Daniel Morgan

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:21 pm on 29th February 2012.

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Photo of Nick Herbert Nick Herbert Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) , The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice 4:21 pm, 29th February 2012

I congratulate Mr Watson on securing this debate. I am aware of his interest in this matter and the interest of other hon. Members, including Emily Thornberry.

The Home Secretary and the Government believe that this is a matter of the utmost seriousness, concerning an horrific murder exacerbated by a failure to see those responsible held to account. The Home Secretary is taking a personal and active interest in this issue. She met Daniel Morgan’s family and representatives in December last year and listened carefully to what the family had to say to her. She committed to reflect on what she had heard at that meeting and to look into the matters further. At the time, she also made it clear that we do not rule out anything when considering the next steps. She has since spoken to Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

There is no doubt that the case of the murder of Daniel Morgan has not been handled properly by the authorities over the years. Although no murder investigation is ever really closed without the perpetrators being brought to justice, the fact is that 25 years on Daniel’s murderer remains unconvicted. There has been a failed trial and justice has not been done, or seen to be done. Tim Godwin, as acting commissioner at the time, has apologised for the repeated failure by the Metropolitan Police Service and accepted that

“corruption had played such a significant part in failing to bring those responsible to justice.”

I am sure that hon. Members will agree that none of us can ever begin to comprehend the suffering that the Morgan family has endured over the past years. Our sympathies are with them.

Whatever happens now, the Government, the police and the authorities must do all we can, not just to bring the murderers of Daniel Morgan to justice, if at all possible, but—crucially—to ensure that the wider issues to do with police corruption are identified and addressed. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has given his personal assurance to the Home Secretary that he is committed to achieving these ends. That is why he has appointed Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick personally to oversee all aspects of the Morgan case. She is, as hon. Members will be aware, a senior police officer who is currently the assistant commissioner of specialist operations, and she comes to the case and the issues it raises with fresh eyes. It is important to note that she has no previous involvement with the case.

The MPS has also started looking at a full forensic review, which, as hon. Members will recall, was an important factor in the successful prosecutions in the Stephen Lawrence case. The MPS is considering seeking advice from independent counsel on what options are available to it to enable successful prosecutions, in light of the failed trial last year.

Ongoing investigations are relevant, including Operation Weeting and Operation Tuleta, being led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers of the MPS, who, following her evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in July last year, again gave a clear account to the Leveson inquiry earlier this week. Both Operation Weeting, which is looking at the interception of mobile phone messages by journalists and their associates, and Operation Tuleta, which is considering the numerous historical operations that have some bearing on this matter, are ongoing. We must let those investigations run their course, as they have a bearing on the issues raised in the Morgan case. For example, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers will be looking at the circumstances surrounding the surveillance by News of the World journalists of David Cook, the former senior investigating officer in the murder inquiry. I take seriously these allegations, repeated in the evidence of Jacqui Hames to the Leveson inquiry yesterday.

I appreciate the concerns of Daniel Morgan’s family about further investigation by the police. However, I do not believe that the police service is incapable of investigating itself. The investigations led by DAC Akers have led to the arrests of police officers. There are many examples of corrupt and criminal officers having been removed from their force and brought to justice. In addition, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is a robust, independent body that can always oversee on referral or call in any such investigation. So there are strong checks and balances over the police in such matters, too.

Hon. Members will note that the Home Secretary has recently appointed Dame Anne Owers as the new chair of the IPCC. Dame Anne, former chief inspector of prisons, has a formidable public reputation, not only as an expert in criminal justice matters, but for her integrity and independence from the Government.

The MPS and the Crown Prosecution Service are jointly reviewing the reasons for the collapse of last year’s trial of five suspects relating to this case. This review is focusing specifically on the methodology, decisions and tactics adopted by the prosecution team, including any omissions in relation to disclosure and the use of the assisting offender provisions in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. I realise that this review will not answer all the issues that might be raised in a judicial inquiry, which remains the Morgan family’s preferred outcome. However, it might have a bearing on how we could frame any judicial inquiry, should that be the way forward. It would also help the MPS and the CPS consider what options would be available to them, were they to look to prosecute those responsible in future. This report has been much delayed, partly because the MPS and the CPS have been considering the forensics aspects, but I understand that it will be completed shortly. The MPS has offered to brief the family and their representatives on the findings.

Jacqui Hames’s evidence to the Leveson inquiry has brought these issues into even sharper focus this week. That inquiry has now turned from considering press practices alone to focusing on the relationship between the press and the police, whether those relations were inappropriate or indeed corrupt, and what bearing they might have on how the police conducted their investigations into phone hacking.

The detailed investigation of specific cases, such as the Morgan case, might be considered to be more a matter for this second part of the inquiry, although it is clearly a matter for Lord Justice Leveson himself to decide how far he wants to investigate specific cases, such as this part of the inquiry.

Given all this ongoing work, it is important to consider what options are now available to identify and address police corruption and bring those responsible for Daniel’s murder to justice. As I have mentioned, the Morgan family has called for a judicial inquiry and this call has been endorsed by the Metropolitan Police Authority. However, such an inquiry is unlikely to be quick—a key concern for Daniel Morgan’s mother—and it cannot directly lead to prosecutions. Any such prosecutions based on what the inquiry may unearth would need to follow further police investigations. I recognise that this would satisfy the Morgan family’s demands and we are considering carefully whether this is the right way forward. The Home Secretary and I have not ruled out ordering a judicial inquiry at this stage. The Home Secretary wrote to the Morgan family’s solicitors yesterday and will do so again shortly with her decision on the way forward.

Any decision will need to take into account whether the MPS might invite another police force to conduct a police investigation, particularly focusing on the allegations of corruption in this case. There may yet be value in this course, involving officers with no connection to the MPS investigating allegations of police corruption, because even now aspects of the alleged corruption have not been properly investigated. The MPS has not ruled out this option.

Were such an investigation to proceed, any judicial inquiry would be limited in what work it could do alongside these investigations. An alternative might be for the Government to ask a Queen’s counsel to supervise the investigation of the corruption aspects of the Morgan case, again by an outside force, involving police officers with no connection to the MPS. This option would most likely be quicker, with a QC providing the integrity and independence required.

In conclusion, I reiterate the Government’s commitment to seeing that all that can be done is done to bring justice for Daniel Morgan and his family. Similarly, the MPS is also fully committed to seeing that justice is done. The Home Secretary continues to take a personal and active interest in this matter. The hon. Gentleman asked that we remain open-minded about this matter. I assure him that we do. I am committed, as he is, to making sure that we get to the bottom of this matter, in one way or another.