Let’s keep the row about Damian Green’s arrest in proportion

Damian Green’s arrest yesterday has predictably sparked controversy.  However, let’s get the facts in proportion.

Fact One: Why were the police officers concerned from the Counter-Terrorist Command?  The Metropolitan Police Special Branch was set up in 1883 and amongst its many other duties it had responsibility for investigating security breaches in Government departments, including leaks of confidential material (they also investigate allegations of breaches of electoral law).  Two years ago, the Metropolitan Police merged Special Branch with the Anti-Terrorist Branch to form a new Counter-Terrorist Command and, although the majority of the new Command’s work relates to terrorism, it still retains the wider remit of the former Special Branch.  So if there was an allegation about a leak from a Whitehall Department to be investigated by the police, it would fall to the Counter-Terrorist Command to do the work.

Fact Two: In any investigation, the police have got to follow the evidence. Even if the evidence leads into sensitive areas.  I backed the police in pursuing the so-called “cash for honours” inquiry, as did many in the Conservative Party who are now saying that the police action in this particular case is inappropriate.  In such highly sensitive cases, it would be unthinkable for the police not to consult the Crown Prosecution Service about whether each significiant step was proportionate in the context of the alleged offence and the material already gathered.  I cannot believe that this did not happen in this particular case.

Fact Three: Why were so many police officers involved?  In any operation involving a search and, in particular, examination and possible removal of computer equipment a number of police officers would necessarily have to attend.  The nine described in this particular instance sounds about right.

Fact Four:  Why was an “arrest” necessary?  If a search is to take place and if someone is to be interviewed at a police station, an arrest (which also gives the person arrested specific rights) is normally required.

I hope the controversy and fuss is not an attempt to prevent the police properly concluding their investigations.  Those who attempted to do so in “cash for honours” case were wrong and it would be equally wrong to try and derail the process in this case.  To do so, would be inappropriate political interference in policing.

And just for the record: I was not informed about the arrest until several hours after it happened.

3 thoughts on “Let’s keep the row about Damian Green’s arrest in proportion”

  1. Actually the CPS have confirmed that they were not consulted about the arrest of Damien Green. However it appears that they may have lied and told the Serjeant of Arms that they were acting on CPS advice.

  2. I stand by what I said in the original post: “In such highly sensitive cases, it would be unthinkable for the police not to consult the Crown Prosecution Service about whether each significiant step was proportionate in the context of the alleged offence and the material already gathered.”

    Either the CPS were not consulted, which would have been a serious error of judgement by the police, or the CPS are being deliberately disingenuous.

    Either way, the Statement just issued by Acting Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, is helpful and the review announced needs to look at (amongst many other things) precisely this point.

    Sir Paul’s statement says:
    “I am properly concerned about the issues being raised within the continuing debate surrounding the ongoing investigation into the leaking of Government information.
    “I have therefore appointed Ian Johnston, Chairman of ACPO Crime Committee and Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, to conduct an urgent review of our decisions, actions and handling of the investigation to date and to provide me with an interim report within 7 days and a final report within two weeks.
    “In the meantime the investigation team will be meeting with the CPS to review progress and consider next steps.”

  3. Now it appears that not only did the police lie about the CPS they misled the Serjeant at Arms about the warrant or lack of it.

    The acting Commissioner has also been making misleading statements namely “the MPS was called in by the Cabinet Office at the beginning of October to investigate suspected criminal offences in relation to a substantial series of leaks from the Home Office potentially involving national security”. This is misleading on two counts.

    Firstly the offence is almost certainly not criminal. The collapse of the Murrer case on the basis that the ‘offence’ breaches Article 10 of the Human Rights Act just this week illustrates this.

    Secondly the use of the words “potentially involving national security” is just a smear. If the police really thought national security was involved the arrests would be made under the Official Secrets Act. They were not because nobody, the police included, thinks this has anything to do with national security.

    Why the police are pursuing this is a mystery. Perhaps certain officers calculated it would help get them the top job. At the end of the day the sack is more likely. For their sake it is just fortunate that they did not strip search Damien Green like they did to poor Ms Murrer.

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