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Law Enforcement Agencies: Duty of Candour

Volume 813: debated on Tuesday 22 June 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to implement the recommendation in The Report of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel (HC 11), published on 15 June, that there should be “a statutory duty of candour, to be owed by all law enforcement agencies to those whom they serve, subject to protection of national security and relevant data protection legislation”.

My Lords, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel recommends legislating for a duty of candour, which is a proposal put forward by the Hillsborough families. The Government are considering this as part of their response to Bishop James Jones’s report on the Hillsborough families’ experiences. The Government wish to engage with the families before publishing this response.

That is potentially very good news. However, the independent panel highlighted obstruction and a lack of co-operation by the Metropolitan Police that

“placed its concern for its own reputation above the public interest.”

Who do the Government believe should be held accountable for that misconduct?

My Lords, first, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Daniel Morgan. Regarding who should be held accountable, the Home Secretary has asked the Metropolitan Police Service to account for the findings in the report. She has also asked HMICFRS to ask the chief inspector what steps the inspectorate can take to provide assurance on the issues raised in the report.

My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Daniel Morgan panel. Is the Minister aware that the panel identified the abstraction of vast amounts of police material by the senior investigating officer of the last investigation, much of which he then disseminated to journalists and others for the purpose of broadcasting and writing a book about the murder? It included sensitive and secret material, the dissemination of which involves potentially significant risk to those identified and could undermine any future prosecution. Given this, does the Minister agree that the police must ensure that their policies and procedures to prevent such behaviour are effective and implemented, and that the creation of the duty of candour in matters such as this is vital for the integrity and effectiveness of policing?

I agree with the noble Baroness and I thank her for the work she has done to bring forward this report, which I am sure will be a source of learning for both the Government and the Metropolitan Police. Regarding the policies and procedures and what has changed since the murder of Daniel Morgan, as the noble Baroness probably knows, a code of ethics for the police was introduced in 2014, and in 2020 the standards of professional behaviour were changed to clarify that failure to co-operate with investigations and inquiries could constitute misconduct. Much has changed for the better since the murder of Daniel Morgan, but, as the noble Baroness says, this is by no means the end of this very long story.

My Lords, I refer to my policing interests in the register. I campaigned for a duty of candour in the NHS. My review, Changing Prisons, Saving Lives, recommended a similar duty for the offender management service. So, of course, it is right that a similar duty should be placed on police. However, the Minister said that everything must wait for the response from the commissioner, the review by Her Majesty’s inspectorate and a full response to the Hillsborough inquiry. But this is a free-standing issue—a duty of candour could be introduced now. What is the Home Office waiting for? Will the Minister make a clear commitment to legislating on this today?

It is important to answer the noble Lord’s questions. The Home Secretary is keen to speak to the family before taking such measures forward. There were trials going on until recently. The families are very important in helping the Home Secretary on what steps to take forward.

My Lords, in March 2011 the then acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Tim Godwin, said of the Daniel Morgan murder:

“The MPS has accepted that police corruption in the original investigation was a significant factor in this failure.”

When the independent panel asked the Metropolitan Police to explain what the corruption mentioned in this and other admissions of corruption consisted of, it replied that

“any clarity required would have to be provided by those officers themselves.”

Tim Godwin did not join the Metropolitan Police until 1999, so he must have been briefed by the Metropolitan Police on what to say. Even now, the Metropolitan Police refuses to be open and transparent. How can the Home Secretary allow this to continue?

My Lords, the Home Secretary fully expects the Metropolitan Police to respond positively to this report and to set out publicly the clear steps it intends to take to avoid making the same mistakes again. She has written to the Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner setting out her expectations and she will update the House on progress following a response from the Metropolitan Police and others.

This absolutely terrible and shocking incident adds to the legacy of the damaged trust of all aggrieved Hillsborough families and others in the police. It is devastating for the Morgan family, who fought so hard to get the truth; it is painful for the communities the police serve; and it is painful for the vast majority of officers, who serve with integrity. It is plain to see just how urgent the need is to get this statutory duty of candour in place. Notwithstanding what the Minister has already told the House, what work has begun to get that recommendation implemented? When will the duty be in place and how will it be enforced, thereby earning and maintaining public confidence in the police? This is urgent, and we want the Government to move as quickly as possible.

I say to the noble Lord that I agree with pretty much everything he says. This work is urgent. I know that work is progressing at pace and that the Home Secretary wants to speak to the family before making further progress on it.

In light of the Morgan inquiry, what action has the Metropolitan Police taken in recent years to root out crime and corruption from its ranks? How many police officers have been prosecuted, suspended, forced to resign or retire early or sacked for corrupt behaviour since the current Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police took up her post?

I did not hear all of my noble friend’s question, but I think he was talking about police officers being prosecuted, suspended, forced to resign or sacked. Between December 2017, when the police barred list was established, and 2020, a total of 117 officers and 18 special constables from the Metropolitan Police service were dismissed and added to the police barred list. The College of Policing breaks this down by category, but there is no single category for corruption. We do not intend to collect data on police suspensions, as that is obviously a matter for individual chief officers, but I can tell my noble friend that the Home Office is currently amending its data collection on police misconduct and we intend to publish data in greater detail from this autumn.

My Lords, although the duty of candour has to be organised in ways that do not compromise either national security or police intelligence gathering against serious crime, is it not very important to move in this direction? We have had police officers making a small industry out of selling information to the media, while other police officers were withholding information essential to discovering what had happened in this dreadful murder case.

What is also important to recognise, as I said to the noble Baroness, is how things have changed. It is 34 years ago; that is an awfully long time for the family to have had to wait, but there has been the introduction of a code of ethics for the police, and Section 35 of the Inquiries Act 2005 makes it an offence to commit acts that have the effect of distorting, altering or preventing evidence being given. I understand that this is obviously not a statutory inquiry, but clear standards of professional conduct for the police have been introduced in relatively recent years.

Sitting suspended.