The Metropolitan Police has been accused of ‘institutional corruption’ over its 34 year cover-up of the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan after an independent panel reveals a seven year refusal to allow access to its database. Last week Daniel Morgan’s brother Alastair talked to the Justice Gap about his expectations of a report by an independent panel (here). He told Calum McCrae that he did not believe there will ever be any prosecutions because the case had been ‘so messed up legally, evidentially and in every way possible way’. ’But it’ is equally important to me that the public knows,’ he continued. ‘Daniel’s murder effects me, his children and my family but the police effect everyone. They are a central part of our democracy and we need to keep an eye on them.’
Speaking yesterday, the panel’s chairman Baroness Nuala O’Loan said the force’s primary objective had been to ‘protect itself’ for its own failings. So far there have been five police inquiries and an inquest, but no convictions for the 1987 murder. Last month Priti Patel was accused by the family of interfering with the independence of a panel set up by a predecessor, Theresa May, in 2013 and charged with investigating what the former prime minister called ‘one of the country’s most notorious unsolved murders’. It has emerged that the senior officers at Met stalled for seven years refusing access for the panel team to the police HOLMES IT system. The 1,200 page report, which draws on some 110,000 documents amounting to more than a million pages, was published yesterday unredacted.
The panel found that the Met ‘concealed’ from the family and the public ‘the failings in the first murder investigation and the role of corrupt officers’. ‘That lack of candour, over so many years, has been a barrier to proper accountability,’ O’Loan said. ‘In 2011 the Metropolitan Police said publicly, for the first time, that police corruption had been a factor in the failure of the first police investigation. However it was unable to explain, satisfactorily, what that corruption was or how it affected the investigation.’
The panel heard evidence from serving and retired officers that fellow officers who have sought to report wrongdoing were ‘ostracised, transferred to a different unit, encouraged to resign, or have faced disciplinary proceedings’. The family had ‘suffered grievously’ as a consequence of the failure to bring those responsible to justice as well as the ‘unwarranted assurances’ given, ‘misinformation… 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’.
‘We believe that concealing or denying failings, for the sake of an organisation’s public image is dishonesty on the part of the organisation for reputational benefit, and constitutes a form of institutional corruption. We recommend the creation of 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.’
The family’s lawyer Raju Bhtt said: ‘We welcome the recognition that we – and the public at large – have been failed over the decades by a culture of corruption and cover up in the Metropolitan Police, an institutionalised corruption that has permeated successive regimes in the Metropolitan Police and beyond to this day.’
The panel revealed that the police initial investigation was flawed, the murder scene not searched and left unguarded, the forensics were considered ‘pathetic’ and no alibis were sought for suspects. ‘From the beginning, there were allegations that police officers were involved in the murder, and that corruption by police officers played a part in protecting the murderer(s) from being brought to justice,’ the panel reported.
The family has called for the current Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign. The panel revealed that she had refuse to allow it access to the HOLMES police data system which was cited as evidence of the force’s ‘lack of candour’. The panel said that ‘very senior Metropolitan Police officers’ for seven years refused access to the HOLMES accounts to panel staff. The work of the panel has cost the taxpayer ‘around £16 million’ and identified ‘the excessive length of time’ taken by the Met top also access as a major factor.
The Press Association reported that Alastair Morgan said Dick should ‘absolutely’ be considering her position. ‘You heard from the panel that the institutionalised corruption that they found is a current problem in the present tense,’ said Raju Bhatt. ‘The current leadership in the Met has to take responsibility for that continuing.’ Speaking about the report, Priti Patel called the case ‘one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the Metropolitan Police’.
The panel described the Home Secretary’s last minute decision to review the report of an ‘independent’ panel as ‘very much a surprise;’ and ’regrettable’. O’Loan said she was not going to ‘rehearse the discussions which subsequently took place, other to say how disappointed we were that the Home Secretary chose to adopt this stance when she did’. ‘We are unaware of any such intervention previously.’