Rap for officers in leaks inquiry arrest of MP





Police officers involved in the Home Office ‘leaks’ investigation which led to the arrest of the Conservative MP Damian Green were yesterday criticised by the authors of two separate reports into the inquiry.



Denis O’Connor, the Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said that the Metropolitan Police allowed the inquiry to go too far because they were worried about the political ramifications if they halted it.

While a report by Sir Ian Johnston, the former head of the British Transport Police, said that the arrest of Mr Green, the shadow immigration minister, was “not proportionate” and that the Tory MP, who was arrested at his home in Kent, could simply have been arrested by appointment at a pre-arranged meeting.

The investigation was launched in October 2008 after the Cabinet Office sent a letter to Scotland Yard’s SO15 Counter Terrorism Command raising concerns that a civil servant in the Home Office had been leaking confidential documents.

The letter, which was copied to MI5, said: “We are in no doubt that there has been considerable damage to national security already as a result of some of these leaks, and we are concerned that the potential for future damage is significant.”

In fact, the leaks, which were being provided to Mr Green by Christopher Galley, a civil servant in the Home Office’s immigration department, related to stories which were appearing in the media about apparent cover-ups of immigration scandals and were merely embarrassing rather than potentially damaging to the security of the country.

In his heavily-redacted report Sir Ian wrote: “I recognise the significant political context in which the leaks occurred and the professional anxiety they caused within the Civil Service.

“However, I regard the leaks for which Galley can be clearly held responsible in law, as amounting to ’embarrassment matters’ for Government. I do not think, from the material presented to me, that the leaks in themselves are likely to undermine Government’s effectiveness.”

The arrest of Mr Green and subsequent police searches of his home and Commons office last november provoked outrage among MPs. He was held for nine hours at Paddington Green police station but in April this year the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said neither man would face prosecution. He said the damage to the Home Office was not excessive and the material was of legitimate public interest.

Yesterday Mr O’Connor said that, although the investigation was started in good faith, it should have perhaps been stopped when it became clear that the leaks were of no threat to national security.

But he added, the political climate of policing at the time, including the enforced departure of Sir Ian Blair by the Mayor Boris Johnson, could have contributed to some decisions made in the investigation of Mr Green.

He said: “I have been an Assistant Commissioner and a Chief Constable and I have said yes and no. When in the full gaze if everybody and when political influence is involved, people get very nervous about saying no. Police feared they would be damned if they did and damned if they didn’t because of the politics around them and they worried about how things might play out.

“You have to look at how charged this was. The Commissioner (Sir Ian Blair) was standing down and it was a super-heated environment where they (the police) were concerned about any decisions they made being misconstrued. The Blair thing was going on and there was continuing debate about politics in policing. They wanted to, at all costs. not appear to be partial. These people were acting with good intentions but good intentions are not enough when the stakes are high.”

Sir Ian’s report was written after a request by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and it examines steps taken during the early part of the inquiry. Mr O’Connor’s report looks at how things should be done in a similar situation in the future. He concludes that the police should only investigate the most serious leaks, ones that concern national security, and the rest should be left for government departments to pursue themselves.

Speaking after reports were released, Mr Green said his arrest was “disgraceful” and said that the reports revealed that the excuse of “national security” to arrest him was entirely bogus.

He said: “The police were misled about the security risks by a senior official in the Cabinet Office, which is itself very disturbing. Then the police themselves used covert recordings to bug my conversations with officers, which is only legal in terrorist arrests. The more we find out about my arrest the more disgraceful it looks.

“Once the authorities received the Johnston report in December it must have been obvious that no successful prosecution could be mounted. Why did I have to wait another four months to be cleared? The O'Connor report is a sensible attempt to change things in the future. These reports expose serious problems at the heart of the Government and in the Metropolitan Police.

“These need to be addressed urgently so that no one else, whether in public life or not, is treated in the same inept and bullying way.”

Scotland Yard said it had “learned lessons” over the inquiry.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own