You need to know about this story if you’re interested in the arrest of Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green. It illustrates beautifully the way in which the police don’t just continually overstep the mark, but prosecute people maliciously for doing what they’ve always done. In Green’s case it’s the norm for opposition MPs to hold the government to account, often by leaked documents which embarrass the sitting government. In Sally Murrer’s case, a local newspaper reporter who occasionally used a link with the Thames Valley Police for stories – normal practice for any journalist. Despite the fact that she never published any of the information, she was prosecuted under aiding and abetting misconduct in public office. Sound familiar? She was arrested, strip searched, held for 30 hours and told she’d go to jail for life.
Last week however:
the judge hearing the case, Judge Richard Southwell, ruled that Thames Valley Police had breached the journalists’ Article 10 rights and that effectively ended the prosecution.
Article 10 allowed her to protect her sources, which the police did everything in their power to stop. Particularly under these circumstances it’s staggering that the police would then try exactly the same tactics against a front bench opposition MP. Yet:
the Met knew about the Murrer case and its significance because it had advised Thames Valley officers on how to proceed with the investigation.
Also in the loop was the CPS, which decided on Friday to drop charges against Murrer and the policeman who leaked the stories to her. The Home Office, which began the leak inquiry that netted Mr Green, also knew about Murrer.
In the light of all that recent experience, one is left wondering why anyone in their right mind thought that it was sensible to arrest Mr Green.
Dennis MacShane highlights the insanity of arresting Green:
Does that make the MP above the law? No. The MP is in the same place as a judge in his chambers, the doctor in the consulting room, the lawyer in his office and at times the priest in his confessional. None of them are above the law, but the counter-terrorist police do not go storming into their offices to raid for material on the basis that something, anything might be found that can help them with their inquiries.
Under the gravest circumstances — a doctor who is a killer, a judge who is taking money, a lawyer who is complicit in terrorist ideology — then their professional privileges and protections can be lifted. There is not the slightest hint that such was the case when the police breached parliamentary privilege last week.
Remember national security wasn’t involved, nor was the Official Secrets Act. But current and former Home Secretaries Jacqui Smith and Jack Straw display no concern whatsoever to the dangers of the Metropolitan Police’s behaviour:Vodpod videos no longer available.
Indeed Smith essentially gives the police carte blanche again to do as they please, arguing that her responsibility in giving them ‘operational independence’ basically trumps any other concern. How could any right minded person believe that? It’s unimaginable surely to say that the police should be left alone to pursue an inquiry which everyone knows is unjust? Indeed given the precedent the Murrer case sets, how can either of them (particularly Justice Secretary Straw) justify allowing the police to continue to pursue Green when he clearly hasn’t engaged in criminal behaviour?
For the record check out Smith’s wording about any prior knowledge of Green’s impending arrest she may have had. She’s changed it from no prior knowledge whatsoever about the arrest to refusing to confirm whether she knew an MP (by implication Green) was under investigation. Considering she knew everything else, I bet (and hope) her words come back to haunt her.