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Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Report

Volume 697: debated on Tuesday 15 June 2021

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the report of the Daniel Morgan independent panel.

Daniel Morgan was murdered in London in 1987. It is incredibly painful for his family and friends that five criminal investigations into his brutal death have brought no successful prosecutions. In 2013, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who was then Home Secretary, announced the creation of the Daniel Morgan independent panel to review police handling of the murder investigations. The panel was asked to explore: police involvement in Daniel Morgan’s murder; whether anyone involved in the murder was protected by corrupt police officers; whether there was a subsequent failure to investigate corruption; and the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers, the News of the World or other parts of the media. The independent panel has now completed its report. I am grateful to the panel and to Baroness Nuala O’Loan.

As Home Secretary, it was my responsibility to ensure that publishing the report was compatible with my statutory obligations in relation to human rights and national security. This was not about delay. I am pleased that no redactions were required. Daniel Morgan’s family have waited eight years for this report. It is devastating that, 34 years after he was murdered, nobody has been brought to justice.

The report sets out findings from its review of the past three decades. It is more than 1,200 pages long and in three volumes. It is right that we carefully review its findings. The report is deeply alarming: it finds that examples of corrupt behaviour were not limited to the first investigation, that the Metropolitan police made a litany of mistakes, and that that irreparably damaged the chances of a successful prosecution for Daniel Morgan’s murder. The report accuses the Metropolitan police of

“a form of institutional corruption.”

Police corruption is a betrayal of everything that policing stands for in this country. It erodes public confidence in our entire criminal justice system. It undermines democracy and civilised society. We look to the police to protect us, and so they are invested with great power. The overwhelming majority of officers use it honourably, but those who use their power for immoral ends do terrible harm, as do those who indulge, cover up or ignore police corruption. This is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the Metropolitan police.

In recent years, several steps have been taken to combat police corruption. A new offence of police corruption, applicable solely to police officers, was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead in 2015, to sit alongside the existing offence of misconduct in public office. The offence carries a maximum prison sentence of fourteen years. To prevent corrupt police officers evading accountability by resigning or retiring, the Policing and Crime Act 2017 enabled the extension of disciplinary procedures to former officers. It also ensures that if an officer under investigation for gross misconduct resigns or retires, misconduct proceedings can still take place and the officer can be barred from rejoining the police.

Last year, I overhauled the police complaints and discipline process. There is now a more efficient system for dealing with police misconduct. The investigation process is simpler and quicker, and an explanation is required if an investigation takes longer than 12 months. It is in the interests both of the police and of the public that corrupt police officers are exposed and innocent officers exonerated as swiftly as possible.

The Group of States against Corruption monitors countries’ compliance with the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption standards. This month, it published a report demonstrating good progress in the UK’s law enforcement to prevent corruption. But we cannot ignore the findings of this report. Its recommendations are wide-ranging and far-reaching across aspects of policing, conduct, culture and transparency in public institutions. Today, I have written to Dame Cressida Dick to ask her to provide me with a detailed response to the panel’s recommendations for the Metropolitan police and the wider issues outlined in the report. This afternoon, I will also ask Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services to consider how best it can look into the issues raised.

The police are operationally independent, and the Metropolitan police are held to account by the Mayor of London and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, but the police are accountable to Parliament through me. I intend to return to the House to update on progress made on this and other recommendations in the report once I have received responses from the Metropolitan police and others.

There can be no confidence in the integrity of policing without confidence in the police watchdog. The Independent Office for Police Conduct has made good progress since it was formed in 2018, but questions remain about its ability to hold the police to account. In particular, profound concerns exist about the handling of the IOPC’s investigation into Operation Midland. The issues raised by the Daniel Morgan independent panel further reinforce the need for a strong police watchdog. I am therefore announcing today that I am bringing forward the next periodic review of the IOPC to start this summer. This will include an assessment of the IOPC’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Daniel Morgan deserved far, far better than this, as did his family. To them, on what will be a very, very difficult day, I say that the whole House will have them and Daniel in our thoughts. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for advance sight of it. I should say that a member of Daniel Morgan’s family is a constituent of mine, and my thoughts are with them today.

The publication of the report should never have taken this long. It is 34 years since Daniel Morgan’s horrific murder, with four major police investigations, a collapsed trial, an inquest. The independent panel was set up by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) in 2013, yet the family has had to wait a further eight years since then.

The findings in the report are damning and they go to the very heart of our policing, criminal justice system and media. The challenge to the Government today is what will now be done to ensure that something like this can never happen again. Paragraph 60 of the report is incredibly serious. It states:

“The family of Daniel Morgan suffered grievously as a consequence of the failure to bring his murderer(s) to justice, the unwarranted assurances which they were given, the misinformation which was put into the public domain, and the denial of the failings in investigation, including failing to acknowledge professional incompetence, individuals’ venal behaviour, and managerial and organisational failures. The Metropolitan Police also repeatedly failed to take a fresh, thorough and critical look at past failings. Concealing or denying failings, for the sake of the organisation’s public image, is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit and constitutes a form of institutional corruption.”

The report also states that:

“the Panel has proposed the creation of a statutory duty of candour, to be owed by all law enforcement agencies to those whom they serve”.

That is a vital reform and it is particularly urgent, as there will be another inquiry soon into the covid pandemic, so can the Home Secretary confirm that that recommendation will be implemented?

I stand here today as a Member of Parliament for a mining constituency and a supporter of Liverpool football club, looking, in addition to Orgreave and Hillsborough, at yet another terrible episode from the 1980s that raises profound questions about policing in that period. On the link between police and journalists, does the Home Secretary not accept that the Government, over the past 11 years, have had the opportunity not only to investigate that link, but to make reforms and they have failed to do so?

The Home Secretary will also be aware of the serious criticisms made by the panel about its ability to do its work over the past eight years and its difficulty in securing timely access to evidence. She will further be aware of the criticism of the Home Office, on page 1,138 of the report, that the point of contact for the panel was helpful, but that dealing with

“the Home Office as a department”

was “more challenging”. Can the Home Secretary set out how she proposes to address that within the Home Office?

The Home Secretary also mentioned bringing forward the next periodic review of the IOPC. It is right that strong powers for our police are matched by strong safeguards, so can she confirm when she expects that review to be completed? The Home Secretary also mentioned returning to the House once she has a response from the Metropolitan police. Does she expect this to be before the summer recess?

Finally, does the Home Secretary agree that we will be failing the family and, indeed, all victims if we do not do all that is required to prevent other families going through the three-decade nightmare that has been the experience of the Morgan family?

Let me begin my remarks in response to the right hon. Gentleman by extending my continued sympathy to Daniel Morgan’s family at what is a difficult time and by really paying tribute to their own tenacity in seeking answers to their questions about Daniel’s tragic murder.

The right hon. Gentleman raises a number of valid points regarding police conduct and the report, in terms of the time that it has taken and the whole issue of duty of candour. He speaks about this point, around public servants, in particular, giving evidence in hearings, investigations and public inquiries, very much in terms of the honesty and the approach that they take to bring justice to families, in particular. On that point, it is important to recognise—the right hon. Gentleman has spoken about this in relation to the potential covid inquiry that has been announced—that work is taking place across Government on how those wider issues will be addressed, but, at the same time, there is absolutely no justification for delay. Eight years it has taken for this report—far too long—and there will be many reasons, but importantly, lessons have to be learned from that.

In response to the right hon. Gentleman’s specific points about policing, the Metropolitan police and the report, I have today written to the commissioner to seek her response to the findings of the actual report. Alongside that, I will maintain that I will return to the House. At this stage, I cannot tell him when that will be, but I will endeavour, post the discussions this afternoon—I have also mentioned the inspectorate and having a review, effectively—to bring the updates to this House so that he and all Members of this House are kept fully informed of the next stages and our collective response to the recommendations that the panel have made.

Like, I am sure, all Members of the House, my thoughts are with Daniel Morgan’s family today.

At the heart of this damning, thorough report is yet another example of an organ of the state, the job of which was to protect the public, having prioritised the reputation of the institution over the delivery of justice. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the vast majority of police officers act with integrity and an overriding sense of public duty, but that where corruption does occur it must be rooted out with vigour, unlike what happened throughout this episode and the investigation to find the killer of Daniel Morgan? As the independent panel has said, every corrupt activity must be identified and dealt with on every occasion.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her comments and her tribute to Daniel Morgan. I also pay tribute to her for her work with regard to policing and corruption in policing. I agree wholeheartedly that the majority of our frontline police officers are incredible public servants—they honour and respect their roles and absolutely serve the frontline with care and professionalism—but she is right to highlight and make the case strongly that where there is corruption there can be no hiding, institutionally or in respect of inquiries, panels or anything of that nature. It has to be right that as I have outlined this afternoon, our role, collectively as a Government and as the Home Office, is not just to follow up but to get the answers that are required and ensure that police conduct is held to account so that we can bring an end to the corruption of policing in the way we have seen.

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. No family should have had to endure what Daniel Morgan’s family have had to endure—the loss and distress compounded by institutional corruption, delay and injustice. As the Home Secretary says, we all have them in our thoughts. But we must also do more. We all hope that the devastating report from the independent panel—we are grateful for its work—helps to provide some answers and signposts as to what should happen next. Will the Home Secretary meet the family to discuss the findings of the report and the recommendations of the panel?

The Home Secretary has highlighted the fact that the findings and recommendations are wide-ranging, far-reaching and stretch over three volumes; my simple request, which I think is one of the most important, is that the Government make time to allow Parliament to debate the report and its implications in full. The offer of updates is good and welcome, but a report of this significance must surely have a full parliamentary debate.

I note that there is a whole chapter in the report on the challenges of securing co-operation. Does that provide the explanation for why it took eight years for the panel to complete its work? Was some of the delay caused by difficulties in persuading the Metropolitan police and others to provide the documents and files requested by the inquiry? If that is the case, is that not all the more reason for a judge-led inquiry along the lines of Leveson 2? To what extent was the panel able to seek evidence from media organisations? Given the panel’s lack of powers in that respect, is that not also all the more reason for such a judge-led inquiry?

Nothing has yet been said this morning about the standards and conduct of media organisations and the implications of the report for that industry, so will the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport also make a statement about the implications for that industry of what the report says about this dreadful episode?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments and the way in which he has articulated them today. He has highlighted a number of important points, including the delay of eight years—eight years of painful work by the panel, but essential work, no question, on pulling together the component parts of the report. It is detailed, and I urge all hon. and right hon. Members with an interest to spend some time reading it.

On a future debate, the hon. Gentleman can make the usual approach through the House for a debate. As I have highlighted, there are a number of recommendations, and I am taking some immediate actions this afternoon not just to follow up but to pursue further lines of investigation and accountability to hold the Metropolitan police to account.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned Leveson. He will know well that significant reforms following part 1 of the Leveson inquiry put forward a number of recommendations concerning the police and the media. This included introducing strong rules to ensure accountability and transparency, and those changes led to the introduction of the code of ethics. The Government formally consulted Sir Brian on whether to proceed with part 2 and decided that it was no longer appropriate, proportionate or in the public interest to proceed, given the potential costs and the amount of time that had been spent on part 1. My final comment to the hon. Gentleman is to say that I would be happy to meet the family in the way that he outlined, should that be of some support to them.

The overwhelming majority of serving police officers will be devastated by the publication of this report and by the besmirching of their conduct in carrying out the duties they fulfil. Obviously, our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim, who have suffered over the years, and I welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to ensuring that the report and the recommendations are delivered in full. Will she undertake to come back to the House and give MPs the opportunity to question how closely the recommendations have been implemented by all the various institutions that will need to implement them, so that public trust can be restored?

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. The majority of our police officers will be devastated by the report and the implications for policing. The report is devastating in many ways. Our frontline police officers whom we meet every single day are incredible public servants who put the safety of our citizens and our country front and centre of their conduct every day. It is worth reminding the House that these are men and women who often run into danger to keep us safe and to protect us. My hon. Friend is right to say that I will return to the House with an update after looking at the recommendations, but equally importantly, this is about how we hold institutions of the state to account in order to stamp out some of the corrosive practices that have been outlined in the three volumes of this independent panel’s report. That is something that we are determined to do.

This is a deeply damning and disturbing report, and all of us will need to consider its findings and recommendations. I welcome the Home Secretary’s commitment to come back with a further response and proposals. The corruption has led in this case to a lack of justice for Daniel Morgan and his family, and it undermines the valued work of so many police officers with integrity across the country. However, this has come to light only because of the determination of the family and the persistence of the independent panel. Most troubling of all is the failure of senior police leadership and of policing institutions to uncover what happened and the scale of the problem over so many years. Can the Home Secretary tell the House why she thinks there has been this failure to uncover that over so many years, and whether she will come forward with specific proposals on the duty of candour that has been recommended by the independent panel?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. It is important that we spend some time considering the full report and its recommendations. Given that it has taken eight years to be published, we need to spend a great deal of time understanding the processes and why there was such slowness in sharing information, papers and evidence bases. That is why it is important that I hold the commissioner to account and ask the right questions, as I will do this afternoon. As I have said, it is important that, first of all, we seek answers to many outstanding questions, and that we question and find out what has happened in policing conduct over three decades.

On the right hon. Lady’s point about duty of candour, there is absolutely more to do here. When we look at accountability, institutions of the state and public conduct, we cannot shy away from asking some difficult questions, and reforming how we work and how our institutions are publicly held to account.

Like other hon. Members, my thoughts are with the Morgan family on this most difficult of days. As a former police officer, I am saddened, but sadly not surprised, by the findings of the report in relation to police corruption; the minority behaviours tarnish the work of so many brave serving police officers. I note the Home Secretary’s intended actions in relation to the Metropolitan police and Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, but I reiterate the shadow Home Secretary’s call for clarity on the expected timescales for this work, and also on the expectations on the Metropolitan police in relation to active ongoing complaints linked to the Morgan case. The Morgan family have waited 34 years. How long must they wait to see real meaningful change?

I respect and acknowledge the hon. Lady’s points. She is right to highlight timeframes, bearing in mind the painful period of time that the Morgan family have had to wait for the publication of this report. I can, at this stage, reiterate the comment that I made earlier, which is that I will come back to the House at the earliest opportunity with the information. That is absolutely right, and it is also important for the family that that information is shared with them, and that we learn the lessons associated with this independent report.

Daniel Morgan junior, Daniel Morgan’s son, lives in my constituency. The Morgan family have been waiting 34 years since Daniel Morgan’s death to see any kind of justice. Will the Home Secretary acknowledge the criticism of the Home Office in this report? I have been in touch with the family since they have had a chance to look at the report following its publication, and they are looking to the Home Secretary to implement its the key findings, particularly on the statutory duty of candour. If the Home Secretary is unable to support that today, is she at least able to guarantee that she will come back before the summer recess with a response?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and her comments. I recognise that Daniel Morgan junior lives in her constituency and understand what a difficult time this is for the Morgan family.

First of all, there is criticism of the Home Office in this report, and it is important to acknowledge that, as the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) highlighted earlier. For the record, I was not privy to discussions that took place prior to publication between officials in the Home Office and the panel itself. My responsibility was very much to ensure the publication of this report and that, in doing so, my statutory duties were met.

Like many right hon. and hon. Members in the House, the hon. Lady asked me about the duty of candour. I state again that we will look at this across Government, because this is relevant not just to this particular inquiry but to future inquiries, for example on covid, and to how the state and the institutions of the state are held to account.

I was six years old, and remember it well, when Daniel Morgan was murdered round the corner from where I lived in Sydenham—the area that I now represent in Parliament. His brutal murder shocked the local community, and the fact that no one has ever been brought to justice has only intensified that. Today, all our thoughts are with Daniel’s family, but they have suffered unimaginable and unnecessary delay. Will the Secretary of State commit today to implementing the panel’s recommendation that, in future, any panel has timely access to the material required to do its work so that this delay never happens again?

The hon. Lady makes one of the most important points about delay and access to information in terms of bringing the report together. It is absolutely right that we spend time looking at the recommendations. As I have already said to all colleagues, I will come back to the House and provide updates on the work that has been commissioned and on the recommendations as well.

The Home Secretary might not know, but my long-term interest in this case comes from a campaigning Welsh lawyer, Glyn Maddocks, who brought it to my attention and I have followed it actively for many years. Indeed, the case eventually led to the formation of the all-party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice. But the Home Secretary will know that this is not just a one-off. There was systemic corruption in part of the Metropolitan police at the time. Had it not been for Alastair, the brother of the deceased, and their mum, who sadly passed away before this report could be delivered, continuing to campaign over these many years, we would not have got the report at all. Does the Home Secretary agree that this was systemic and the answer has to be system change? I am encouraged by some of her remarks when she addressed this issue. In particular—let us be fair—there were deficiencies in Home Office ministerial teams of both parties.

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his work with the all-party parliamentary group. He is absolutely right to recognise and acknowledge that this is a tragedy in every sense. We all pay tribute to the tenacity of the Morgan family. In terms of institutional issues—the systemic issues that he referred to—we have to prevent these from occurring again. That is why some of the long-term changes that I have touched on still require further investigation in terms of the accountability of institutions of the state. Because that of work, which is absolutely essential and required, including a full review of the recommendations in these three volumes, I am committed to coming back to the House to update it on all actions taken.