deemed unfit to plead citing mental health problems

1989: West Midlands Serious Crime Squad

The Birmingham-based squad was disbanded in 1989 after allegations of misconduct in several cases. Keith Twitchell had his manslaughter conviction quashed after 17 years after admitting to his crimes in what Stephen Solley QC called “a scenario of torture that beggars belief” – Twitchell told the court how officers had handcuffed him to a chair and placed a plastic bag over his head. In another case, George Glen Lewis was cleared of armed robbery and awarded £200,000 compensation after a court ruled he had made up his confession after being beaten by the squad. The West Midlands squad was also involved in the unsafe convictions of the Birmingham Six. No officer has ever been successfully prosecuted.

2005: AMEX scandal

Concerns were raised by a Metropolitan Police auditor in 2005 following claims that several officers were using their force American Express cards to buy personal goods. Auditors examined hundreds of unchecked expenses claims totalling £6m before estimating that up to £1m may have been stolen. Three people have been convicted and six are charged. The investigation is ongoing.

2010: Bohannan convicted

Mark Bohannan, a constable of 25 years, was found guilty of handing confidential information to his cocaine-using wife and her drug dealer Syed Imtiaz Ahmed in exchange for free drugs and money. The Met officer’s information allowed Ahmed’s large scale drug dealings to continue undetected. Bohannan was found guilty of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'