‘Porngate’, police and the media feeding frenzy
Recent events, most notably the sacking of Damian Green, seem to have been the signal for those in the media who loathe police to joyously embark on a festive feeding frenzy.
Hardly a day goes by without a ‘police bashing’ story and at the time of writing, in addition to The Sun ‘exclusive’ the focus is on police numbers with The Daily Mail editorial referring to police chiefs ‘burning money’ on ‘helicopters’ and ‘BMW’s. Both The Telegraph and The Times are also carrying major police ‘denigration’ headlines, all of which could have nothing whatsoever to do with Green’s departure. Meanwhile, issues surrounding Damian Green look set to run and run.
Breaking news. Green has gone
As the news of Green’s sacking broke. many within the police community noted in Theresa May’s letter of reply the words ‘misleading’ and ‘inaccurate’ in relation to her former number two’s statements concerning pornography being found on his work computer. Cynics may use a simpler form of words incorporating a derivative of the verb ‘lie.’
Yet it was Bob Quick who bore the brunt of the Prime Minister’s criticism. His ‘crime’ was to confirm details in a statement made earlier by him that had found its way to The Sunday Times from another source.
This would appear to follow Bob Quick informing Sue Gray who was heading the Cabinet Office enquiry into allegations of ‘sleaze’ by Green, of the existence of pornography found on Damian Green’s computer during his 2008 investigation.
The statement in question was one made by Bob Quick to the Leveson enquiry, although the final submitted statement did not contain any reference to the pornography as did that obtained by The Sunday Times; the pornography aspect was deemed not relevant to Leveson.
The Sunday Times article prompted a furious response against Bob Quick from sections of the media including this Mail on Sunday piece by Dan Hodges (below) which ludicrously suggested that the Metropolitan Police as an organisation were attempting to frame Damien Green.
Green’s response to the Sunday Times article was to launch a rant aimed at Quick and referring to the allegation of pornography on the computer stated. ‘This story is completely untrue and comes from a tainted and untrustworthy source.’
Green’s statement featured several more denials as he once again stated that ‘The allegations about the material and computer, now nine years old, are false, disreputable political smears from a discredited police officer acting in flagrant breach of his duty.’
The next Home Secretary?
Alas for Green, it transpired that his legal team had been told that pornography had been found in 2008 while Green himself had been personally briefed in 2013. It was clear that the above statements were indeed ‘misleading’ and ‘inaccurate’ hence his removal from the Cabinet, although the smart money is on a rapid return should Theresa May cling on to office.
The ultimate act of revenge would see him appointed as Home Secretary and given this Government’s hostility to police, that surely cannot be discounted.
In or out of the public domain
Whilst Theresa May and indeed the Met Commissioner Cressida Dick have been critical of Bob Quick, the question remains whether the actions of a Member of Parliament, if proven, in viewing pornography on a state-owned, taxpayer-funded computer, as opposed to a private device, should be in the public domain; police officers have been named, shamed and dismissed for almost identical ‘offences’ and surely similar or higher standards should apply to the nation’s lawmakers.
Given the fact that the porn content doesn’t appear to have been extreme, an admission by Green, when The Sunday Times story broke, coupled with some humble words of regret, would probably have resulted in an indifferent shrug of the shoulders from most of the British public.
A flawed investigation?
It could well be argued that the Tory party’s ‘war’ with the police service in fact began with the arrest of Green in 2008 for allegedly receiving sensitive Home Office documents, or copies thereof, from Home Office employee Christopher Galley. It was an enquiry initiated by the Cabinet Office who requested that police investigate.
As can be seen from Bob Quick’s revised statement (as stated above, the original mentioned the computer pornography which was deemed ‘not relevant’) he simply went where the evidence took him and his team and evidence there was aplenty, supplied by Galley when he was interviewed; relevant material duly found in Green’s office. The tone of Bob Quick’s statement also clearly indicates that he knew this enquiry was a potential poison chalice.
The statement, submitted to the Leveson enquiry, is there in the public domain for all to see and makes fascinating reading with all the twists and turns needed to make a compelling TV drama; indeed, any writer/producer looking for such material would be advised to take a close look.
Those in the media who regard Bob Quick’s investigation as ‘flawed’ would do well to read the published decision of Kier Starmer, the then Director of Public Prosecutions, where he stated his reasons as to why there would be no prosecutions. Paragraphs 27 and 28 are of particular interest and there was no exoneration here of the activities of Damian Green in obtaining Home Office documents when in opposition.
- In this case, I have concluded that there is evidence upon which a jury might conclude that the conduct of Mr Galley in passing various documents to Mr Green amounted to a clear breach of his public duties. The documents in question were clearly restricted and/or confidential and in leaking the documents to Mr Green, Mr Galley seriously breached the trust placed in him by the public.
- I have also concluded that there is evidence upon which a jury might conclude that Mr Green aided or abetted Mr Galley’s conduct and, in particular, his breach of the public’s trust. There is, additionally, evidence upon which a jury might conclude that there was an on-going relationship between Mr Galley and Mr Green, which Mr Green encouraged in the hope and expectation that Mr Galley would continue to supply restricted and/or confidential information to him.
Perhaps at this stage it is also worth noting that former detective Neil Lewis, who made the statement supporting his former boss after the strong verbal attack by Damian Green, suffers from multiple sclerosis and is a wheelchair user. He will doubtless be only too well aware that this serious, degenerative condition is aggravated by stress.
At ‘war’ with British policing
The controversy surrounding the Damian Green arrest in 2008 was followed by the Winsor Report, commissioned by the new Coalition Government, which controversially eroded police pay, conditions and pensions and paved the way for police ‘reform.’
Officers subsequently had to endure the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, berating police at successive Police Federation conferences; we also saw the constant criticism of ‘racist’ stop and search, the ‘Plebgate’ furore together with massively damaging cutbacks. Front line police will never forgive May’s ‘scaremongering’ and ‘crying wolf’ comments which have come back to haunt her in the light of increasing knife, gang, gun, moped and other violent crime together with a massive terror threat.
The Dan Gates article referred to above has been followed by a further assault on police by Andrew Mitchell again writing for The Mail on Sunday. Once again, based on the actions of two retired officers, the police service, as an entity, is condemned.
In this article Mitchell stated that today he would not now advise his daughters to trust the police.
On the same Sunday police in Staffordshire attended three potential suicides all of which were averted by the police who Andrew Mitchell would have his daughters NOT trust.
Hopefully none of his daughters will suffer a severe mental health episode whereby the unfortunate individual in question is perched precariously on a bridge overlooking a major road threatening suicide. However, if that scenario occurred with police inevitably called, daddy’s advice could hardly be seen as helpful.
And, as has been pointed out on social media, such advice in the face of a massive terror threat is an act of crass stupidity. Having said that, the recent alleged plot by terrorists to storm the gates of Downing Street and wreak havoc before killing the Prime Minister makes Mitchell’s ‘hissy fit’ at the Downing Street gates look even more absurd.
Of course, this the same Mitchell who had to pay £80,000 to a police officer as a result of losing the ‘Plebgate’ court case and many thousands more in costs.
The above-mentioned MoS article illustrates the views of some that all police are somehow tainted by the ongoing Green/Quick controversy. It is perhaps interesting that many within the police community both in the UK and the USA, subscribe to the view articulated by the New York governor in the aftermath of the murder of two New York police officers: George E Pataki tweeted: “Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric.”
There is a strong belief amongst serving and retired officers that the ongoing constant denigration and tarnishing of the UK’s police service from both politicians and the media, encourages the increased abuse of, and attacks on, front line police officers and make no mistake, attacks on police are increasing in both numbers and severity as is being seen over the festive season.
On Christmas Eve, The Mail on Sunday ran a story featuring Kate Maltby, the Tory activist who originally made the ‘sleaze’ allegations against Green. The story appeared to quote tweets from Ms Maltby which suggested there was an absence of ‘frosty’ relations between the two.
Amazingly, later in the day there was a fierce response from Ms Maltby who claimed that the texts had in fact been altered and produced evidence to support her claim. Damian Green responded that he had not been responsible for leaking any such texts.
The question as to what exactly had occurred in respect of the texts became lost over Christmas Day. Instead, post-Christmas much of the media has focussed on anti-police stories which have ‘coincidentally’ mushroomed since Green’s resignation.
Fair and balanced
Regardless of how this controversial episode finally ‘plays out’, and Bob Quick may still sue Damian Green, policing is heading for a major crisis. This will impact on the entire population and will not be halted by the Government’s recent announcement in respect of police funding.
Reporting of police transgressions is wholly necessary, as we have seen with the recent abandoned rape cases, but needs to be fair and balanced. Media concern here is fully justified but there has been little mention of cut backs, the lack of experienced detectives and supervisors, ridiculous workloads of up to 25 cases as any one time or the stress that is likely to accompany being deployed to any such unit.
The media and politicians need to remember, as do sections of the public, that police act with bravery, commitment, kindness and compassion hundreds of times a day.
Sometimes this comes at considerable cost to themselves and their families, as we saw over Christmas.
Fortunately, the views of the public on the police, despite the constant denigration and criticism, are well articulated in the latest IPSOS veracity survey where police achieved a score of 74%, some 47% ahead of journalists and a massive 50+ percentage points ahead of politicians and cabinet ministers!!!
(Metropolitan Police 1978 to 2011)