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Metropolitan Police: Criminality

Volume 827: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2023


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the extent of criminality within the Metropolitan Police.

My Lords, the Home Office publishes regular statistics on criminal proceedings against police officers and has commissioned HMICFRS to review countercorruption arrangements, including those of the Metropolitan Police. Part 2 of the Angiolini inquiry will look at tackling the causes of police criminality and misconduct and, more broadly, police culture. The Home Secretary is clear that the Metropolitan Police must redouble its efforts to root out corrupt officers to prevent the kinds of shocking cases we have seen recently.

My Lords, are we not agreed across the House that urgent action is needed to enable Sir Mark Rowley, the courageous Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to boot out the many criminals and incompetents in the Met, while acknowledging, of course, the dedicated service provided by the majority of officers? How can this urgent action be reconciled with a leisurely four-month Home Office review, whose terms of reference took several weeks to be agreed? The department says it needs evidence; is not the evidence provided by the continuing supply of shocking cases that emerge? Sir Mark has said that

“we have hundreds in policing who shouldn’t be here”.

Give him the means to clean up the Met, and give it to him now.

My Lords, my noble friend refers to the review of police officer dismissals that was announced by the Home Secretary on 17 January, when she published the terms of reference. That will include a consideration of the merits of a presumption for disciplinary action against officers found to have committed a criminal offence while serving in the police. Of course, the review was set up partly in response to the comments that Sir Mark has previously made, and partly in response to the interim review of the Casey report. It would be irresponsible not to collect the appropriate evidence before making these very important decisions.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, is quite right to raise the urgency of these terrible cases. Will the Minister reassure us that the review being carried out will consider the most radical measures? One thing that I have become convinced of over the past 15 years is that the office of constable is more a bar to excluding the bad than it is about protecting the good. A constable’s employment rights are protected by secondary legislation, which includes the ability of lawyers in the employment tribunal process within the police. Home Office guidance establishes that when dismissing an officer the standard of proof should not be just the balance of probabilities but should travel towards beyond reasonable doubt. Both those measures do not help to get rid of the difficult officers that the noble Lord and Sir Mark have mentioned. Both those things should change. By all means, give officers access to employment tribunals, which, frankly, they can get through other means anyway.

I thank the noble Lord for that and defer to his extensive experience. One of the things that the review is doing is looking at whether the current three-stage performance system is effective, which will obviously have to take into account some of the things that the noble Lord has just raised. I should have said in my earlier answer that the review has a time limit of four months on it. Obviously, that time is ticking, and the terms of reference were announced a couple of weeks ago.

My Lords, your Lordships’ House will share the views of most right-thinking members of the public in condemning the crimes committed by the officers who were mentioned in the debate—the abhorrent crimes of David Carrick. There are clearly faults in the vetting system and in the complaints investigation system. Will the Minister say whether in the case of an officer in force X who is found to have had an allegation made against him in force Y, where he lives, there is a duty on force Y to inform his employer—that is, force X— of the complaint?

I am afraid I do not have the answer to that question and will have to find out and come back to the noble Lord. I would say that the IOPC is capable of investigating these allegations without having been notified by the officer’s force.

My Lords, this is more than a series of bad apples; I am sure that there is something rotten in the culture and structures in policing that comprehensively and immediately needs to be addressed. We have the nine turnaround priorities that the new police commissioner has set out. Can the Minister set out how the Government will assist with and ensure those priorities are realised as a matter of urgency?

In my original Answer, I referred to part 2 of the Angiolini inquiry. I met Lady Angiolini last week and she made it clear that police culture will form a critical part of her investigations in part 2. The formal consultation on the terms of reference for part 2 opened earlier this month and will conclude, I think, on 24 February. Noble Lords are welcome to contribute to that consultation process. I am sorry for the long answer, but I shall go on a little. The inquiry will consider whether vetting and recruitment processes do enough to identify those in policing who are not fit to serve. It will investigate the extent to which misogynistic and predatory behaviour exists in police culture and look at whether current measures do enough to keep women safe, particularly in public spaces.

My Lords, will the Minister give us a firm undertaking that any investigation will not be hampered by a lack of resources? If we do not have that, it does not really matter what we do.

My Lords, given the important Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, which concerns us all, and the concerns that have been raised in this Chamber, how on earth is it possible to read in the papers this morning the headline: “Retired rogue police invited to come back and fill vacancies”? Reported figures show that 99 recently retired officers who had retired under investigation for misconduct had been invited back; and 253 officers who had received warnings at misconduct hearings were invited to return. How on earth does that restore public confidence in the police?

I have not read the story to which the noble Lord refers, so I cannot comment specifically, but certainly superficially, I agree it does not restore confidence.

My Lords, at a time when public confidence in policing is at this low level, will the Minister examine the role of the 200 or so staff networks, many of which are blurring the line between policing and politics? I refer not to the Police Federation but to organisations such as the Green Police Network, the police vegan network and the National Association of Muslim Police, which has been known to criticise the Government’s Prevent programme. Is it not critical that police officers stick to operational duties rather than interfering in politics, and leave the latter to politicians?

My Lords, policemen should be able to express their opinions on these matters, as we all do, but I will certainly take my noble friend’s points away, do some more investigating and reflect on them back at the department.

My Lords, does the Minister recognise that there is a significant cultural dimension to this issue? Understandably, as a body, the police have a deeply defensive and internally focused culture. Simply picking malefactors out of that body will not solve the fact that there is a deep-rooted cultural issue. In my view, deep-rooted cultural change is needed to change the culture of the police force so that it is not as defensively minded as it appears to be at the moment.

The noble Lord makes a good point. I have already expressed that the Angiolini inquiry will look into all aspects of that culture. This is also a useful time to remind all of us that the vast majority of serving policemen do an exceptional job and deserve our thanks and praise.

My Lords, the “spy cops” undercover policing inquiry that is going on at the moment has taken years. It is a classic case of police forces covering up former crimes. What makes the Minister think the inquiry he mentioned will be any different?

There are very specific circumstances surrounding the undercover inquiry to which the noble Baroness refers. She is right that it has gone on for too long; unfortunately, it looks like it is going to continue to go on for quite a long time. As regards this inquiry, I have every confidence that Lady Angiolini—as I say, I met her last week—will be rigorous; she has been up to now.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us how many more criminal prosecutions are pending against serving Metropolitan Police officers?

I promise noble Lords that this is a better answer than it sounds. The latest data shows that 83 criminal proceedings relating to police officer misconduct were finalised in 2021-22, but of misconduct cases commenced after 1 February 2020, when new regulations came into effect, 68 resulted in the officer being found guilty; there was a change to the way in which the statistics are collected.