Report on Met's arrest of MP Green reveals 'serious' failings, say Tories
THE report into the Metropolitan Police's handling of the Whitehall leaks investigation shows "serious failings", the Conservatives said last night.
A final review of the case, which saw the Tory shadow immigration minister, Damian Green, arrested and his parliamentary office searched, was handed to Scotland Yard yesterday.
It raised questions about the methods used by police in the case and whether they reached standards of "best practice".
Although the report also found police acted lawfully, the failings that have been highlighted raise the prospect that prosecutors could drop the case against Mr Green altogether for fear of being unable to secure a conviction.
The Speaker, Michael Martin, is expected to rule today whether to make the report public, which police say would compromise their investigations.
However, the Speaker last night promised to consider demands from Tory MPs that the report be published.
A Conservative Party spokesman called for the matter to be resolved "speedily" and added: "As we have said all along, we believe Damian Green has done nothing wrong. This statement shows that there were very serious failings in the police operation against him."
The Liberal Democrats' Home Office spokesman, Chris Huhne, said: "This looks like a report on the technicalities of the arrest, instead of on the principle of the police using their powers proportionately rather than in a politically insensitive manner."
However, Bob Quick, the Assistant Met Commissioner, said that the review could not be published while the criminal investigation was continuing.
He said: "As is normal with such reviews, it cannot be published at this time as it relates to an ongoing criminal investigation which is 'active' as defined in the Contempt of Court Act 1981 because persons have been arrested."
However, he said the review by Ian Johnston, the Chief Constable of British Transport Police, had provided the Met with a health check of the investigation.
Mr Quick said: "I welcome his reassurance that the arrests and searches were lawful.
"He recognises that there are arguments, either way, regarding proportionality over the manner of arrest of a Member of Parliament but questions the method taken in this case.
"He also raises concerns as to whether elements of the investigative approach meet current policy and best practice. These issues will be carefully considered."
Mr Green was arrested on 27 November in connection with the inquiry into Home Office leaks. That internal investigation came after a series of embarrassing stories appeared in the press over the past year. They are understood to have included:
• The revelation that 5,000 illegal immigrants were working as security guards and bouncers
• News that an illegal immigrant was employed as a cleaner in the House of Commons
• A whip's list of potential Labour rebels against 42-day detention for terror suspects
• A letter from the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, warning that the recession will spark a rise in crime.
Mr Green's arrest was made two weeks after junior civil servant Chris Galley was arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.
Mr Galley, 26, has since admitted handing documents to Mr Green.
19 November: Chris Galley, a civil servant at the Home Office, is arrested in connection with alleged leaks to the shadow immigration minister, Damian Green.
• 26 November: The Metropolitan Police tells the Serjeant at Arms an arrest is contemplated, but does not say which MP.
• 27 November: Police explain the background to the Serjeant at Arms. She tells the Speaker it is Mr Green. The Tory MP for Ashford has his offices in Parliament and Kent and homes searched. He is arrested and questioned for nine hours.
• 28 November: Speaker Michael Martin widely denounced for allowing police into Westminster to search Mr Green's office.
• 30 November: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith refuses to apologise for the arrest.
• 2 December: Police organise an internal inquiry.
• 3 December: The Speaker reveals written consent was given to police for the Commons raid without a warrant.
• 4 December: Smith defends police action because leaking of sensitive documents could "threaten national security".
• 16 December: The report into the Metropolitan Police's handling of the affair is handed to Scotland Yard.
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