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Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Report

Volume 813: debated on Tuesday 22 June 2021


The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Tuesday 15 June.

“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 honourable friend the Member for Maidenhead, 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 honourable 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 14 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 & Rescue Services to consider how best it can look into the issues raised.

The police are operationally independent, and the Metropolitan Police is 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.”

First, I wish to pay tribute to the family of Daniel Morgan. It is only as a result of their utter determination to see justice done that the independent panel was finally set up, 26 years after Daniel’s horrific murder. Now, 34 years after his murder, we have its report, revealing appalling truths relating to the various police investigations that would never otherwise have been so comprehensively and forensically exposed; truths which make clear why still nobody has been brought to justice for Daniel’s murder, and probably never will be. The delay of eight years in completing and publishing the panel’s report only made matters even harder for the family, but it is to be hoped that its findings, justifying their determined stance, will provide some solace.

I wish to express our appreciation as well for the hard work done by the panel and for its report, and not least for the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan. It does not seem that the work it did, with the barriers it faced, involved an exactly smooth and stress-free process. The report is devastating in what it reveals about the conduct, role, approach and competence of the Metropolitan Police Service, which was found by the panel to have concealed or denied failings for the sake of its public image. It was found that this was dishonesty on the part of an organisation for reputational benefit and constituted a form of institutional corruption.

It is a conclusion that has already been abruptly rejected by the MPS as continuing to still apply, even though it has still to meet the Home Secretary’s requirement for the commissioner to submit a report setting out the Metropolitan Police Service’s response to the findings and recommendations of the independent panel. Would the Government say, first, when that MPS response has to be with the Home Secretary, and, secondly, if that written response from the MPS will be placed before Parliament, unamended and unredacted?

The overwhelming majority of MPS officers and staff will be gutted by the findings of the report. Certainly, my involvement with the MPS, as a participant in the parliamentary police scheme, left me with nothing but admiration for the way MPS officers and staff under- take their work on our behalf.

When the panel was set up by the then Home Secretary in 2013, it was expected to complete its work within 12 months of relevant documentation being made available. Instead, it took eight years, with the last relevant material not being forthcoming from the Metropolitan Police until March this year. The panel was not set up under the Inquiries Act, which would have given it statutory powers in relation to its investigation—not least over non co-operation—including powers over timely disclosure of documents and compelling people to appear before it to give evidence. The report is very blunt about the attitude of the Metropolitan Police Service towards the panel, saying that, at times, the force treated panel members as though they were litigants in a case against them. Can the Government say why the panel was left to carry out its work with one arm tied behind its back, as far as its powers were concerned? Would the Government also say if the Home Office was aware of the difficulties the panel was having in carrying out its work with the Metropolitan Police Service, and, if so, when did it become aware and what action did any Home Secretary then take, bearing in mind that the Home Secretary is accountable to Parliament for the police service?

That brings me on to a further statement in the panel report, on page 1138, which says:

“The relationship with the different officials who have been Senior Sponsor … since 2013 has been positive, but the relationship with the Home Office as a department has been more challenging.”

Would the Government say in their response whether the Home Office was aware of the specific issues of concern in relation to the Home Office, referred to on page 1138 of the report, and, if so, what action was taken to resolve them and then to ensure that no similar situation could arise again? One would have thought, bearing in mind that the panel was established in 2013 by the then Home Secretary, that the Home Office would have given its full backing and support to the panel. Clearly, that was not the case.

The Home Secretary told the Commons that she was asking the Inspectorate of Constabulary to look into the issues raised by the independent panel’s report. What are the exact terms of reference that have been given on this to the inspectorate?

The Home Secretary also said that she would return to update Parliament on progress made on the recommendations in the report, which include a duty of candour, greater protection for whistleblowers, more effective vetting procedures and adequate provision of resources to deal with corruption, once she had

“received responses from the Metropolitan Police and others.”—[Official Report, Commons, 15/6/21; col.128]

Would the Government spell out exactly who “and others” covers, and whether that means the Home Secretary does not intend to return to the Commons with an update until she has received a response from all those, however many they may be, covered by “and others”?

Will oral updates to Parliament be given at regular intervals on progress being made in the light of the panel recommendations and other responses? One of the panel recommendations is a statutory duty of candour. Will the Government confirm that that recommendation, along with others about a requirement for co-operation from public bodies, will be implemented in time for the inquiry into the Covid pandemic?

Finally, would the Government say what further action they intend to take to provide justice for Daniel Morgan and his family? They are the ones who have been denied justice for 34 years. Public trust and confidence in our police are crucial, not least for policing by consent. The Government need to ensure that this kind of appalling episode can never happen again. Will the Government confirm that that is their objective in considering the findings and recommendations of the panel report, and that regular oral updates will be given to Parliament on how and to what timescale that objective is being delivered?

My Lords, I commend the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, on her report and her patience. I apologise to the Morgan family for the way an organisation I was part of for over 30 years has conducted itself. The only points I wish to make are that this report chimes exactly with my professional and personal experience, that this report needs to be taken seriously, and that urgent action needs to be taken as a result. The Metropolitan Police puts its own reputation before openness, honesty and the pursuit of justice, and those who are telling the truth are ostracised and forced out.

Let me give noble Lords another example. In 2005, as a police officer holding the fourth highest rank in the Metropolitan Police, I gave evidence to the Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry into whether the Metropolitan Police has misled the family of Jean Charles de Menezes after he was mistakenly shot and killed by the police following the London bombings. The then commissioner had told the media that both he and all those advising him believed for 24 hours after the shooting that Jean Charles de Menezes was a suicide bomber, when, in fact, five hours after the shooting, his closest advisers had told me that Jean Charles de Menezes was innocent. Noble Lords will recall the trial of the Metropolitan Police for health and safety breaches, where the Met digitally altered the image of the suspect it was pursuing to make it look more like de Menezes and claimed mistaken identity.

After an uneasy truce of about 18 months, I was side- lined from being in day-to-day charge of 20,000 officers to overseeing a project with 20 officers because the commissioner had lost confidence in me. He had done so because I told the truth. As a police inspector, I was told that I was too honest to be a senior police officer, and 20 years later I found out that that was true. That was the culture of the Metropolitan Police then, and this report tells us that it is the culture of the Metropolitan Police now. It highlights various types of corruption, including what it describes as “incontrovertibly corrupt behaviour”, such as selling stories to press contacts and planting false evidence.

Research that I saw when I was a serving police officer showed that when there were surges in recruitment, as there was 30 years after the end of the Second World War and again 30 years later, there were significant increases in misconduct in those cohorts of recruits, increasing in seriousness as they secured important investigative positions within the organisation. The usual peak for misconduct was between 10 to 15 years’ service. In the early 2000s the peak was between nought and two years’ service. The report is right to highlight vetting systems, but this is nothing new. Why have the Government not taken action to address this recurring problem in the police service?

The report also highlights what it describes as a form of institutional corruption, failings in police investigations, unjustified reassurances rather than candour and a culture of obfuscation. The panel describes hurdles placed in its path, such as a refusal to recognise the necessity to have access to the HOLMES computer database, limiting access to the most sensitive information and even failing to provide a copy of the London homicide manual. It set out how murder investigations should have been conducted at the time of Daniel Morgan’s murder, and its existence was not even revealed to the panel until December 2020.

The Metropolitan Police were able to claim repeatedly that the initial Daniel Morgan murder investigation was in accordance with the standards of investigation at the time by concealing the manual that proved that it was not investigated in accordance with the standards of investigation at that time. This is how the Metropolitan Police acts now, under its current leadership. This is not just about a few corrupt police officers who thwarted a murder investigation in 1987 or even the further corruption identified after a subsequent investigation; this is about a culture that enables corruption to thrive. The kind of institutional corruption identified in this report is not some kind of academic construct, an isolated incident of a few corrupt officers. It is the tip of an iceberg that threatens to undermine policing by consent in this country. That is a matter for the Government and the Home Secretary, and it must be urgently addressed.

I again join the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, not only in paying tribute to the family of Daniel Morgan but in their appreciation of the work of the panel.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked when the Metropolitan Police Service will respond to the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary has undertaken to update the House by the end of the year, so the answer to his question is “swiftly”. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about the obstruction in obtaining documentation. On the production of documentation and the funding required to carry out the work of the panel, the Home Secretary feels that the money and resources were sufficient to carry out the investigation. To date, some £16 million has been spent on this investigation.

On the relationship with the Home Office, I do not think that it has been smooth sailing. The previous Home Secretary, my right honourable friend Theresa May, set up the inquiry and it was never the intention that the relationship with the Home Office should be difficult. The Home Office has tried to assist the panel in whatever way it can.

I do not have to hand the terms of reference for the inspectorate, but I assume that that they would have been set up for the precise reason of ensuring that there is a full inspection. On the point of the term “and others”, I presume that one of the “and others” is the IOPC. On the duty of candour to be taken forward, as I said earlier, the Home Secretary will want to speak to the family and to progress matters after that.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, whether the Government will ensure that such a tragedy and miscarriage of justice never happen again and that the police cannot get away with impunity. I said earlier that Section 35 of the Inquiries Act 2005 makes it an offence to commit acts that are intended to have the effect of distorting, altering or preventing evidence being given to a statutory inquiry, although this was not a statutory inquiry, and I understand that. However, it is an offence intentionally to suppress, conceal or destroy a relevant document.

On recent measures, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, talked about historic failings. The investigations may be historic, but police corruption is something that the Government have focused on. The introduction of the code of ethics in 2014 went some way towards correcting it, as did the establishment in 2015 of a specific criminal offence of police corruption. I recall, because I took the legislation through the House, that measures to ensure that officers cannot resign or retire to evade accountability were brought in in 2017, as well as a barred list to prevent dismissed officers rejoining policing.

There are also last year’s reforms to ensure that misconduct investigations are more transparent and swift. Much work has been done by national policing to tackle corruption, particularly through the national action plan on abuse of a position for a sexual purpose. I know that HMICFRS is currently undertaking a follow-up inspection of all forces’ counter-corruption and vetting capabilities and, as I may have said earlier, the Home Secretary has asked HMICFRS to ensure an urgent focus on the Metropolitan Police Service.

We come now to the 20 minutes allocated to Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief so that I can call the maximum number of speakers.

My Lords, I refer again to my policing interests as set out in the register. The finding of institutional corruption is uniquely serious, but two issues are being conflated. The first is the corrupt relationships that undoubtedly existed between police officers, criminal groups and the news media that frustrated a proper investigation of the murder of Daniel Morgan. When I chaired the Metropolitan Police Authority, there was a system of integrity-testing police officers on an intelligence-led basis, but also randomly. My understanding is that the latter was phased out during Boris Johnson’s mayoralty. Does the Minister agree that this was unwise?

The second issue is the culture of defensiveness. The Daniel Morgan report suggests that such a culture is just as significant now as it was when I first raised the need for a further investigation into the 1987 murder and was told by the then commissioner that there was no point as the case was 15 years old, the Met had changed and a fresh investigation would only undermine the reputation of the police. Openness and accountability are essential, so will the Government lead by example?

I apologise to the noble Lord because the sound was not very good, but I understood that he sees a culture that has not changed over many years, particularly one of defensiveness. The report makes it clear that there were significant failings in the Met and that the force put its reputation first, ahead of its duty to the public.

The vast majority of Metropolitan police officers, who work tirelessly to keep us safe and often put themselves in the way of danger, cannot be forgotten. They uphold the highest standards expected of them. Lessons need to be learned and the Home Secretary has decided that she wants a clear and transparent response from the commissioner, as the noble Lord says.

My Lords, the report calls for police officers to be required to register membership of the Freemasons with their chief constable. This is a modest requirement compared to the recommendation of the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee, 24 years ago, that a register should be publicly available. A voluntary declaration, not even seen by the public, is inadequate to remove any perception of conflict of loyalty and ensure trust in the police. When will the Government act at least to make it mandatory to declare membership of the Freemasons, if not for that to be publicly available?

The panel is clear that it did not find any evidence that freemasonry had any effect on the investigations. The Code of Ethics, published by the College of Policing, makes it clear that the police must remain impartial and that membership of groups or societies must not cause a conflict of interest or impact an officer’s duty to discharge their duties effectively.

My Lords, at Chapter 10, Paragraph 470, there is a quote that

“‘the corruption of freemasonry influenced every attempt at seeking the truth in the initial Morgan criminal investigation and subsequent enquiries’.”

Later, there are some figures on the voluntary database, where 96% of judges, 88% of magistrates, but

“only 37% of police … declared whether or not they were Freemasons”.

The recommendation actually says:

“All police officers and police staff should be obliged to register in confidence”.

They are not asked, but are obliged to do so. Later on, it says:

“The ‘rotten apple approach’ to dealing with corruption does not meet the needs of a police service seeking to minimise, and even prevent corruption”.

Is it not time at least to accept the recommendation that police officers should be obliged to register whether they are Freemasons?

I thank my noble friend. As I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, on the definition of freemasonry, the Code of Ethics published by the College of Policing makes it clear that the police must remain impartial and that membership of groups or societies must not cause a conflict of interest or impact an officer’s ability to discharge their duties effectively. As I said earlier, the panel is clear that it found no evidence that freemasonry had any effect on the investigations.

My Lords, a statutory duty of candour is a necessary first step in checking institutionalised corruption through the sunlight of transparency, candour and frankness. That point was made strongly by the 2013 Francis report, the 2015 Harris review, the 2015 Report of the Morecambe Bay Investigation and the 2017 Jones report on the Hillsborough tragedy, which specifically called for the establishment of a duty of candour for police officers. Can the Minister explain why the Government have ignored such calls? Secondly, if the Government are sincere about creating such a duty, they can easily and speedily adopt the Public Authority (Accountability) Bill, which was tabled in March 2017 by former MP Andy Burnham. There we are—we have ready-made legislation. What prevents the Government adopting it?

The noble Lord may not have been here for an earlier question, but I said that the Home Secretary is very keen to speak to the families before publishing our response on this duty.

My Lords, senior police officers, who abhor the corrupt relationships with criminals that are fully illustrated in this report, still find it difficult to accept that they may be guilty of institutional corruption. Is it not important to make it clear that the culture of cover-up, delay and denial is indeed a form of institutional corruption, which makes space for criminal corruption and leads the victims of corruption to believe that there is neither point nor prospect in trying to challenge the police about it?

As I said, the Home Secretary has written to the commissioner to set out her expectations and has explained that she is taking personal responsibility to make sure that progress is made on the issues outlined in this report. She has also brought forward a review of the IOPC and its governance structures, as well as asking HMICFRS to consider how it feels it can best focus on the issues raised.

My Lords, I too pay tribute to the family of Daniel Morgan and to the late Paul Flynn MP, who pursued this matter relentlessly on behalf of the family. The failure of the Metropolitan Police to identify and prosecute any person or persons responsible for Daniel Morgan’s death is deeply regrettable, and I extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family. This was clearly a failure of investigative leadership and of others at the top of the organisation.

The Metropolitan Police has been accused in this report of being institutionally corrupt. By definition, an institution consists of those people within it. I was one of them for 32 years, so let me state clearly that I was not corrupt, neither were the tens of thousands of police officers and support staff who I had the privilege of working with over those years. I do not accept, and neither do my former colleagues—including the noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner—that there is any evidence whatever of systematic corruption in the Metropolitan Police, now or previously. The report has failed miserably to substantiate this general allegation, which frankly is a slur on the reputation of those police officers who have so diligently pursued terrorists and organised criminals and who daily face the dangers of policing this great capital. Sadly, I fear the report will be remembered solely for this unfortunate misrepresentation. I ask the Minister to join me in rejecting the baseless allegation of institutional corruption.

If I can, I will echo the words of my noble friend Lord Davies of Gower. As I said earlier, thousands of police officers patrol the streets of Greater London, putting themselves in danger and helping the lives of the members of the public whom they serve. The Home Secretary is looking into the institutional defensiveness that goes hand in glove with this report, but it is important to remember that we owe an absolute debt of gratitude to the thousands of police officers who keep us safe.

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for achieving something incredibly difficult that has taken so long largely because she did not have the powers of the Inquiries Act 2005. Can the Minister explain the issue of the Freemasons? The report says:

“The Panel has not seen evidence that Masonic channels were corruptly used in connection with either the commission of the murder or to subvert the police investigations.”

Of course, the Freemasons are very good at hiding everything, particularly from women, so the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, probably had a more difficult job, as would the Minister. Who is monitoring and enforcing what the police are doing? The police code of ethics may be better, but who is checking on it? I am afraid, on the evidence that I have seen, that I have to conclude that there is significant corruption in the Metropolitan Police.

My Lords, I repeat, as the noble Lord said, that the panel is clear that it found no evidence that freemasonry had any effect on the investigations, and I refer noble Lords to the code of ethics. It might help the noble Lord to know that HMICFRS is currently undertaking a follow-up inspection of all forces’ counter-corruption and vetting capabilities. The Home Secretary has asked HMICFRS to ensure an urgent focus on the Metropolitan Police.

My Lords, surely the people who should be most angry and outraged by this report are the vast majority of police officers, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Davies, referred, because they have been betrayed by these institutional failings. This is not a historic report; it is a current report. I understand that the College of Policing has drawn up a number of key action points for police forces to counter corruption. Will the Home Secretary inquire of chief constables and police and crime commissioners what action they have taken in response to those suggestions from the College of Policing? Does she share the report’s sense of urgency that something must be done very quickly?

I agree with everything that the noble Lord said. The Home Secretary definitely shares that urgency, seeing as she will be coming back to report HMICFRS’s findings towards the end of the year. It is worth pointing out now the work that national policing has done to tackle corruption, and that forces are periodically inspected on anti-corruption capabilities by HMICFRS—including this year. That does not take away from the report itself, which clearly shows that certain individuals are sadly lacking in that area.

My Lords, I offer my sympathies to the family of the late Daniel Morgan and pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for her report. Both the Minister and the Statement refer to the “periodic review” of the Independent Office for Police Conduct that will take place. Can she outline the timeframe for that review? How long will it take? In looking at governance structures, will it look at the issue that will deal with a form of institutional corruption, which the panel’s report high- lighted?

There was due to be a review of the IOPC at the end of this year, and the Home Secretary is bringing it forward to start as soon as practicable in the next few weeks.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, has said that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police placed “hurdles” in the way of the panel’s work, prolonging it by years. The commissioner has said that she gave “maximum co-operation” to the panel. Who are we to believe? Will Sir Tom Winsor, in the course of his inquiries, tell us the truth about these two irreconcilable statements? It is not unsurprising that the Morgan family has been unable to accept the apology of the Metropolitan Police, whose sincerity must be open to doubt.

My Lords, I can understand the feelings of the Morgan family; it has been a devastating 34 years for them. Clearly, this review has covered more than one commissioner; it has been in train for the last eight years. I cannot say whether the commissioner gave full support to the inquiry but, certainly, some of the following investigations will look into it, particularly that of the HMICFRS.

Sitting suspended.