Friday 7 June 2013

The Met - Red Flags And Red Tops

The latest from my regular contributor.

Looking back at the early 'red flags' of corruption and the tabloids is instructive. This post will look at warning signs at the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS or MET) in the period, roughly 2000-2005. It's a convenient timespan as it coincides with three top level rank constants -

Commissioner - John STEVENS
Deputy Commissioner & Director of Professional Standards (DPS) - Ian BLAIR
Director of Public Affairs (DPA) - Dick FEDORCIO

Indeed the senior ranks charged with anti-corruption responsibilities read like a succession of a Who's Who name-checked at the Leveson Inquiry.  Or perhaps a tortuous biblical genealogy in which Andy HAYMAN begat Bob QUICK who begat John YATES who begat Peter CLARKE etc.  Other less senior and lesser known names also recur, providing evidence of knowledge continuity of dangerous red flags at the MET - who knew what when - Shaun SAWYER, Andre BAKER, Dave COOK, David ZINZAN, Maxine de BRUNNER, Dean HAYDON, Brendan GILMOUR, Tony FULLER and so on...

Three significant MET investigations should have raised red flags in 2000-05 - Operations Abelard1, Motorman and Glade. Three more red flags were raised by key extracts from (unrelated) Reports highly critical of professional standards and press office/public affairs at the MET. These high profile criticisms were  the Virdi Inquiry Report, Damilola Taylor Review and the Morris Report.

The late 1990s had seen well publicised anti-graft initiatives at the MET, keeping Anti-Corruption Command (formerly CIB, Complaints Investigation Bureau) very busy, such as the Rigg Approach investigation led by Shaun SAWYER (here).

A parallel anti-corruption investigation was underway under John YATES - Operation Russia (here).  Also at Anti-Corruption Command was Dean HAYDON (here), later to become Staff Officer to John YATES and head ed Operation Varec (here).

A third relevant investigation was the linked Operation Nigeria/Two Bridges (here) probing police corruption, press 'dark arts' and the murder of Daniel Morgan (here) - under the command of Andy HAYMAN at Professional Standards (DPS). Andre BAKER was then senior homicide detective for South East London. On the team too at Anti-Corruption Command was then Detective Superintendent Bob QUICK. Operation Nigeria uncovered very serious red flags re newspapers, for example, a leak from the 1999 murder of Jill Dando which resulted in a detective's forced resignation. (here)

QUICK was so concerned about the intelligence uncovered that he submitted a report to HAYMAN in 2000
highlighting the role of journalists in promoting corrupt relationships with, and making corrupt payments to, officers for stories about famous people and high profile investigations in the MPS...I proposed an investigation of these newspapers/officers on the basis that I believed that the journalists were not paying bribes out of their own pockets but...the newspaper organisations were aware of the reasons for the payments and were themselves complicit in making corrupt payments to police officers.
An investigation which scrutinised processes and policies relating to a contentious grievance, disciplinary and racism case.  In particular, the Report red flagged HAYMAN'S Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) and FEDORCIO'S Directorate of Public Affairs (DPA).

The Report (here) included two letters from Andy HAYMAN - the first said, sadly, DCS BAKER was unable to locate relevant search procedure notes as none were kept. The other letter (Appendix 13b) said he was willing to allow the Virdi Inquiry access to the press file only under very stringent conditions.  In the event, that didn't happen
This Inquiry has repeatedly requested an opportunity to view the DPA press file and associated papers on Police Sgt Virdi. Regrettably, at the time of writing, the MPS Directorate of Public Affairs has not produced these papers.
Virdi's view was
that the MPS appear to have a close relationship with particular journalists, providing them 'misleading information' as well as leaking 'details of our solicitor's confidential letter'... (and) proves the collusion of certain officers of the MPS and the Daily Mail... No-one has been disciplined on this matter.
Additionally in 2001, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) ratified its ethical Editors' Code of Conduct, Glenn Mulcaire signed his first lucrative contract with NOTW, Dick FEDORCIO became a full inner sanctum member of the MET Management Board and - in Plymouth - Operation Reproof started scoping into police corruption and illegal data harvesting (here).

ABELARD1 2002-3
Operation Abelard1 was launched by DPS Intelligence Development Group (IDG) - reopening the investigation into Daniel Morgan's murder.  Shaun SAWYER had become head of Anti-Corruption Command after HAYMAN joined Norfolk Police as Chief Constable. Abelard1 was led by David ZINZAN and fronting the public appeal for information was David COOK, working under Commander Andre BAKER. At that time, Brendan GILMOUR transferred from South East London Murder Investigation Team to the DPS - firstly to the Intelligence Development Group (IDG), then Anti-Corruption Command.

As the public face of the murder enquiry, COOK was allegedly targeted for surveillance by NOTW and Morgan murder suspects.  COOK confronted Rebekah Brooks face-to-face - the meeting facilitated by BAKER and Dick FEDORCIO (see here)

The Damilola Taylor Investigation Review Report into the 10yr old schoolboy's murder was published. (here).  It castigated press coverage, especially "the unauthorised disclosure of one piece of critical evidence found during the post-mortem examination of Damilola..." A tabloid newspaper published "the detail after the suspects were charged and evidential difficulties arose as a result... It is possible that the leak did in fact come from within the police service." Yet another red flag.

Despite known difficulties with substantial newspaper rewards being offered in high profile murders, the Daily Mail put up £50,000 - reluctantly endorsed by the MET: "Benefits and difficulties were identified, not least the desirability of witnesses emerging as a matter of principle rather than recompense." (p22)  That is exactly what happened; the prosecution case failed in court through the unreliable evidence of 14yr old girl (witness 'Bromley') alleged to have to been motivated by the reward money.  (Daily Mail)

Immediately the case collapsed, child witness 'Bromley' and her mother were stashed in a hotel in Blackheath where it had been arranged with the MET press office they would meet reporters from the News of the World and the Mail on Sunday. A deal was agreed with "the senior press officer at the Metropolitan Police, to pay £45,000 for the Bromley interview." (Guardian)

Yes. Yes, that's correct.  A senior press officer from the FEDORCIO'S Directorate of Public Affairs was acting as agent and broker in a tabloid bidding war - for an exclusive interview with a vulnerable 14yr old girl, in a hotel paid for by the News of the World.

Why?  And on whose authority?

Reneging on their bid agreement lost NOTW their exclusive and incurred a costly employment tribunal, heard amongst acrimonious allegations of police corruption and NOTW leverage deals with the MET to suppress embarrassing stories.  Even that leverage deal was reneged on. It wasn't until more than a year later, in an apparently unrelated incident, the same MET press officer was reportedly suspended on suspicion of the disclosure of unauthorised information to journalists. (Guardian)

It led on from Operation Reproof. It was an Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) investigation into 'industrial scale' Data Protection infringements by private investigators, via corrupt public officials, for a large number of national newspapers. (for background see here).

In March 2003, Rebekah Brooks (then Wade) admitted paying police officers fo information (Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee 2003)

Briefed on Operation Motorman's extensive seizures by ICO Senior Investigating Officer Alex Owens, in May 2003 the MET Department of Professional Standards started its own Operation Glade.  It was an  (p3 here)
investigation into the unlawful disclosure of confidential Police National Computer (PNC) records, in the form of criminal record office (CRO) histories and registered keeper details of privately owned vehicles... passed in to the national press in exchange for monetary payment. 
Glade was led by Det Superintendent Tony FULLER, with Brendan GILMOUR as Investigating Officer. Early in 2004, seven journalists were interviewed under caution but none were prosecuted.  A civilian police worker, ex-MET police officer and two private investigators were subsequently convicted for conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and data protection offences.  Operation Glade was clearly yet another red flag.

'An Independent Inquiry into Professional Standards and employment matters in the Metropolitan Police Service'  Its focus was how the MET treated its own officers when they were investigated for alleged misconduct and/or criminality.  The inquiry looked at issues such as accountability and scrutiny of DPS and recommended a fundamental overhaul under the personal direction of the Commissioner.  Now under Dep Asst Commissioner Stephen Roberts, criticism was made of poor practices (p142)
I strongly believe that DPS is not properly regulated and that they think they can do as they please without fear of an investigation into their own activities.
They "did not record all the important decisions on the cases... there can be no confidence that the necessary rigour has been brought to bear... It also makes it difficult to track the thought processes and reasons for decisions made, which is vital." (p161)

Disclosure was refused "just 3 weeks prior to the hearing, citing that some of the documentation was subject to a Public Interest Immunity and could not be disclosed. Why did it take DPS 4 months to respond to the original disclosure request?” Another said the DPS "simply ignored the requests.”  (p171)

Leaks and negative briefings to the press
We asked the MPS to comment on some of the issues arising out of the evidence, in particular the question of information which some officers felt had been leaked to the press. Mr Fedorcio outlined the MPS’ procedures as follows: 'Where we believe unauthorised information has been given to the media the press officer will bring this to the attention of the investigating officer
We have received evidence that suggests that unofficial press releases or comment is made about individuals. The MPS denies this.
I was ordered by my senior officers not to talk to the media in my own defence and...the MPS did nothing "to counter the stream of largely false and damaging articles.
- (DAC Brian Paddick) p170

Arguably these failings echo those of the later investigation Operation Caryatid into phone hacking by Goodman and Mulcaire. Is it at all credible that no-one made any connections? Yet Brendan GILMOUR asserted to Leveson "In 2003, the concept of the national newspapers routinely using police employee to source sensitive information was still relatively unknown. On this basis I believe the MPS response was appropriate." Surely even by then there were more than enough red flags to make bunting for Scotland Yard?

Sir John STEVENS stepped down as Commissioner of the Metropolis in 2005.

Related Articles
Hackgate - Issues For The Burnton Inquiry Into The Murder Of Daniel Morgan
Hackgate - The IPCC and Surrey's "Collective Amnesia"
Hackgate - Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
Hackgate - Springwatch
Hackgate - Elveden: Murdoch Or King Cnut?
Hackgate - Elveden - Murdoch's Catch 22
Hackgate - April Casburn's Conviction - Myths And Misconceptions

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