[Dr William McCrea in the Chair] — Metropolitan Police

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:23 am on 19th March 2014.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Conservative, Watford 10:23 am, 19th March 2014

Rather like Tessa Munt, I came here because of what was originally a constituency inquiry. I commend her for securing the debate and for the eloquent way in which she went through everything that she has found in her research and been told by constituents. We have had meetings to discuss the subject.

I am not making an attack on the Metropolitan police or the police service generally, and I do not wish to discuss other cases or any of the points ably covered by my hon. Friend Mark Field. I am talking about my constituent, Mr Simon Prout, and his colleagues who were on the TSG detail that night. They have been treated badly by the system, and they were not given any of the rights that we expect for people generally in employment, in public or private service, or as citizens. That is the scandal that I see.

I do not expect the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Karen Bradley, to comment on that particular case. I thank her for being present today, because the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims has been taken ill. I am sure that everyone joins me in hoping that he has a speedy recovery. I am sure that the Under-Secretary will deal with the matter in an extremely competent and professional manner, but I understand that she may not comment on the particular case. There are serious points at stake to do with justice, fairness, authority, transparency and, above all, accountability in the DPS, the IPCC and the system generally. Serving police officers have to rely on those things if they are to have justice for themselves.

Even now, despite all the clear and obvious failings, the Metropolitan police refuse to be held accountable or to take proper action. I, too, have corresponded with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and received a reply similar to that of the hon. Member for Wells. The case has ruined the life of my constituent, Mr Simon Prout, and his colleagues. He has done nothing wrong, but he has lost eight years of service, suffered ill health and lost prospects and promotion. It has ruined his whole career. That is not an exaggeration; I have discussed it at length with him, and his colleagues feel exactly the same. Had they been found guilty of misconduct or done things that were wrong, they would have fully expected the consequences—not only losing their job, but facing proper proceedings with ultimately serious effects. Going into their job, they were fully aware of that, but they did none of those things.

What I found so unbelievable about the case when I heard the details from my constituent, and what I will focus on today, is the ability for the IPCC recommendations to be completely ignored and dismissed. What is the organisation there for, if it can be completely ignored and dismissed? The case highlights the serious need to improve accountability within the Metropolitan police. At the moment, there is little procedure to ensure that justice is secured. That is all the more troubling when we consider that in this case the victims of police misconduct were the police officers themselves. Serious issues were swept aside and ignored. If that was the case for serving police officers, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Furthermore, there can be no doubt that there was clear evidence of gross misconduct, and that the two DPS officers, Detective Inspector Bellej and Detective Sergeant McQueen, should have faced such charges and dismissal. The IPCC even recommended dismissal. What happened, however, was that the case was passed around the Met; the two officers were given a first warning on their personnel file, which disappeared quite quickly, because the whole process took so long. In a normal employment matter, such things go off the file anyway. The officers should have been dismissed, but in actual fact they faced no action and got away scot-free. How can that happen? Despite the IPCC’s recommendations, the Metropolitan Police Service held its own hearings and allowed the officers to face only minor misconduct proceedings. They were allowed to continue their work for the Met, as the hon. Member for Wells explained. That is the crux of the matter.

First, why do we have a complaints and investigation body that can be ignored, at such cost to individuals? Secondly, why is there no recourse against that? Thirdly, why are people such as Simon Prout and his colleagues forced to battle to secure justice for themselves, only to be told, even when they are proved right, that nothing will happen and no punishment will be handed down?

I am conscious of the fact that the Minister may not comment on the details of the case but, in summary, I want her to take action. First, the failures of the two DPS officers were put down to lack of experience, despite one having 18 and the other seven years of service. They made basic errors in what I imagine are standard policing steps, such as following up lines of inquiry, taking proper notes and so on. I ask the Minister to write to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to reconsider the case with much more seriousness, and to think about what action should be taken against the two DPS officers. Secondly, does the Minister agree that the case shows a problem with the system, even if she cannot comment on the circumstances? Can the case, and the systemic problems in the justice system that it highlights, be reviewed for all serving police officers?