Smith attacked over leaks fiasco

Prosecutors' decision heaps further pressure on embattled Home Secretary
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Indy Politics

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, was criticised last night following the collapse of a five-month police investigation into a series of embarrassing leaks from her department.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that the shadow Immigration minister, Damian Green, who was arrested as part of the Scotland Yard probe after prompting by the Home Office, would not face any charges for receiving leaked documents. The case against Christopher Galley, the junior Home Office worker who handed him material, was also dropped. The CPS concluded that none had posed a threat to national security.

The verdict intensifies the pressure on Ms Smith, who is already under investigation by parliament's anti-sleaze watchdog over her expenses claims as an MP. It raises the prospect that Gordon Brown will move her in a Cabinet reshuffle which could follow the European elections in June.

Mr Green said the police should never have been involved and that the Home Secretary had shown "poor judgement" in allowing her frustrations over the leaks to culminate in a Scotland Yard investigation. He said the police's involvement symbolised an "out of touch, authoritarian, failing Government". Last night Mr Green claimed that the police warned him that he could face life imprisonment during his interrogation. "I just thought 'this is absurd'," he told BBC's Newsnight.

The collapse of the case puts the spotlight back on the Commons Speaker, Michael Martin, who let police raid Mr Green's office without a warrant.

The leaks included evidence that the Home Secretary had been warned that thousands of illegal immigrants had been cleared to work in government departments, and an email from Ms Smith to the Prime Minister expressing fears that recession could lead to a rise in crime. The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said that much of the information in the leaked documents was known outside the Home Office already, and that "some of the information leaked undoubtedly touched on matters of legitimate public interest".

"The information leaked was not secret information or information affecting national security," he said, contradicting information given to police by the Cabinet Office, which stated that there had been "considerable damage to national security already as a result of some of these leaks".

Mr Starmer added that the information "did not expose anyone to a risk of injury or death. Nor, in many respects, was it highly confidential. Much of it was known to others outside the Civil Service, for example in the security industry or the Labour Party or Parliament."

Mr Green said he did not expect an apology from the Home Secretary, but called on her to take responsibility for the misleading information handed to police. He is to ask the police to remove his DNA from their database now that he has been proved innocent.

Mr Green told Channel 4 News how he was first approached by Mr Galley, saying that Home Office insider was "appalled at what he saw around him". He added: "I have to tell you, he was not the only person who gives information from inside government and I am not the only MP who's received them."

Ms Smith defended the decision to involve the police. "Knowing there were a series of leaks and knowing that we deal with some of the most sensitive information in government... it is our responsibility to have that investigated," she said. She has ordered an investigation into the police's handling of the case.

Last night, several MPs called for the Speaker to step down. "The longer he remains in the job, the lower the reputation of the Commons will sink," said Douglas Carswell, a Tory backbencher. "He has failed over many matters. The guy is not up to the job."

Chris Huhne, Home Affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "This foolish complaint has wasted police time [and] tied up prosecutors unnecessarily... and all for a matter that should have been handled as an internal Civil Service disciplinary case."

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