One of many internal investigations into Metropolitan Police corruption was called Operation Othona in 1993. Most of its files were shredded in 2003, except a single A4 ring binder.
The file was called “The Dark Side of the Moon—everyone knows it is there but not many can see it”.
It listed examples of corruption, including unauthorised police computer checks, providing criminals with details of police operations and documents, “losing” evidence, offering protection from arrest and prosecution, and conspiring with criminals and informants in criminality.
It said, “Paranoia about what might be revealed if corruption was investigated with vigour is running high in some very powerful and influential circles.”
Othona was an investigation of, among other things, corruption among south London cops. Around the time of Daniel Morgan’s murder, gangsters there paid detectives to report on police operations and then lose or weaken evidence.
Drugs and goods seized from informers were being handed back for them to sell and share the proceeds.
Detectives carried a “First Aid kit”. It contained a balaclava, drugs and a gun. It was used to plant evidence.
So it is not surprising that the inquiry into the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan slammed the police for “institutional corruption”.
The panel said it had not found enough evidence to definitely prove police involvement in Morgan’s murder. But it did find all police inquiries into the murder were flawed or compromised by corruption.
Successive police investigations were, as one senior officer put it, “pathetic”. A raft of connected prosecutions failed. The police admitted corruption in the first investigation. But as the panel pointed out, they have never said what that corruption was.
Suspects were warned of their impending arrest—the details were published in the Daily Mirror newspaper—giving them time to dispose of incriminating material.
The crime scene was not properly secured. Suspects and witnesses were drinking buddies with cops and members of the same Freemason lodge who then took their statements. Eleven cops at least who investigated the case were masons.
Officers moonlighted as private investigators and “security” for crooks, and were passed “brown envelopes”. Obvious witnesses were not spoken to until months after the murder, once their memories and any clues they might provide had long gone cold.
No log “containing any coherent lines of enquiry” appeared to have been kept, or more likely went missing. Exhibit bags were left open and contaminated. Sensitive information was repeatedly leaked to the press.
When a murder prosecution was eventually brought it collapsed in 2011 amid catastrophic evidence disclosure failures and the flaws of a supergrass informants system.
The panel points out that policies and procedures relating to the use of informants still allow “scope for corrupt practices”.
After all that the cops promised to cooperate with the inquiry. The promise was empty.
The panel found itself obstructed at every turn. And further the institutional corruption consisted of dishonestly “concealing or denying failings, for the sake of the organisation’s public image”.
The panel said the corruption continues “to the present”.
For seven years the Met denied the panel access to evidence, and in particular to the “Holmes” computer system.
The officer primarily responsible for what the panel called disreputable delaying tactics was Cressida Dick, now boss of the Met.
The panel also found evidence of corrupt links between police officers and private investigators who were selling sensitive police information to the media.
The panel heard officers who tried to report wrongdoing were ostracised, transferred to different units, encouraged to resign or faced disciplinary action.
When the cops tackle corruption, as the Morgan inquiry shows, it is to “protect the reputation of the force”.
Being “bent for themselves”—cops taking bribes from criminals to suppress evidence and skimming off profits from rackets—is supposedly frowned on. Though as the panel shows it is rife.
But being “bent for the job” is a different matter.
Paul Condon, head of the Met during most of the 1990s, coined the phrase “noble cause corruption”—the idea that some police justifiably “bend the rules” to get a conviction when they “knew” the accused was guilty, but had no proof.
Condon set up a secret anti-corruption squad known as the Untouchables. A number of senior officers—Andy Hayman, John Yates, Paul Stevens and Ian Blair—were in the squad.
All are criticised in the Morgan report (see below).
To find out about corruption they again needed informers—whether crooks or crooked cops. The bigger the investigation the bigger the informer— so-called supergrasses.
They tend to be offered a clean slate and in return offer enough information to make the deal worthwhile. They lied and fabricated, and the police encouraged them to do it.
The very method of supposedly stamping out corruption is itself corrupt. Institutionally so.
Bribing and beating key to ‘results’
In 1877, it was revealed a crook who took huge bets on horse races that never happened had bribed police.
The Criminal Investigation Department, CID—a body of professional detectives—was set up to eliminate corruption.
The opposite happened. In accepting bribes, suppressing evidence and giving advanced notice of raids, the behaviour of the new officers was to provide a blueprint for the behaviour of cops to the present day.
The police live surrounded by crime. They have the best criminal contacts.
Despite having a computer system named Holmes they don’t solve crime through deduction.
Nor do they do it by chasing criminals shouting, “Stop thief.” Rather they use “intelligence” and by this they mean inside information.
Bribing, beating or blackmailing people to give them information about crimes is how most arrests happen. That means the day-to-day system of “crime fighting” is corrupt.
Police informers have crimes ignored or used against them. That in itself is a corrupting relationship.
It is also the basis for criminal cooperation.
The informants gain from their relationship with the police and the police gain from their relationships with the informants.
Colleagues are bound to silence out of loyalty, and the judicial system tends to believe everything cops say, even when they have been proven guilty.
Police are encouraged to break the law and lie as part of their job. There is a pressure to get results and cut corners to get convictions.
They are encouraged to act brutally towards those who challenge the system. That is why they act to reinforce and adopt the bigotry and prejudice of society—the cops secure a racist society, so they operate in an institutionally racist way.
The justice system reflects the society it protects. The system is inherently unjust, overwhelmingly favouring the rich against the poor and based on theft and corruption.
The strings are pulled by the rich and powerful, the forces of the state, and the media.
The accused are poor, without influence and power. That is why they end up framed, beaten or dead.
And the cops get away with it.
‘The commissioners of the Metropolitan Police from the past twenty or so years should be stripped of their titles and put in the dock’
Daniel Morgan’s son Dan speaking to the inquiry
- Dame Cressida Dick
The Metropolitan Police commissioner was personally criticised and said to be among senior officers who placed “hurdles” in the way of the panel’s search for the truth. Her refusal to allow the team access to a crucial computer system with details of the investigation indicated the Met’s “lack of candour”.
- Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates
The panel said a report by John Yates into the case in 2006 “failed to confront the issue of corruption”. Yates’s inquiry “reflects a totally inappropriate mindset” within the force at the time. The panel added, “It ignores the endemic risk and existence of police corruption.”
After resigning during the hacking scandal he went on to advise the police in Bahrain.
- Lord Blair of Boughton
In 2005 Blair, as commissioner, told the Metropolitan Police Authority that his force had tried “to the best of its abilities” to correct the problems deriving from the first murder inquiry. It had done nothing of the sort. The account “had the effect of overstating the extent of past efforts” to rectify problems.
- Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington
The former Met commissioner was criticised for his decision to retire and write a column in the News of the World. Stevens claimed not to know Southern Investigations was used to get police information, despite writing about it in his autobiography.
The report notes, “Stevens was asked whether he was aware during the time that he was Deputy Commissioner and/or Commissioner that the News of the World was extensively using the private investigation company Southern Investigations to obtain information about police officers illegally.
“He responded that he was not, even though in his autobiography, Not for the Faint-Hearted: My Life Fighting Crime, published soon after his retirement as Commissioner in 2005, he had referred at length to the surveillance on the business which he had authorised.”
- Dave Cook
The former superintendent was criticised for coaching witnesses. That, in part, led to the collapse of the trial of murder suspects in 2011.
The News of the World put Cook and his wife Jacqui Hames, a former police officer, under surveillance probably at the request of the Sid Fillery, an ex-cop at the heart of the case.
According to the report Cook had been allowed to “operate outside many of the laws, policies and procedures which govern policing”.
The panel notes, “It is surprising that a senior police officer, faced with the possibility that there would be no successful prosecution of a murder because of lack of evidence, should conclude that the suspects were guilty and that he was justified in removing confidential and secret investigation materials to his own home in order to write a book which would ‘set the record straight’.
“It is equally surprising that a senior officer, concerned about police/ press corruption (which inevitably involves unlawful dissemination of material), should conclude that these matters would be best dealt with by engaging in further unlawful dissemination of material to journalists and others.”
- Andy Hayman
Hayman ran two investigations into press phone hacking. This is the same officer who “chose to mislead the public” over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.
The former counter-terrorism chief signed a contract with News International as a columnist for The Times. He wrote an article that argued phone hacking by the press wasn’t widespread.
The panel said that he “must have been aware” of allegations that Southern Investigations, the agency run by a murder suspect, was selling confidential police information, and his “public downplaying of the practice compromised the integrity of the police”.
Media and cops
On the role the media plays with the cops the panel was clear. It said, “The Panel has found evidence of corruption in the linkages between serving police officers and private investigators, and in particular with Southern Investigations at the time of Daniel Morgan’s murder and afterwards.
“The Panel has also found corruption in the linkages between Southern Investigations and former police officers, some of whom had been dismissed and others who had retired while disciplinary procedures were pending, but who continued to obtain information and assistance from former colleagues within the Metropolitan Police.
“The documentation indicates that these linkages were used in an illegal trade in confidential information, much of it police information, via private investigators to the media. The involvement of serving police officers in trading in confidential information obtained illegally is a form of corruption.”
It added, “In February 2000, Metropolitan Police data revealed 273 instances in which journalists were provided with confidential police information by Southern Investigations. Of this total of 273 illegal transactions, 216 (79 percent) involved various journalists from the Mirror Group and the remaining 21 percent involved one journalist from the News of the World.”
At least a third were considered to be on face value criminal offences.
Different letters same cover up
The Police Complaints Authority was involved in the second corrupt investigation of the Morgan murder. Its modern successor, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), is about to investigate the role of the Met in the case again.
A police watchdog’s job is to protect the cops, not to bring justice. In between the PCA and the IOPC sat the Independent Police Complaints Commission IPCC.
The IPCC was formed after the Macpherson inquiry into the failed police investigation into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
Collectively they failed to uncover the truth or bring justice in thousands of cases. They have kept police files from family members of people who died in custody.
They cleared Cressida Dick for overseeing of the police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes. They are “investigating” how the cops behaved in the Sarah Everard murder and countless other cases.
Former cops investigate their own, help them draft statements or enable them to refuse to give statements at all.
The government may review the watchdog again. The reality is it needs putting down.