Scam case threw spotlight on palace police antics

By Melvyn Howe,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 01:04

The Queen is unlikely to have been amused. While she was not sitting on her throne, police meant to be guarding Buckingham Palace and Britain's first family were allegedly in the habit of keeping the royal seat warm.

They were also said to have put their feet up, stuck their thumbs up and happily posed for pictures.

This decidedly unseemly behaviour at the monarch's official residence was among a number of lurid disclosures played out in front of a fascinated jury.

And although dismissed by the Crown as "diversionary tactics", they generated headlines around the world.

The occasion was the £3 million spread-betting and property scam trial of former Royalty Protection Command officer Pc Paul Page, which finished today.

Page briefed his barrister John Cooper - he later withdrew from the case leaving the defendant to represent himself - about a long list of "gross breaches of duty" said to have been common practice.

They emerged as the barrister was cross-examining Sergeant Adam McGregor.

The officer, another ex-Royalty Protection member who lost £125 000 to the fraudster, admitted he had taken part in the throne-sitting antics.

It was just "something to tell the grandkids", he insisted.

However, he denied indulging in comical poses for the camera.

He was also questioned about other behavioural no-nos:

* Armed officers regularly falling asleep on duty.

* Policemen allowing "uninvited and unvetted" guests into royal garden parties and providing car parking in palace grounds to unauthorised visitors.

* A drunk policeman being given a firearm.

* Others routinely sleeping off hangovers in private palace rooms.

* Hardcore pornography and illegal steroid drugs being sold in police locker rooms at both Buckingham and St James's palaces.

* Marked police cars ferrying gifts and large sums of cash made from spread betting.

Mr Cooper, who claimed the "general attitude and culture was to break the rules and take risks" in SO14, Scotland Yard's Royalty Protection unit, accused Sgt McGregor of not only sitting on the Queen's throne but Prince Philip's as well.

He suggested officers also put their feet up and put their thumbs up for photographs.

Sgt McGregor: "I may have sat on one of the thrones, but I don't recall any comical poses. We're not talking about criminal damage. Sitting on the Queen's throne is perhaps something to say you've done in your life, to tell your grandkids about."

But he conceded: "It's not an ideal scenario."

Pressed further, he added: "I possibly could have had a photograph taken sitting on the royal throne."

Mr Cooper, who branded such behaviour a "security risk" and "entirely disrespectful to the Queen", then asked: "Did you wear a crown?" Sergeant McGregor: "No."

Asked about armed officers at Buckingham Palace sleeping on duty while others kept watch, the policeman replied: "It is not something I am aware of."

Neither had he used a palace room to sleep off a hangover, although he once dozed during a shift.

He also denied any knowledge of officers reporting for duty drunk and being issued with firearms.

The sergeant was similarly unaware of a steroid-selling "culture" among SO14 members and hardcore porn trading in police locker rooms at the palaces.

The barrister suggested Mr McGregor had been "one of those police officers" using mobile patrols to ferry cash to other Royalty Protection officers "involved in financial matters".

The officer branded the accusation "ridiculous", but accepted he once escorted such a car, albeit during a ten-minute refreshment break.

Asked if he arranged for Page's spread-betting investors to illicitly attend royal garden parties, he again replied: "Ridiculous, no."

Page, who spent nearly a week in the witness box, said a royal policeman's lot in London was "easy".

They could earn £50,000-£60,000 a year with overtime "for doing very little" during shifts of two hours "on post" and at least one off.

"You didn't work for a living," he said. "That is the bottom line. You have even got time to study."

He believed money was "thrown at you" because the security level had to be maintained.

What about porn? "There was one officer and he did sell porn. He used to get it from Holland, bring it back and sell it to officers while on duty. Everyone knew about it but no one would say anything."

He continued: "Officers were running poker games for money ... (but) senior officers let it go."

However, more claims about life at the Palace involving Prince Andrew never surfaced during the trial.

Page had no sooner mentioned the prince's name in court than Prosecutor Douglas Day QC successfully objected that the matter was "irrelevant".

Yet in the defendant's defence case statement submitted to the court last year he referred to a series of alleged security breaches at Buckingham Palace between 1997 and 2003.

It spoke of the prince privately entertaining a number of women at the royal residence, but naming only Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late press baron Robert Maxwell.

The document suggested she and others were not only allowed in without them being subjected to established security procedures, but claimed SO14 officers were sometimes ordered to drive them home while still on duty.

Page told jurors members of the royal household instilled a "class culture" where police protection officers were treated as a "necessary evil" while being expected to turn a blind eye to what went on at Buckingham Palace.

He said: "You are not police officers any more. For example (when there are) instances of domestic abuse in the royal household where the servants live and sleep in the palace - some have drink problems and fights - you are told not to get involved. There is a class culture within the palace.

"You are treated like dirt - that includes police officers on the gate. Some (royal household members) are very nice but the majority treat you like you are on a lower level."

Page continued: "I shouldn't be saying what I am saying but it has to be done - I need you to understand the culture."

The defendant maintained there was a steroid trade and that another colleague, suffering side effects from the drug, was allowed to work with weapons.

"He did have serious mood swings. He was identified as a risk. (On one occasion) he had a gun in his mouth and told his girlfriend he would kill himself, but he was (still) put in the gun room booking out the guns."

Page called just one witness, Peter Prentice, who retired as Royalty Protection head four years ago.

He agreed one of the 450 under his command did have a problem with steroids, but could not recollect anything else about the case.

During further questioning the former Chief Superintendent, who denied covering up "embarrassing incidents" in the capital's royal residences, insisted he had no knowledge of any other unsavoury behaviour such as officers "forging firearms certificates.

Asked whether there would be an investigation into Page's allegations about officers' behaviour, Detective Superintendent Tony Evans, head of specialist investigations within the Directorate of Professional Standards, said: "He made numerous allegations in his defence statement, it fell to me to make a decision whether they should be investigated.

"I took the view that they were historic allegations, they were uncorroborated, and they were all made as a result of Paul Page facing serious charges, therefore I decided at that time they would not be investigated.

"At the trial, all the witnesses have vigorously denied any of these allegations, and following the verdict I don't think that I will revisit that decision at this time."

He said a "couple of issues" that had come up during the trial would normally be dealt with at local management level, by senior management at Royalty Protection Command.