28th May 2021
Today came the news that the publication of the report on the Daniel Morgan independent panel should be on 15 June 2021.
This is the report into the 1987 death of Daniel Morgan, the collapse of the many subsequent investigations and prosecutions, and the existence of (and the relevance of) any corrupt relationships between the police, the private investigation industry and the press.
The statement of the panel is here and should be read in full.
This is, of course, welcome news.
It ends the stand-off between the panel and the home office – and, on balance, the home office has given way more than the panel.
The late intervention of the home office – to demand a last-minute ‘review’ of the report – is now unlikely to frustrate the publication of the report.
Delay and blocking
This statement means that, unless something happens to prevent it, there is now a fixed, imminent date for publication.
This should prevent the report being delayed indefinitely by the home office sitting on it during this (supposed) review.
If the objective of the home office was to provide room for delay (or even prevent) the publication of the report, then that objective looks like it has been defeated.
There is a little wriggle-room for potential further delay – but not as much as if there was no date set at all.
The statement also deals with the issue of any home office redactions.
Any redactions that the home office insist upon will be identifiable – and so, it would seem, contestable in court.
Each redaction would be an action by the home secretary that could – at law – be looked at by the high court for its reasonableness and relevance.
Any redaction would thereby not necessarily be the end of the matter – but just the prelude for litigation.
The redactions cannot just be silently made, with no one to know.
Again this is a set-back if the objective of the home office was to have room to make such silent redactions.
Forewarnings and leaks
If, however, the home office had as its objective that it would be forewarned of the content of the report, this objective has been achieved.
This means that if – and it is only an ‘if’ – there is anything politically significant in the report then the home office will not have a shock and so will not be bounced.
It also means there is the possibility of leaks from the home office – perhaps to the media – in the days before 15 June 2021.
This is notwithstanding the controlled conditions for the review of the report – which will remind those with longer memories of Robin Cook and the Scott report.
Making sense of the Home Office intervention
As this blog has already averred, there appears to be no good reason for the late home office intervention.
The purported reasons do not add up – and they appear to be improvised and cynical.
As I set out in detail here, the choice of ‘national security’ and ‘the human rights act’ as grounds appear to have been for providing the maximum litigation cover for any home office delay, and not because of any genuine concerns.
I am not a conspiracy theorist by inclination – conspiracies do, of course exist, but usually to hide cock-ups, as only then will a number of people have the motivation and focus to act in concert.
As such I do not think there is any conspiracy between the home secretary and others to try and block or delay or gut the report.
The home secretary may well be (as a lawyer would say) on a frolic of her own in all this, without contact with anyone else with an interest.
It may well be that the home secretary simply did not like the idea of something being published by an independent panel beyond her control or involvement.
But whatever the true motive for the home office’s late bullying intervention, the statement today means that it is more likely than not that we will see the report published in two weeks, and possibly with few if any redactions.
The panel and its lawyers should be commended for facing off this illiberal and misconceived intervention.
Hello there. Thank you for reading – now help keep this blog available for you and others.
If you value this free-to-read and independent legal and policy commentary for you and others please do support through the Paypal box above, or become a Patreon subscriber.
Each post takes time, effort, and opportunity cost.
Suggested donation of any amount as a one-off, or of £5 upwards on a monthly profile.
This law and policy blog provides a daily post for you and others commenting on and contextualising topical law and policy matters.
You can also subscribe for each post to be sent by email at the subscription box above (on an internet browser) or on a pulldown list (on mobile).
This blog enjoys a high standard of comments, many of which are better and more interesting than the posts.